I spoke last week at the Council of Manufacturing Associations, to an audience of 200 CEOs. My panel was with Christopher Gahan, Chief of Staff for Senator Toomey of PA, and Shana Glickfield of Beekeeper Group, a digital public affairs agency we work closely with. The topic was Twitter and Advocacy.
I was impressed that there were several CEOs in the room actively using Twitter, but of course we got some pushback. One CEO in particular asked about frequency of tweeting - he said his staff told him he had to tweet regularly during the day to make it worthwhile. He had thrown his hands up in frustration and decided not to bother.
I told him I disagreed with what his staff said.
Yes, it doesn't make much sense to start a Twitter account and not use it. Yes, the more you use it, the more you build audience and the more you build relationships.
But in my opinion, one good tweet from a CEO is worth more than 100 tweets from other staff. CEOs got to where they are through their long careers and their influence, earned over years of building relationships in real life. That influence, once mirrored and cultivated online, can only be AMPLIFIED by Twitter. Social media is encouraging a whole crop of new influencers - people with large followings, group admins, industry bloggers... but that does not take away the power that the head of the organization could have if he or she jumped into the game. And yes, we all know CEOs are busy - just like we don't expect President Obama to be personally tweeting all day long (having, you know, a rather large country to run) - we also wouldn't expect our association CEO to be on there all day either.
It takes a little bit of effort to figure out what kinds of tweets to share and how often, but the impact of a good tweet from a CEO can make all the difference to the strategic goals of the organization as a whole.
Don't believe me? As Chris Gahan shared, Twitter is a direct line to his desk and therefore his Senator's office. He has Tweetdeck up as his computer desktop - meaning he's watching it all day. He's watching for mentions and keywords just like the rest of us. If you send a Tweet to @SenToomey, Chris (who is his Chief of Staff, remember) will see it. Chris made the comparison between a free, 30-second, well-timed and worded tweet and the amount of money spent to fly people to Washington (plus fancy dinners and whatnot) - a practice he said is FAR LESS EFFECTIVE to catch his attention. He added that his Senator's office receives 20,000 emails per week. (I thought my inbox was bad). These emails have to pass through several layers of junior staffers before they ever get in front of him, much less to the Senator's inbox.
A compelling argument to get your CEO to tweet, if there ever was one. Don't you think?
And please - check out Senator Toomey's Twitter stream - it's a perfect mix of personal and professional (promotional) content. (And by the way - he's on Facebook too.)