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Are you a “Social CEO”?

Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz announced his resignation on Twitter, in a Haiku, becoming the first Fortune 200 head to do so, according to the New York Times. (I wonder, if there is any in Fortune 500 that resigned on Twitter? Must find out!).  The report also mentions that while at Sun, he became the first chief executive of a major company to put up his own blog. Clearly, Schwartz was an early adopter of social media, who chose the blog to “disclose critical business matters to investors” along with press release, as a medium.

Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz resigns on Twitter

This made a story(in Feb 2010 when he tweeted his resignation (twee-resigned?), and continues to make a story even today as it is very rare example of a CEO tweeting. However, what is more common, and that does not come as a surprise is to see that the chief execs still don’t feel encouraged to participate on Twitter, Facebook, Blogs,  inspite of the phenomenal growth of social networking channels. As of June 2009, based off a study conducted by UberCEO (All things CEO) only 2 of the fortune 100 companies were on Twitter, and none had a blog. It is somewhat dated article, however, it is not hard to believe that a very little has changed in the stats. The complete research can be read here. Mind you, they have been a bit too harsh on the CEO’s calling them “Social Media Slackers”.

So, why the hesitation?

Too much noise? Granted, social channels (e.g. Twitter) can get noisy with its built in “Many-to-Many” communication links. But, guess what? You are the CEO. If you have something interesting to say, there are your customers, prospects, analysts all waiting to hear from you. And, knock-knock … they are using Twitter to listen! No press release will throw as much light on an issue as a tweet straight from the chief himself, directing the readers to the full story.

There is a risk involved. CEO’s not only represent a brand, but, in many cases they are brands in themselves. Heard of  Richard Branson? (BTW, Branson has an active Twitter account, with almost 350k followers). So, when thousands and millions of eyes are watching you, and reading you – it is very important to be careful in choosing the right message, and avoiding controversial / brand damaging communication. But, who are we talking about? CEO’s of companies who are responsible of managing multi-million / multi-billion dollar businesses, and not a teen who just got her driver’s license! We have seen the kind of mistakes CEO’s can make, the picture tells the story below.

'We made mistakes,' U.S. bank CEOs admit

'We made mistakes,' U.S. bank CEOs admit

With a good band of PR executives, and a strategy in place, CEO’s can most effectively use social networks to not just communicate the good, but also do damage control in a very powerful way. The YouTube apology from the Toyota CEO has become a legend and will be cited in the years to come.

Finally, time.  Where do CEO’s have time to blog and / or tweet? Well, I am not a fan of having people tweet for you. But, CEO’s can take help in performing this chore, if at all. With several apps available that not only allow you to strategically use the medium to communicate with time efficient ways, but, also to analyze, it only gets better if the CEO’s embrace the social.

Summing Up

Few days back, I read an interesting interview of Forrester Research CEO George Colony, about whether or not CEOs should be engaged in social media.  I think this post will be best summarized from an excerpt from the article. It is a quote  from Bill Marriott — he has a great blog. He’s 77 years old and he has one of the best CEO blogs out there. And he said:

Bill Marriot, Chairman and CEO of Marriot International

Seriously, what’s the big deal?

Please, share examples of CEO’s you know who tweet well, or are active in social media space in the comments.

  1. May 8, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    How about our own minister. Sashi Tharoor, who constantly kicks up a row over expressing himself on twitter?

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