Why are there so few top executives on Twitter and social media in general? What are some of the major fears and issues that are preventing that kind of adoption?
There are really three factors there: one is age. Hate to be so obvious about it, but most of these people are of the typewriter and Wite-Out generation. If you’re born in 1980 and onward you’re in the AIM generation. The next generation is the Facebook generation. The next generation after that is the iPhone generation. So only those three generations born since 1980 have lived in a world with social technology.
Before that, you may be the Apple II generation or you may be the IBM PC generation, but especially at college it wasn’t part of the life you lived; it wasn’t the air you breathed and the water you swam in. So age is a factor.
The second factor is the constraints: the first is regulatory, especially if you’re a public company. With Reg. FD (Regulation Full Disclosure), the FCC says that every time a CEO speaks, any current or potential investor must be able to hear it. They have not yet defined whether Twitter is at Reg. FD or the blog is Reg. FD or if Facebook is Reg. FD. They have said at times it is or sometimes it isn’t — it’s still not fully defined.
So those rules need to be set before we’ll see wider adoption.
Exactly, yeah. There are a lot of other regulatory FTC rules for CEOs too. Then the next factor is really about risk. The CEO has risk that they’re going to offend customers, partners, the Board of Directors. Then you have risk around litigation. I won’t say who this is, but a very prominent CEO of a large company was told he could not become more social because he was in too many courtrooms already. So the risk of litigation is a big issue.
The next factor is time. If you go to a CEO and say — and this is sort of conventional wisdom around being social — “We want you to make between five and six 140-character statements a day” — that’s 30 a week. “Then we want you to make one large statement per week — about four or five paragraphs.” And most CEOs would say, “There’s absolutely no way I could do that.”
There are two problems here: one is time. Calculate the time behind this and it’s about five or six hours — that’s a lot of time for a CEO. The second is that model — which has become almost an accepted model if you want to build followership — that model is unsustainable if you want to sustain quality. In other words: There’s not enough to say. There’s not enough wisdom in the world for one person to be wise over all those statements to fall over a year. That’s 1,500 short statements a year and 50 large statements a year.
Those are the factors that constrain a CEO from doing this.
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