CEOs on Twitter: Is it Truly Bad for Business?

According to a survey conducted by marketing consultancy Weber Shandwick, only 10% of the CEOs running the top 50 organizations worldwide tweet on a regular basis. Why do the remaining 90% executives shy away from the immensely popular micro-blogging service? Could it be their hectic routine? Is it their lack of interest in social media? Or could it possibly be them playing it safe? After all, a CEO is considered the face of the company, and the entire company is judged on what the face says or does. This brings us to a series of questions; is Twitter really that risky? Does it pose a real threat to business? Should corporate heads really mark it as a no-go area for themselves? Let’s find out.

Absolutely No Room for Slip-Up

One disagreeable, insensitive or misunderstood tweet by the head of a renowned company can hurt the feelings of thousands and millions of people. This is exactly what happened with Kenneth Cole, boss of women’s and men’s clothing and accessories brand. He tweeted during Egyptian revolution: “Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now online…” Naturally, thousands of users stormed his profile, subjecting him to unforgiving criticism. Eventually, he had to back down from what he had said earlier and apologized by admitting that his tweet was “insensitive” and “absolutely inappropriate”.

Tweets considered Company Stance

A single improper tweet is all it takes to deal a heavy blow to the image of a brand. Vice versa, when used right, Twitter can do wonders for the reputation of the company. There are plenty of examples of this, the most notable of which is of Apple’s CEO Tim Cook who earlier this year tweeted against the Indiana Law that allowed people to discriminate gay on the basis of religious beliefs. This was a strong gesture that made him a hero, especially in the eyes of LGBT activists and their supporters. According to the researchers at Duke University and Harvard Business School who followed Cook’s tweets, his tweets had made a positive impact on the public image of the Apple brand.

Too Much Information

People are naturally curious to know what the successful people are like, how they think, what beliefs they hold, what their interests are, etc. Of course, there are many who get influenced by the opinions of those captaining a mighty corporate ship, taking their words to be that of a sage. With such devoted followers, it is imperative that CEOs choose their words very carefully when voicing their opinions, and also think twice before expressing an opinion on the micro-blogging website. Unfortunately, slip-ups are not uncommon. Let’s take the example of Michael O’Leary for instance. During a Twitter Q&A session, the CEO of Ryanair replied to a female, “Nice pic. Phwoaaarr! MOL” He probably couldn’t answer the question. It’s not hard to guess how hard his image was hurt by unnecessary and inappropriate opinion.

So What’s the Final Word?

Fairly speaking, there isn’t really anything wrong with CEOs using Twitter. Rather, it can actually be good for business as they’d be able to interact directly with their customers, giving both sides an opportunity to add a certain bit of intimacy to their relation. However, the risk is huge as there is absolutely no room for even the slightest bit of slip-up. The words have to be chosen very carefully and opinion voiced sympathetically. A failure to adhere to these principles cannot just deal irrecoverable damage to the reputation of corporate head, but also hurt the company enormously.


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