Sage’s group head of communications Ralph Charlton said chief executives shouldn’t focus on “product commercials” on their Twitter feeds but on “thought leadership” and taking direct questions from customers.
Speaking of chief executive Stephen Kelly’s private account, Charlton says, “It provides a big opportunity to listen to customers. Stephen communications Ralph Charlton responds directly and wants to listen to complaints. I also didn’t expect so many of our employees to follow him on Twitter and get involved in the dialogue. When they see their chief executive out there talking on their behalf they get really enthused.”
He believes other large UK firms are frightened of “stepping over the edge” by fully embracing Twitter. “They have a fear of letting go. They love the thought of embracing the community but they want to control their messages,” he said. “You need the leadership to take the first step.”
Katy Howell, chief executive of social digital consultancy Immediate Future agreed that chief executives have to lead from the front. “They represent the brand,” she said. “It is slow, steady progress but we are certainly seeing more chief executives coming to us and asking to be trained.”
Howell said CEO tweeters need to understand who they are communicating with. “It’s not just for the consumer, it’s shareholders and employees. You have to break up the themes for each one with a different approach and language,” she said. “You also need to develop a thread or a theme to tie it all together such as focusing on pride in your staff or thought leadership. Richard Branson switches between these two very well.”
Tomorrow, find out about the challenges for companies being forced to disclose their social media information…