More and more CEOs are talking in 140 characters or less.
Many have created personal Twitter (TWTR) accounts to communicate with consumers, share candid thoughts and, in the case of some, start all out wars with their competitors. In the past, business leaders had few public forums beyond shareholder letters and speaking events to engage directly with consumers. But executives are beginning to use Twitter as a way to achieve greater brand recognition, as well as an opportunity to gain trust with consumers.
CEO "sociability" is a vital element of building trust and loyalty with consumers, with 82% of consumers being more likely to trust a company whose CEO is active on social media, according to research from Insead Knowledge. On Twitter, company executives can influence conversations and provide exclusive news and announcements.
Twitter's "like" and "retweet" functions also make it easier than ever for messages to be spread quickly, according to a report by MIT Sloan Management Review, which studied the Twitter activity of 25 CEOs of publicly traded companies. The study found that most CEOs who use Twitter fall under the "generalist" category, meaning that they use the platform to express personal opinions or interests, as well as for tweeting information related to their business, such as customer stories and broad strategies, among other things. They don't, however, use Twitter to announce new initiatives.
Another category of CEOs on Twitter are known as "business mavens," where they share new product announcements and information about management initiatives. They also typically receive the most retweets and favorites, the MIT study noted. That description might bring to mind CEOs among the likes of Tesla Motors (TSLA) CEO Elon Musk, who recently asked his followers to help him name a tunneling machine, part of his new venture The Boring Company, which was retweeted more than 2,000 times and received more than 11,000 replies (including the suggestion of "Snoop Dug).
Thinking about a name for our first tunneling machine …— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 5, 2017
So while it's unlikely that a tweet from a CEO will result in any major stock moves, more CEOs are finding out that it's worthwhile to have their own handle on Twitter. Here's nine CEOs who are using Twitter to their advantage:
1. John Legere
To say that T-Mobile (TMUS) CEO John Legere is active on Twitter would be an understatement. Legere has tweeted more than 28,000 times on topics ranging from the state of the wireless industry to the Kermit the Frog meme. He's also notorious for getting in candid arguments with rivals like Sprint (S) and Verizon (VZ) , as well as with President Donald Trump before he was elected.
The Tesla CEO has racked up more than 8.5 million followers on Twitter. Musk has been known to make product announcements and give updates on various company initiatives through @elonmusk. In April, he called out investors who may have lost money by being bearish on Tesla, saying "Stormy weather in Shortville..." and he provided various updates on the launch of his SpaceX rockets as it landed successfully.
Excited to announce the launch of https://t.co/J6TuRWIQAA! It's a little verbose right now, but that will be fixed tomorrow.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 14, 2017
Box (BOX) CEO Aaron Levie may not be one of Silicon Valley's leading luminaries, but he's amassed a sizable following on Twitter via his vocal, personal tweets, particularly on issues related to politics. Levie has been an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, particularly on executive orders like the travel ban. From time to time, Levie will comment on current events like the United Continental (UAL) passenger who was forcibly removed from a plane.
Every lawyer in the country right now. pic.twitter.com/kRWOLJvLqw— Aaron Levie (@levie) July 11, 2017
The co-founder and CEO of Twitter has been known to tweet directly with users of the social media platform, recently asking them for advice on what improvements he should make to the site. Users suggested things like tweet editing and advanced controls for hate speech and harassment, many of which Dorsey has responded to. Dorsey typically takes to Twitter to announce that he's purchased additional shares of Twitter.
Twitter has a new CFO: @nedsegal! Welcome to the flock— jack (@jack) July 11, 2017
Before Dorsey sought advice on his company via Twitter, Airbnb CEO Chesky did the same with users of the home stay network. Last December, Chesky asked his followers in a tweet, "If Airbnb could launch anything in 2017, what would it be?" The tweet received more than 2,200 responses and was retweeted 565 times. Some of the most popular requests were allowing the ability to request meals with room bookings, include flight and car rental packages and enable better verification for hosts, among other things.
The travel ban has always been bad policy and it goes against everything we stand for...— Brian Chesky (@bchesky) June 26, 2017
Sprint (S) CEO Marcelo Claure tweets regularly from his account, primarily about news related to his wireless company. He's also been known to trade insults with rival telcos T-Mobile, AT&T (T) and Verizon (VZ) . Claure and Legere have gotten into several public Twitter spats, with Claure at one point referring to Legere as a "con artist."
Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield has taken to Twitter to on several occasions to speak out against Trump and other political issues. Butterfield also tweets a fair share of memes and other comedic content.
1. Never get sick of Twitter accounts like this. Perfect doses of education/appreciation— Stewart Butterfield (@stewart) July 3, 2017
2. I want to try "heirloom" varieties of everything https://t.co/3gNDnnZJQQ
Salesforce (CRM) CEO Marc Benioff tweets out announcements related to his software company, as well as news about fellow Silicon Valley companies like Uber and Twitter. Like many tech CEOs, he was quick to denounce Trump's immigration ban, tweeting #noban in January.
The CEO of LinkedIn hasn't made headlines by getting in arguments on Twitter, but he does use his account to comment on current events and developments in the tech world. He recently asked his nearly 500,000 followers to suggest to him non-partisan articles on Obamacare, which received a couple dozen responses. Weiner also likes to tweet about movies and entertainment.
Even negative feedback can be a gift. Take it seriously but don't let it define you. Define yourself.— Jeff Weiner (@jeffweiner) July 1, 2017