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Why the C-Suite Should be Thinking About Twitter

Last April I had the pleasure of listening to Jason Calacanis, CEO and founder of Mahalo, speak at the Milken Global Conference about Social Networking in the Political World. While much of what was said during the panel has departed my brain, one thing that Jason said really stuck with me. Essentially Calacanis threw down the gauntlet and stated that any CEO in this day in age that doesn’t blog and use Twitter should be fired. While Jason backed off this statement a little in a subsequent interview I did with him, he maintained his stance of execs at all sized companies needing to be good communicators.

Given the proliferation of tools and channels that we now have available, executives really have no excuse not to be good communicators. In fact, I firmly believe that companies who don’t have at least some executive champions who are engaging with their employees, customers, and the media via Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube are going to go the way of the dinosaur. This may sound extreme but if you look at some of the largest and most successful companies in America like Procter & Gamble and Cisco, their CEOs (although they are not tweeting/blogging) are forcing their respective cultures to be more open and collaborative. In P&G’s case, CEO A.G. Lafley mandated that 50% of their new product ideas come from outside the company by 2010. John Chambers of Cisco has completely flattened his organization and looks to his hundreds of direct reports to be great collaborators.

Why aren’t more execs twittering? Here are a few excuses I’ve heard:

  • I’m not really up to speed on all these social tools. I don’t want to say something stupid.
  • I don’t have time.
  • We have a head of social media/director of online community. They communicate with the public.

You know what I say? Wrong, wrong and wrong. You know why? Because there are already some big name execs that are using Twitter and they are doing a damn fine job. In fact, one of the things that inspired this guest post is the fact that the CEO of Communispace, Diane Hessan, is doing a marvelous job “joining the conversation” on Twitter. She moves gracefully between personal and professional banter and works hard to embrace her community of customers, employees, and other community movers and shakers.

If you want to learn by example, here’s a sample of some other execs that are doing a great job using Twitter to engage their key stakeholders:

Honorable Mention*
Scott Monty, Ford social media lead – @ScottMonty

*Scott’s not an official “exec” at Ford but is doing a bang-up job at a huge company.

If you’re an executive and you’re reading this post, get off your behind and sign-up for an account now. If you’re not sure how to conduct yourself, my friend, Tim Walker, at Hoover’s has put together a bang-up primer on how to get started with Twitter. You can also read my recent post on how to think about Twitter if you’re a corporation. If you’re not an exec, the same rules apply. Except that you may need to get buy-in from your manager. If they won’t let you tweet, you might start thinking about joining a different group (or even company) that will give you the freedom to join the conversation.

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