When I started to run my own business years ago, I never would have guessed that, come 2012, I would be expected to update the internet on my life in 140 characters or less. Yet here I am, keeping as close an eye on my Twitter feed as I do on my iPhone and e-mail. In this digital age CEO's are expected to tweet.
An excellent little article by e-marketer on research done by social branding firm BRANDFog tells us that 78% of people surveyed on topics related to businesses using social media felt that CEO participation leads to better communication, and 77% of respondents said they were either more likely or much more likely to buy a product from a company that uses social media to help define a company's image.
Obviously, if you own a company with an online presence or sell a product over the internet, you should be tweeting. But for the many of us who grew up in a time when the only thing that went tweet were birds, jumping into social media can be a bit difficult. To help make the plunge, here is my advice to CEO's aspiring to join the Twitter-sphere.
We don't need to know what you had for breakfast
Or what you had for lunch. Or what you are up to right now. Or what song you added to your workout mix. To put things simply, don't bore your followers with pointless details about your life. That isn't what Twitter is for! Use the medium to help define your company's persona online and to further your business's mission. You want your followers to be happy to see you have updated, not annoyed that they have to read yet another factoid about your day-to-day life. It may seem simple enough now, but you'd be surprised how many Twitter personas forget that mundane updates are not interesting to outside parties.
So try Tweeting the interesting article you read while you drank your coffee, instead of about the bagel you had with your coffee.
Never, EVER, use Twitter to berate or talk down to people
Dan Porter, the CEO of OMGPop which created the app Draw Something, got in a little hot water recently for badmouthing an ex-employee who chose to leave before the business was acquired by Zynga. Dan Porter immediately deleted the tweet, apologized, and has shown himself to be quite a nice guy, but there will always be screenshots of that infamous tweet online.
Remember, if you posted on the internet, it has a chance of following you for the rest of your life. Even if you said something in a brief moment of stupidity, it can still haunt you. Twitter is not the place to air grievances - your twitter feed will come to represent how people view your company. Don't ever use it in anger.
Your tweets do not need to be focus grouped
Hopefully all of my advice on what not to do has not caused a ripple of fear to run down your back every time you click "tweet." With all of this talk about online persona and company representation, you may be tempted to e-mail a few friends around the office to ask if what you want to write is relevant or appropriate. This will zap all the fun out of having a twitter profile, and really running your twitter should be something you enjoy doing. If you have fun with it your tweets won't sound forced, and that will do a lot to help foster the all-important trust factor. A team crafting each and every tweet, on the other hand, will probably make things sound stale and emotionless.
So have fun, use a little common sense, and always ask yourself if you'd want to follow you. Running your twitter will soon turn into something you enjoy, and you'll be doing a lot to influence how people view your company!
Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation, an online filing services company that specializes in incorporations and LLCs. Find her online at mycorporation.com and on Twitter @deborahsweeney and @mycorporation.