I was very skeptical at first. It was March 2009, and a friend of mine had suggested that I “really should get on Twitter.” I scoffed at his comment and mumbled something about being too busy to waste my time “tweeting.” But knowing that at least being familiar with Twitter and the rest of the exploding social media scene would be important to my career, I decided to go ahead and take the plunge. So I created a Twitter account. Then I started looking around for other CMOs to follow, so I would have someone with whom to share ideas and challenges.
But I really struggled to find more than just a handful of C-level marketers. I realized that other “seasoned” marketing types like me were probably grappling with the same problem, so to help contribute to my newfound Twitter community, I published a list of 22 CMOs who were active on Twitter at the time. The list quickly garnered a lot of interest, so I began updating and expanding it each week. Fast forward three years, and my list of the Top CMOs on Twitter is now 100 strong. But unfortunately, even today, just a handful of CMOs from America’s largest, most recognizable companies apparently understand the value of using Twitter. For example, only these 10 “big brand” CMOs are currently active:
- Lisa Gavales, CMO at Express
- Giovanni Rodriguez, CMO & Strategy Officer at Deloitte Postdigital
- Beth Comstock, CMO at GE
- Patrick Adams, CMO at Victoria’s Secret Direct
- Joel Ewanick, Vice President & Global CMO at General Motors
- Karen Quintos, CMO at Dell
- Jonathan Becher, CMO at SAP
- Steve Fuller, CMO at L.L.Bean
- Mark Addicks, CMO at General Mills
- Seth Farbman, Global CMO at Gap
So what about all the other leading brands that are missing from this list? Do the marketing leaders from those organizations not understand why their participation on Twitter is important to the success of their companies and their personal success as marketing professionals?
The C-Suite Sets the Standard
As part of the CXO team for your company, one of your primary responsibilities and priorities should be to lead and inspire your direct reports, as well as all the other employees throughout your organization. When it comes to social media, what better way to accomplish that goal than by becoming active on Twitter yourself? Think you’re too important or too busy to mess around with social media? Then ask these leading executives why they’re willing to invest a portion of their time in Twitter:
- Bill Gates, Chairman of Microsoft
- Michael Dell, Chairman & CEO of Dell
- Steve Forbes, President & CEO of Forbes Media
- Richard Branson, Founder & Owner of the Virgin Group
- Mark Cuban, Owner of the Dallas Mavericks
Whether you’re a C-level leader at a Fortune 1000 public corporation or the owner of a small private business—or somewhere in between—you might want to re-examine how becoming active on Twitter could help motivate and inspire your employees, leverage relationships with your key partners and suppliers, enhance your customer experience efforts, and drive more value for your stakeholders.
What CXOs are Saying about Twitter
So how can you best use Twitter to benefit yourself and your organization? Tim O’Reilly, CEO of O’Reilly Media, recently told Bloomberg that “Twitter is a great way to ‘watch the alpha geeks,’ which is my shorthand way of saying that a lot of what we do at O’Reilly is pay attention to people at the edge and look for technologies that are ready to move from the edge to the mainstream that we can help along by publishing, conferences, magazines, online publishing, or activism.”
Brian Dunn, CEO of Best Buy, recently told the Harvard Business Review that he’s a “heavy user of Twitter” and that he learns a lot from the time he spends on it. “I interact directly with customers and employees. I watch trends and see news I’d miss otherwise. Ultimately, I believe that Best Buy’s message has to be where people are. Today, that means being on social networks.” Dunn went on to say, “You’d be amazed at the number of people I talk to—people who run big businesses around the world—who think social networking is just a fad, or that what you see on Twitter and Facebook is simply clutter. It’s not. If a company, or even its chief executive, doesn’t have a presence on social networks today, that company risks not being in the conversation at all. Over time, I believe, that can be fatal to a business.”
I heartily concur. Over the past three years that I’ve been active on Twitter and other social media channels, I’ve already seen a significant return—for both my company and myself—on the time and effort I’ve invested in it. On a personal level, I’ve greatly expanded my knowledge of the marketing discipline as a result of my tweeting-related activities. Even more importantly, I’ve developed a number of new relationships with quality people whom I would never have met were it not for Twitter. And those relationships will undoubtedly pay huge dividends for years to come.