Few CEOs of large companies leverage the power of Twitter to the fullest extent. As of September 2014, only 42 Fortune 500 CEOs had Twitter accounts. The authors argue that rather than waiting for impressions to be driven by the media or by individuals with ulterior motives, CEOs can use Twitter to help shape their public image and that of their companies.
The authors studied the Twitter activity of 25 CEOs of publicly traded companies who were active on Twitter and identified common patterns and themes. Based on the type of content tweeted most often, the authors classified the CEOs they studied into four groups: Generalists, Expressionists, Information Mavens, and Business Mavens.
Generalists used Twitter to share a wide range of content. At times they tweeted about personal opinions and interests; other times, they tweeted information closely related to the business (for example, strategy, existing products and services, customer references, etc.). However, on average they had the smallest networks among the groups of CEOs, perhaps because they were not sharing information that was unique.
Expressionists used Twitter extensively for non-business content sharing. These CEOs shared their opinions about events and politics and gave their followers an insight into their daily lives. In many ways, they used Twitter as a brand-building platform for themselves as they do for their companies.
Information Mavens frequently shared links to information, news, and other happenings. However, they did not generally tweet information specific to their company, acting more like curators of content. As a result, relatively few people retweeted or “favorited” their tweets.
Business Mavens used Twitter extensively and primarily shared business-related content. In contrast to the other CEO groups that the authors identified, Business Mavens often shared new product announcements, information about existing products, customer references, and information about management initiatives and strategy. Although they also used Twitter to share content related to personal opinions and interests and links to other interesting information, the majority of their tweets were business-related. As a group, the Business Mavens produced tweets that were retweeted and favorited more often than those of CEOs in the other three groups, and they had significantly larger follower networks.
The authors’ research suggests that certain types of CEO tweets are more likely to be favorited and retweeted than others: tweets that provide new information about the company’s products and services; tweets that refer to external validation; and tweets that share customer stories and refer to customers.