Following Lara O' Reilly's article in Marketing Week on whether or not CEO's should tweet, here is my full response to her question. I hope you find it relevant, whether you are a CEO, consumer or simply interested in the #socmed #digitaldialogue #wordofmouseworld!
CEO? Tweet or not?
Confidence is in deep hibernation. And whilst it is, three key words reign: Honesty, trust and reputation. Right now, the world is in short supply of these. Are politicians honest? Do we trust bankers? What do we think of the reputations of companies using strategic tax avoidance? All in all, it’s not pretty. As a CEO, you are the public (or not so public, depending how you play it) face of the company. With my company, where my surname is part of the brand, doubly so. So, should I tweet as a CEO or not? IMHO (twitter shorthand for In My Honest Opinion) of course I should. My products speak for my company each and every day. People buy them long term because they are honest products, they trust them, and their reputation.
If someone loves King of Shaves, and tweets me @KingofShaves to tell me, of course I should personally respond. Yes, it may take time. Yes, people may comment that it is a waste of my resource. But I strongly disagree. Personal interaction, in a world of caution, disbelief and mistrust is critical for long term brand health. Equally, if someone doesn’t like our Azor razor (this product seems to provoke rather ‘Marmite’ (love/hate) reactions, then I should respond. Ask them to DM (private message me). Give them my email, and direct them to our UI/UX team (customers & products). Ask to be cc’d in on the response. And follow up.
Now, can you do this if you’re the embattled CEO of BP? Tesco? RBS? Lloyds? Well, I’d say, if you go about it in the right way, yes you can. Does David Cameron have a twitter account? Yes. Barack Obama? Yes. Is it likely they’re personally tweeting? Moot, but I’m sure that what goes out/is responded to is implicitly approved by them. We live, right now, in a world of instant, urgent, immediacy. You only needed to see how quickly the Tesco #horsegate issue exploded online, at about 10pm last week, to see what the effect of a publicity point (horse DNA in beef burgers) plus social amplification (jokes & more across popular social media networks, especially twitter & facebook) could have on the company. Personally, I felt Tesco handled it well. They’re pretty good on twitter, as are O2. And O2’s CEO is on twitter. I think his company has 20m+ customers. So, if Ronan Dunne can be on twitter, why can’t you?
If however, you use twitter “stupidly, inappropriately or in a reactive manner” you’re going to get into big trouble. Especially if you’re a CEO. But, in my experience, most CEO’s are pretty grounded. Paul Lindley, CEO & Founder of Ella’s Kitchen is on twitter. Of course, Richard Branson is. Tony Hsieh, the CEO of online wonderstore Zappo’s is. Many are.
Simply put, we now live in a world of #DigitalDialogue NOT #BrandBroadcast. Gone are the days where what companies, brands told consumers would be unquestioningly listened to. Now, it’s what customers say about brand, companies that matters. Kia, in their latest TV advertising campaign understand that. Others don’t. And, if you’re a CEO you should be fully embedded into a world of Digital Dialogue. For, if you thought a week was a long time in crisis management, nowadays it’s less than a day to determine the outcome of an iCrisis.