I’ve seen a number of articles in the past 12 months (here’s one, and another, and another still) that discuss CEO’s and social media. Of the three I pointed to in the previous sentence, two are for and one is against. On the whole, I think the majority of what I’ve read in the popular press is that CEOs should be on social media. There are a number of good reasons (know your market, humanizing your brand, appearance of accessibility, etc.), but I learned of an externality last week.
When I was at the Appreciative Inquiry (AI) event, I was with a number of staff at George Mason University. Our aim at this event was to share positive things about Mason, which is one of the purposes of AI. During this sharing, it was possible to overhear conversations of other groups around the room (especially when there was a pause/lull in my group’s discussion). In a couple of these silences, I overheard groups talking about the President of George Mason University — Angel Cabrera — who is known for, among other things, being on Twitter.
In fact, a couple of these people who were talking about it, mentioned that this was the reason that they joined Twitter — just so that they could follow the President! And this isn’t the only time that I’ve heard of faculty/staff joining Twitter just to see what the President was saying. While these pockets of people saying this may not be a representative sample, it certainly seems like it might be the beginning of a trend, or at least something that’s worth noticing.
In a couple of the articles I mentioned in the opening paragraph, the authors specifically point to social media being a way for CEOs to connect with their employees. After hearing about these folks at Mason who joined Twitter just for President Cabrera, I can see other benefits, too. Once these folks are on Twitter, they may be more likely to follow other conversations and continue their learning/development. But more than that — for the company/brand/organization/school, these employees will be showing potential customers/employees another window into the workings of the company/organization. That may have been a confusing sentence. By being on Twitter, these employees could offer a window of what it’s like on the inside.
So, while there are obvious benefits of CEOs partaking in social media, I think it’s important to point out some of the externalities that result from CEOs being on Twitter — namely — their employees joining Twitter. As you’ll notice in the title of this post, I would argue that senior executives should join Twitter, so not just the CEO (or President, in the case of George Mason University). In fact, at George Mason University, you’ll find that President Cabrera isn’t the only senior executive on Twitter. Mason’s Provost (Peter Stearns) is on Twitter, the Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (Jack Senser) is on Twitter, the Dean of the College of Education and Human Development is on Twitter (Mark Ginsberg), etc.
So — if you’re a senior executive, make your way to social media — now! And for all the employees out there, head on over to social media to check and see if your company’s/organization’s senior executives are on Twitter… you never know.