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Should CEO’s Facebook and Twitter (Forbes)

twitterMatthew Fraser and Soumitra Dutta [1. Matthew Fraser is senior research fellow and Soumitra Dutta is Roland Berger chaired professor of business and technology at the INSEAD business school in France. Their book, Throwing Sheep in the Boardroom: How Online Social Networking Will Change Your Life, Work and World, is published by Wiley. The book’s Web site is at] wrote an interesting article for titled Yes, CEOs Should Facebook And Twitter.

Social networking has clearly reached a tipping point. Sites like MySpace and Facebook boast hundreds of millions of members. Barack Obama’s presidential victory demonstrated that platforms like YouTube and Twitter could transform electoral politics. Yet in corporations where such tools have been expected to bring profound transformations, there has been strong resistance to change.

However, the current challenging economic climate has caused some chief executives to embrace social media tools. Weekly Leader’s Tweeter Leader provides a Twitter stream of CEO’s and other organizational leaders who use the popular microblogging/messaging platform. Tom Dickson, the CEO of Blendtec, has really taken advantage of the unique opportunities to connect with customers and convert potential customers with YouTube videos such as this.

Dickson obviously is not your typical CEO and what he’s trying to get across is Blendtec doesn’t make your typical blender. The risk seems to have paid off. As of this posting, the above video has been viewed more than 6,500,000 times and it only one of many that have been cummulatively viewed many millions more. According to the Forbes article, the YouTube viral video campaign has helped Blendtec quintuple sales since its launched 2 years ago.

facebookListening is recognized as a hallmark of good leadership and Fraser and Soumitra believe that social media tools are uniquely positioned to help CEO’s keep a pulse on their markets.

Corporate leaders can use Web 2.0 tools not only to communicate but also to learn from employees, suppliers, customers and the public. Many corporations spend large sums trying to find out what people think of them. Plugging into the blogosphere or listening to feedback on Twitter offers a more effective and cost-efficient way of learning how to approach customer relations.

Blogs and podcasts can help corporate executives bolster their reputation as industry thought leaders.

CEOs can use Web 2.0 tools to make themselves known as intellectual leaders not only among their employees and customers but also with the media and the public. Public relations people often get nervous when CEOs wants to connect directly, but a CEO who blogs intelligently can enhance his personal brand as an intangible corporate asset.

The authors cite management guru Gary Hamel about the immune systems found in most large corporations but they close on a more optimistic note.

As the management guru Gary Hamel observes, “While the Web was founded on the principle of openness, the most honored virtue among senior executives seems to be control. Most companies have elaborate programs for top-down communication, including newsletters, CEO blogs, Webcasts and broadcast e-mails. Yet few, if any, companies have opened the floodgates to grassroots opinion on critical issues.”

These are tough challenges. But Web 2.0 is finally gaining momentum in corporations, with an urgency increased by the current economic climate. It’s now reasonable to predict that following the Web 2.0 revolutions in personal interactions and politics, a corporate Web 2.0 tipping point is on the horizon.


About the author

Peter A. Mello, Founder/Editor Founder of Weekly Leader and Sea-Fever Consulting, LLC, a leadership development and strategic communications consultancy. Previously, CEO of an international nonprofit organization and COO of a national insurance/risk management services firm. Peter has been leading people and managing organizations for over 30 years, writes a leadership column for MarineNews magazine and blogs about maritime culture at Sea-Fever. Follow him on Twitter.

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