Back in 2009 the numbers were very small. Only two used Twitter or Facebook. Two years later and things have improved dramatically, well at least in percentage terms. Based on our latest research, just four Fortune 100 CEOs have Twitter feeds and while the total number of Facebook users approaches 700 million, just nine Fortune 100 CEOs make some use of Facebook accounts. The four using Twitter are:
Warren Buffett – Berhsire Hathaway – @WEBuffett
Michael Dell – Dell Computer – @michaeldell
Brian Dunn – Best Buy – @BBYCEO
Craig Herkert – Supervalu – @herkc
When it companies to the companies themselves it is a very different story. All but 19 of the Fortune 100 companies have Twitter feeds and almost all the CMOs do. What is interesting is that Apple has no Twitter feed, nor does its CEO while CMO was recently lauded for his use of Twitter. Jobs also has no presence on Facebook. The absence of top CEOs on Twitter may seem surprising to some. These CEOs would likely all attract large followings and could use their accounts to add to the company’s personality through their tweets or Facebook updates. The challenge seems to be one of time and priorities for many. What several rightly want to avoid is have a ghosted twitter account. If they are going to tweet they want to be the ones doing it. Ghost tweets (tweets written by someone in their team on their behalf) lack authenticity and may in some cases give the impression they have too much time on their hands – not something investors would like to think.
So while I think the number of CEOs who tweet is bound to rise, especially as younger CEOs take over from today’s generation, I suspect it will be a long time before even half the top CEOs are tweeting. Twitter, Groupon, Zynga and several other companies will likely have gone public by the time we get to anything approaching a high percentage. Until then, you can continue to follow the fake Steve Jobs tweets like the one shown above. Who knows, their tweets may prove more interesting, even if they’re not very accurate.
It would be easy to view the low CEO numbers as a sign that all is not well in social marketing. Quite the contrary. Indeed it’s great to see the number of businesses that have embraced Facebook and Twitter at other levels. These social networks are now used to engage with a host of different stakeholders from customer, though investors to analysts. Indeed the level to which brands are now engaging online communities is staggering and goes a long way to explain why traditional forms of media are fighting for survival. So while Fortune 100 CEOs may be taking things very slowly, the businesses they oversee are most definitely not.
We all have our favorite way of getting a point of view across. This includes the structure of our arguments and the channels we prefer. Yet if the digital revolution has taught us anything it’s that people want to consume content and conversations through their favorite channels, not the ones we may prefer. So it concerns me that so many social media gurus are almost exclusively using Facebook and Twitter to help drive interaction with customers. My fear isn’t that these are the wrong channels but rather that we are in danger of simply replacing an old set of channels (traditional media) with a new and arguably narrow set (social media). In other words we are moving from people that were good at getting news media to get our news out, to people that are good at tweeting. There is surely a lot more to digital than this? Done right digital is about creating channel agnostic content and by engaging with the customer through their preferred channel (rather than ours). By driving people to Facebook and Twitter we are being sensible in that a lot of people are hanging out in these places BUT we are missing a huge opportunity that digital creates and that is to be where the customer wants to have a dialog, rather than insisting they play on our pitch. Some will argue that brands have simply followed customers to these places. That is only partly true. Much of the growth of Facebook and Twitter is because brands have adopted these sites. My message to you is not that you abandon Facebook et al but rather that you shouldn’t assume that these channels are the starting point. Digital is without doubt the biggest opportunity our industry has seen in decades. Let’s not waste it.
Sooner or later Twitter will get serious about an IPO and or someone will try and buy them. My guess is that various firms have already made offers but that they are shrewdly holding out. After all, YouTube sold early to Google for what seemed like a lot at that time but now seems a bargain. Let’s assume that at some point suitors are able to offer enough money to entice the founders and investors to sell. Who is likely to get the prize? Well here are my candidates:
- Facebook – could decide that ‘Places’ is OK but not great and that a second property makes sense. If they did they may be able to offer an interesting alternative for investors, whereby they get to take part in what is likely to be biggest IPO in a decade or more when they themselves go public.
- Google – Google has a search engine, a content library, email, IP comms and great mapping technology. But Bing is catching them up,their email isn’t the best, there’s a lot of competition in their IP comms areas AND it doesn’t have a social platform that rocks people’s world. Twitter would fit into the Google empire much like YouTube has and they have the cash to make an outrageous bid.
- Microsoft – they have the cash and REALLY want to be a player in the Internet world. They’ve stumbled but Bing is proof that they are turning things around. They may well be smart enough to leave Twitter alone and have enough server farms (as do Google) to make sure Twitter outages are a thing of the past.
- Apple – they are a left field option. We’ve already seen that Apple wants to play in the social network space with Ping. I don’t think they get it though and would likely screw up. That said, they effectively invented the small app world and could make Twitter the center of a massive app world.
- Skype -If Skype does an IPO they could have the platform to do a deal. Imagine a Skype version of Twitter with thousands of short videos on your desktop, iPhone etc each day? I can’t see Twitter going this route but it could happen.
- Amazon or eBay – these are also outsiders but both could use this technology very effectively within their businesses and could therefore justify a big price tag. That said eBay bought Skype and later sold it at a loss, so they will likely pass on this one.
- IBM, Oracle, HP etc – any one of the big IT vendors could make a play as they have the cash. They’re not likely to though. Twitter is not a good fit culturally and they would probably rather spend their money on more obvious Internet targets such as Salesforce.com.
What’s clear is that WHEN Twitter looks to realize the value they’ve created, there are plenty of deep pocketed options for them. Don’t you wish you’d got founder stock? I certainly do.
Look at any major retail area and you’ll find a Starbucks somewhere in the mix. Starbucks was, for some time, such a draw that mall owners would give them incentives to open stores. After all, with a Starbucks in their complex other retailers would benefit from the people seeking a latte. Facebook and Twitter are becoming online equivalents. Imagine you launch a new smart-phone and you don’t have a Facebook or Twitter app? Well you just wouldn’t. There aren’t many apps that are essential for smart-phone vendors but access to Facebook and Twitter top the list. Imagine that Facebook decided only to offer an official version of its app to say Microsoft. It wouldn’t hurt Apple much right now but it could be the kind of move that could put Microsoft back in to the smart-phone wars. They wouldn’t do that surely. But imagine if they did.
TV shows like 30 Rock, The Office, Modern Family etc have all come to an end for the summer and will kick off again in September. The break is a well established system for sitcoms and drama series. It gives the actors a chance to have a break and the writers a chance to create new material during the months where viewers spend less time in front of their TVs and more time outdoors. For those still glued to their screeens there’s plenty of reruns to keep them happy. At least that’s the theory. But with more and more people spending time online versus sitting in front of their TVs and with more people using their smartphones as a means of accessing the internet, there is a real danger that during this summer hiatus, viewers will find more reasons to avoid their TVs and unlike migratory birds, not return. After all, Facebook and Twitter don’t show rerun updates and tweets over the summer. Can you imagine of they did?
For this reason I wonder whether the networks need to rethink the summer hiatus. I can see it being tough to change and it brings with it a fresh set of challenges. One of the benefits of having short seasons and breaks is that low quality content and production values get the boot. We’ve all noticed when a show runs out of ideas – Happy Days, invented the expression ‘Jumping the shark’ which means a show has taken things too far and lost the plot, when it had the Fonzie, literally jump a shark on water skis. We can also tell when actors tire of a role. So perhaps there is a role for the break. Perhaps the formula is what needs a rethink. Instead of putting all the best shows in the Spring and Fall, they could experiment by putting some of the stronger shows during the summer to keep the eyeballs on the TV and off their computer screens. After all, I’ll say it again, can you imagine if Facebook and Twitter took a summer break? Bring on the re-retweet. Not.
I am user of Twitter. Most of the people I follow are sensible about their volume of tweets. I used to follow Robert Scoble but I found all I got were pages of his tweets that told me about his daily routine and little else and it annoyed me. A few hundred people are foolish enough to follow me and they get a mix of inane remarks and links to content I find interesting and amusing. In short I’m a pretty average user of Twitter. I got followed by someone today who follows literally thousand of people. I tried to imagine their Twitter inbox. It would be updating every second almost, making it all but impossible to really follow anyone. The only real purpose I can see for following such large numbers isn’t to really follow a person but to follow either a group of people or a conversation. In other words you are not trying to see what Tim Dyson is tweeting about but rather to find out if a topic is popular on Twitter. I can see why this is valuable but it made me think that Twitter should develop a different kind of inbox/account for these users of Twitter. Their feed shouldn’t show the tweets but instead simply the trends and the data behind those trends. In other words the trending topics section should be the main part of the page. I also feel you should be able to tell which users are really following and which are ‘trending’. I’d be curious to know how many of the 480 or so people that follow me actually read my tweets and how many of my tweets are simply used to help create stats. Maybe these trend scoopers could be called flockers. I know I’ve called them something similar.