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Founders, CEOs and Social Media

Ocean Spray (cooperative)There’s a myth out there that entrepreneurs and leaders like risk. I think they prefer risk on their own terms, which is not really risk — it’s control and ownership.

That’s why it was so interesting to read an article in The Wall Street Journal called “140 Characters of Risk: Some CEOs Fear Twitter.”

Some of the observations from the article:

Chief executives are under pressure these days to appear accessible and “authentic,” but social media — with its demands for quick, unscripted updates that can quickly go viral — poses risks for top managers and the companies they represent, in the form of lawsuits, leaked trade secrets or angered customers.

So true. The Wall Street Journal reports that 7 in 10 Fortune 500 CEOs have no presence on major social media networks. I think founders and CEOs are interested in winning; they’ll be as accessible and authentic as necessary to gain market share. After that, they’ve got a business to run.

Here’s another anecdote from the story:

Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc. is pushing CEO Randy Papadellis to start tweeting. But when Mr. Papadellis said in a recent interview that one of his first tweets would mention drinking cranberry juice before eating sushi to prevent food poisoning, his director of communications, Cindy Taccini, quickly nixed the plan, noting that the claim hadn’t been clinically proven.

Yikes. Not every CEO should be on Twitter. Also, don’t eat cranberries to prevent food poisoning.

Let’s not confuse a social media presence for transparency. Our founder, Bret Starr, is an inconsistent blogger and a passive tweeter. Our CEO, Paul Roberts, does not tweet. What my company has done is hire socially savvy employees to evangelize our brand. And then we, as an organization, build and enhance a network of relationships on Twitter and Facebook so that other people can share our good news.

We’ve created an ecosystem, people.

Social media is an important component of a 21st century company; however, most companies really need CEOs who are good at math and finance. After that, it’s gravy.

With the rise of mobile video and cloud-based communication tools such as Google+ Hangouts — and the demise of multi-point conference units — CEOs can bypass text-based forms of social media marketing and speak to employees, analysts and shareholders with greater frequency and intimacy.

So remember this: Just because your CEO isn’t on Twitter doesn’t mean that he or she is neither accessible nor authentic. Maybe your CEO is busy running your company.

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