Tweeting Like a Boss

My son’s favorite saying right now is that something–anything really–happens “like a boss.” He brushes his teeth like a boss. He plays video games like a boss. And I’m old now, so I think to myself, I’m already a boss, what does that mean for my toothbrushing? What does that mean for my tweeting? Do I tweet like a boss?

And surprisingly, there’s an answer for that last one. I apparently don’t tweet like a boss. Not a boss like my son says, but a real boss. A CEO or Commissioner. One study showed that less than 2% of Fortune 500 CEO’s tweet. Let’s try to guess how many local and state government Commissioners (not politicians) do.

And that’s a real shame because there are definite benefits to being present on social media. (And remember, we’re talking about the big guy and gal, NOT our agencies. I think hope that issue has been settled by now.)

Megan Jasin says there are three reasons why executives should be tweeting for themselves:

1. It’s refreshing to read unscripted content, ideas and opinions from today’s corporate leaders. (They’re leaders for a reason.)

2. There is less risk of a PR crisis for the executive and his or her company. (Well, less risk than an intern being the voice of the company or agency.)

3. It’s good practice for CEOs, CMOs, CFOs and Managers looking to connect directly with consumers and learn future behavioral trends.

But it’s not all day-to-day and tweeting during corporate lunches. Civil service executives (read: brass) have seen some real benefits from holding the Twitter reins, especially during emergencies. At the recent #NCRSMEM conference, I got the special chance to hear Boston PD Deputy Commissioner John Daley speak about one of his major roles during the Boston Marathon bombing and subsequent manhunt.

What’s unique about Boston Police is how completely their executives have embraced Twitter, and Deputy Commissioner Daley is at the forefront. The best example is the following; one of the single most retweeted tweets ever, and it was sent literally SECONDS after the arrest was made:

How the heck did it get approved that quickly? Why wasn’t the Incident Commander informed first, how were the five levels of approval gone through so fast? Simple, because it was sent by the Incident Commander. Because the sender was also the approver.

Now think about your executive. Would they ever do that? If not, why not? Do they relish a lag in releasing information? They like to be second or thousandth? Or do they not care who is the voice of the agency and would rather some lackey speak for them? Or do they not think that actually representing their agency to the world is important enough?

I think that each one of those cases would merit a very special discussion about priorities and goals for your organization.

I’m also interested in what other reasons you’ve heard for why your executive can’t tweet. Leave me a comment below with your best excuses!

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Profile Photo Kathryn David

A good friend of mine, who interns at a think tank, just had to sit down and teach her boss how to tweet. Perhaps a lot of the reluctance on the part of managers is that they fear they are twitter-illiterate. However, my friend successfully taught her editor how to tweet #likeaboss.

Profile Photo Terrence Hill

The vast majority of executives do not use any social media at all (believe it or not, some still do not use e-mail). The major inhibitor seems to be fear, similar to the fear that prevents most government employees from participating in social media. In their mind, the risks far outweigh the benefits of interacting/networking with others.

Unfortunately, a small minority of abusive users “poison the pool” for others with good intentions. It is easier to cut off access to all social media than expose individuals to risk.

Only truly engaging and dynamic leaders are courageous enough to engage with their employees in an open exchange via social media. Unfortunately, these leaders are rare! President Obama is one of them, as well as leaders like Craig Fugate, FEMA’s Administrator.

Profile Photo Scott Horvath

There in lies a bigger problem Terry. There are many organizations that still believe in the short-term solution without considering the long-term problem they’re creating. Yes, you can cut off social media from your employees b/c there were a few that “poison the pool.” In the short-term, that will keep people from using social media on your network. However, most people have other devices not connected to the network. In addition, some will just find workarounds on the network to bypass security restrictions so they can do what they feel is a right. The short-term solution like this is never the answer b/c it increases the likelihood of more people finding ways to do the same thing…but insecurely. The reason from blocking may have been a “fear” or “cultural” issue, but it results in security issues, among other things.

In general, some Leaders just aren’t comfortable talking in the open. You have to have the mindset that talking in the open can lead to good things and not everyone has that mindset. For those people that are a bit fearful, you can get them down that path by introducing them to internal openness. Have them participate in an internal blog, post something, or respond to comments by other employees internally. Show them how being open, honest, and willing to discuss can lead to positive outcomes. Then…slowly ease them into something more public.

You also have to do your due diligence in teaching them about those public tools like Twitter. There’s still a HUGE population that misunderstands what Twitter is or what it’s for. I often hear people say, “I don’t use Twitter b/c I have no need for it.” But how do you know if you haven’t tried? It’s like my kids eating peas for the first time, “I don’t like peas”…well how do you know if you’ve never tried them?? You can’t say it’s not for you unless you’ve tried. For Federal Agencies that typically have a political appointed Leader, they’ve got 4 years to try the peas and decide if they like them. If they don’t…spit’em out and never eat’em again. But you’ll never know till you try. With an administration that’s more technologically connected to the public than any other in the past…you have to know that they’re going to support you if you do decide to try.

Note: Comments are my own.

Profile Photo Jim Garrow

Wow, I love this conversation. And I think that Scott makes some great points, except for one thing. I’m finding that it’s less the political folks that are afraid to embrace social media and more the career executives. I like to call this the Corey Booker Effect. Mayor Booker got SO MUCH good press from his social media chops that political consultants are scrambling over each other to get the political class online. The career folks, without that impetus and being typically risk-averse, are much less likely to get on social media, and that’s problematic because that’s where real movement in organizations takes place.