It's disappointing to me that while businesses try to be more open with consumers, studies show that CEOs have little to no involvement with a company website or a social media presence. That might mean executives are told to tweet, but simply don't know what to say. They might not understand the ROI or that social media can effectively manage and optimize an image.
For example, I've been an active Twitter user for quite some time. While I'm a bit biased toward social media as the head of Red Door Interactive, I do believe any company can see benefits in terms of brand loyalty, customer acquisition and retention, and Twitter is a good place for many to start when you consider the service has nearly 200 million users.
So to my fellow business owners, CEOs, and executives, I welcome your tweets, and recommend the following elements be part of your strategy in using the service:
Pick a good Twitter name: Some CEOs simply use their own name like @RichardBranson, while others, like me "@icowboy," take some creative liberties. If your company has no Twitter presence at all, it can't hurt to call yourself by the brand name, @Mashable is actually their CEO Pete Cashmore.
Tell us about your company's news: This is the fairly obvious tweet. Put out information about new hires, a new client or product. You can tweet what's going on in the office that day. Do you have a special contest/giveaway? Is there a big meeting? Are you traveling somewhere interesting? All these events may be newsworthy and of interest to your followers.
Be an expert source: Tweet about things that tie in to your company's core product or service. If you specialize in putters, for instance, post facts and current events about golf. Feel free to weave in how your particular putter can help out a golf game, but only if it's relevant, informative and not too salesy. Consider uploading video and images on Twitter to help your insight come alive. You can also post content about leadership or business articles you've really enjoyed.
Give out plenty of "Wi-five's": It's also great to tweet your team's accomplishments or throw up a so-called "wi-five." Identify key players and give them a shout out by their Twitter names. Here's an example from Dennis Crowley, the founder of Foursquare, "Just got word about our successful server upgrade. Great job to @nathanfolkman & @hoffrocket for fighting future 4SQ checkin overload!"
Have some fun: I recently tweeted about a Jay-Z song that got me going in the morning. I also read "Studies find top three most stressful moments in people's lives: death, divorce, and properly pronouncing Worcestershire sauce" from Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh. These types of tweets help to inject personality into your company and brand.
Be prepared to listen and respond: You might be worried about the risks of engaging your audience in conversation online, but remember that is the point of tweeting. It's important to read the reactions to the content you generate and comment back. It can be as simple as a "thank you" reply or, if there is an issue, direct message the consumer and hopefully you'll learn something from the feedback.
Lead by example: If you are asking your staff to tweet, it's important that you practice what you preach. Also, do it yourself; if you have an employee tweet for you, it runs the risk of coming across phony. It's fairly obvious when it's not the person behind the "@."
As important for the company to have a Twitter presence is for the CEO to also be active on the service, in order to afford customers, partners and prospects a direct and personal channel to them. Help yourself stand out by being one of the few executives active on the social network. People seem to get pretty jazzed when a CEO responds to them directly, I know I do.
Red Door Interactive, an Internet Presence Management firm with offices in San Diego and Denver that helps organizations profit from their Web initiatives. Clients include Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp, PETCO, Rubio's Fresh Mexican Grill and Cricket Communications. Connect with him at http://twitter.com/icowboy.