twittering amongst the big birds

This is from a recent WSJ article:

“When General Electric Co. Chief Executive Jeffrey Immelt tweeted for the first time this month, his “Hello Twitter” was greeted with some snarky replies, including this one: “@JeffImmelt how come my grandfather got on twitter before you?”

In the same article:

A leadership expert thinks a CEO is shortsighted if they aren’t tweeting. That is former Medtronic Inc. CEO Bill George, a management professor at Harvard Business School <and avid tweeter>.

Most CEOs should accept that social media is part of their job description.”

“People want CEOs who are real. They want to know what you think … can you think of a more cost-effective way of getting to your customers and employees?”

With all due respect to a Harvard professor … what is he smoking?

<that should generate some twittering>.

“Social media is part of their job.” ?!? <that was me in a thought bubble> I think that is nuts.

Unless my business leader wants to be involved with twitter, personally, I am telling her/him <me included as a business leader type> ‘don’t waste your time.’

I found the article fascinating because I know for a fact that today CEOs, heck, all company leaders, are constantly being hounded by their own people to join Twitter. Why? Well, because they aren’t:

Seven in 10 Fortune 500 CEOs have no presence on major social media networks such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google+ (source: and analytics company Domo).

Among those who do, 4% have known Twitter accounts and 8% use Facebook under their own names, according to the study.

Now. As a counterpoint … 34% of all Americans are on Twitter and 50% use Facebook (same source).

My conclusion? I still say ‘don’t waste your time.’ <unless you & your friends are already on twitter>

There are a hundred different ways a leader can be accessible or ‘real’ or “authentic” or ‘human’ or whatever characteristic you have in your pea like brain that a leader should be. And ‘cost efficient communications’ is … well … silly. Just because it is cheap doesn’t mean it is the best quality decision. But that may be an entirely different post.

Anyway. I struggle to think 140 characters is what is going to make people think someone is more real, authentic or human.

In addition … I think people confuse the issues by using words like ‘human’ or ‘authentic’ <I will explain later>

In addition … I continuously believe we confuse “social” and “business” <I will explain later>.

Social is social <crazy me … but isn’t that the reason it is called ‘social media’?>. Business is business <I know … crazy talk>. What employees, and the business world, desires are not social words but rather business words that explain “why the fuck are they making that decision and don’t they know how it affects me!?!” <and not “hey … the party I am at has escargot <snails to the peons in the mailroom>.

We want leaders to (a) make the hard, difficult decisions and (d) <because that first is actually a, b and c.> show that you are in touch with ‘me’ <the little guy> on occasion.

… Yes … please note that I wrote “on occasion.”

No employee seriously believes a leader has time to be with the troops every day let alone typing out 140 characters <ongoing … because twitter is a dialogue not a megaphone> to share the serious stuff.

And the non-serious stuff?

Heck. I really, honestly, don’t want to hear about their social life. It does not make them any more real to me as I hear about their relaxing in some Monte Carlo casino or Marlin fishing on some yacht in the middle of the Caribbean or how they went to their ‘weekend cottage’ or even the ‘blue collar’ … “I weeded my beet garden this morning.”

I want to know they are doing their business shit … and doing it well.

I learned this a really really long time ago … great leaders are not always liked by everyone <the corollary to that is … well … no one is always liked by everyone>. That doesn’t mean they go out of their way to be disliked by everyone. They simply realize that most people will ‘kind of’ like you <and not really care about your human side as much>:

–          if the employees feel like they are being fairly compensated

–          the employees are being fairly involved in the success of the company <assuming there is some success>

–          the employees feel like the company is secure <the leader is making the difficult decisions well>

–          the employees feel like they are listened to if they have something <important> to say

<note: a leader can, and should, do all of that and not via twitter>


Here is where Twitter really doesn’t work <99.9% of the time> for leaders … the difficult decisions can absolutely be summarized in 140 characters <we did “x” and it is good for you> but it cannot EXPLAIN the difficult decisions.

Heck. It cannot explain the semi-difficult decisions. And if you cannot explain clearly you get questions. And questions foster rumors. And rumors foster people not working and instead gabbing and tweeting amongst themselves and, in general, a lot of non-productivity.


I am all for twitter and I think it is a neat social tool for in the moment quick give & take but I also know that even I do not have time to use twitter properly for myself <given everything else going on> and absolutely would not have time to use it properly in managing any organization that is , say, maybe over 50 employees.

Yes. There will be exceptions.

I would argue that the exceptions are driven not by the individual but rather by the company, i.e, what they do to make the organization run all day long <it is different for an online sales business than a factory production line business> & what is its overall culture.

Most leaders <not just Fortune 500 comapanies> just say they are too busy running a company to spend time posting 140-character messages to Twitter and/or retweeting posts <amen to that>. The GE leader could have <thank god he didn’t> tweeted back … “is your grandfather running a billion dollar company or was he tweeting from the golf course this morning?” <note: this is an example of why it is good I don’t tweet>

Sure. There may come a generation of leaders where the involvement of twitter is so integral to their every day DNA that when they actually become a leader it will be … well … not a tool or a tactic nor something they do that makes them more ‘real’ or authentic but rather simply a part of who they are. But <yeah … there is a but>.

Here is my bet.

How you think about things is different between before you get there and when you get there. I believe the next generation of leaders will find they don’t have the time, or there will be more effective means of communicating what they want to communicate, once they actually reach the Fortune 500 CEO <or leaders> slots.

In the end I believe we confuse socially connecting and business connecting. And planning how to make someone sound authentic kind of sounds to me like sending someone to a Sincerity Class.

Now. To be clear.

I firmly believe that today’s leaders have lost a sense of how important organization culture and organizational behavior ‘feelings’ are as they solely focus on the balance sheet. And I firmly believe more of today’s leaders don’t have to be more human, or real, but instead simply recognize they have real humans working for them.

I just do not believe tweeting is the answer to either of those things.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Written by Bruce