An open letter to CEOs: Why so Twitter averse?
Dear CEO of [Your Name Here]: Why aren’t you on Twitter?
In retrospect, I have come to understand your relative lack of interest in blogging, when blogging was the thing to do. It’s time consuming. It’s easy to overthink (and underthink). A blog requires readers to find you, and return — embarrassing if they don’t. You always have to feed the beast (darn you, pesky time stamps).
All this changed with the advent of Twitter, a haiku melting pot where you don’t have to be more pithy or verbose than you might be when making polite conversation at a cocktail party that nobody minds you crashed, and the right name or title or station virtually guarantees a large following (even if nobody is actually paying attention to anything you say).
But you don’t seem to be participating in micro-blogging any more than you participated in blogging. Oh sure, lots of companies hire social media marketing experts — you probably signed off on that without even realizing it.
Still, you’re a Type “A” personality — an overachieving, extroverted, super sales-closing Master of the Universe. But you perceive no opportunity in holding court with your customers, critics and — heaven forbid — shareholders. The very people who might take up virtual pitchforks and torches when the going gets rough, and there isn’t enough time to start to seem like a real human being.
Twitter isn’t exactly a CEO-free zone. Every Silicon Valley startup founder/chief simply must have an account. There are a smattering of CEOs not in tech who have proven remarkably adept at the medium, like Martha Stewart and Richard Branson.
There are some (albeit tech) heavyweights in the mix as well, such as Google’s Eric Schmidt. Microsoft’s Bill Gates was not a CEO when he started tweeting, but maybe current CEO Steve Ballmer is, from the shadows. (Notably absent is Apple CEO Steve Jobs, whose random e-mail replies seldom exceed 140 characters — “Please leave us alone” — and would seem perfect for Twitter.)
But for every 100 Gen Y entrepreneur with Series A Funding there doesn’t seem to be even one Jack Welch, who became something of a Twitter evangelist only after he left the corner office.
What are you afraid of? Is in-house counsel telling you that Tweeting is an SEC minefield? Does the service seem to lack gravitas because nine of the top 10 accounts are are all owned by entertainers? Choose instead to take solace in the fact that the CEO-in Chief, President Obama, is fifth.
Imagine if the biggest baddest wolves of Wall Street had started using Twitter years ago. Would they still have been such convenient pinatas today, as legislators try to affix blame for a near economic death spiral? Is it so terribly naive to think that what amounts to retail politicking — social media style — pays dividends just when you need it most?
When a Jamie Dimon argues with a Henry Blodget on Twitter does anybody lose?
“We’re not saying it’s going to transform humanity — as some of its proponents will tell you — but we certainly get its incipient power,” Welch wrote of Twitter way back in June 2009.
He might not hedge as much now, but given that the Welch endorsement has barely moved the needle in 20 months I have no illusions about my own powers of persuasion.
Still: What gives with the Twitter cold shoulder?