The First 200 Days of a C-Suiter Tweeter

Six months ago, I was soundly in the camp of those senior executives who regularly mocked the very notion of Twitter. With a daily e-mail inbox pinging in the near four figures, I argued then, “Why on the good green earth would I even contemplate opening an entire new stream of messaging to manage, and what possible interest might I have in whether some post-pubescent exhibitionist had a Venti or Grande on the way to work that morning?”

Then I found myself at a major speaking engagement in Berlin last December, where it was obvious the attendees there were very engaged in the use of Twitter during the programming. Fortunately for me, a Twitter-proficient colleague was “handling” me at this conference, so I asked him to set me up, as we listened to a presenter opine on social media and customer service. Before the day ended, I had 100 followers, and social media had put the content of my thought leadership message in play in a way no other medium has done for me or my firm ever before.

Since then, I have posted 1500 messages to Twitter, and reviewed the so-called Twitter stream several times a day. While the media form is still nascent, I can share that I have found it to be worthy of at least a few measures of my already well-divided attention span. It’s not like an e-mail inbox. It’s like passing through the busy lobby of hotel several times a day where fortuitously a lot of the people you might hope to bump into happen to be passing through, as well.

Twitter is an excellent learning platform. If you can find and follow the great curators of content, it’s like having the best editors and subject matter experts working just for you, offering up delicious bite-sized contributions. The stream is no longer just chatty kids making us aware of whether they went with the single or double @Wendys.

Now, you will find the likes of the venerated Harvard professor @RosabethKanter sharing excellent content on management and leadership daily, and the always-brilliant @DanielPink curating an eclectic stream of need-to-know tidbits relevant to almost every executive interested in navigating the shoals of contemporary discontinuity. One-to-one marketing pioneer @DonPeppers is at it, again, demonstrating the best practices of unleashing the potential of this new platform. Breaking news in general, but more importantly in your industry, or even your company, is now more likely to appear on Twitter than in any other media venue. Ignore it at your risk.

I’ve always been a voracious reader and sharer, a tear-sheeter who underscores in articles and passes along what he finds to others in the organization for their learning and benefit. Twitter was made for this. It is the ultimate “Check This Out” tool that enables one to push a fresh cognitive kernel to the collective mind of the organization in real time.

It has had other practical applications, as well. Twitter has enabled me to effect better connection with clients, employees, peers and, yes, even prospects. It enables an authentic, conversational connection that has no smell of spam, if conducted with some reasonable modicum of etiquette. Translation: “I’ve done deals here.”

Most importantly, it’s given me connection to the techno-dexterous Millenials who are every day innovating the brave new world of media. I teach them. They teach me. I get the better of the deal.

For all I’ve said here about Twitter, proper homage must be paid to LinkedIn. My Twitter follower stream grew most quickly after I had linked my Twitter posts to my LinkedIn profile. I have substantially more people who tell me they have read something I’ve posted on LinkedIn than I do about my Tweets, though those LinkedIn posts are flowing from my Twitter stream. that makes sense, of course. Those aggregated at my LinkedIn profile are my professional network and therefore more likely to be attentive and interested, but Twitter is the easy handheld way to put it all in play.

As an experienced marketer and senior executive, it’s clear to me that Twitter hasn’t yet reached a critical mass that would enable anyone to use it as the primary pillar of a media mix, and perhaps it never will. Like you I suspect, I’m puzzled how it makes money. Guess it doesn’t. In time it may well fizzle.

But for now, it can be a useful tool beneath the tapping thumbs of a C-level executive; a stream of new insights, a door opener, a strategic alignment plumb and a conduit of generational relevance between those who have paved the way and those who are doing so, now.

Follow me on Twitter @MrBtoB

by Rick Segal

President Worldwide and Chief Practice Officer

Cross-posted at Ignite Something on the Forbes CMO Network