Parminder Singh, the Managing Director of Twitter SEA in India spoke at a conference this past week in New York. I came across his comments about why more CEOs should be on Twitter. The quotes make a lot of sense to me about why CEOs should embrace social media, particularly before they need it in a crisis such as we saw with AirAsia’s CEO Tony Fernandes and GoDaddy’s CEO Blake Irving. Singh told the interviewer that Twitter was a powerful medium “not least because it gives the deepest insight into the human psyche ever created.” Not so sure about this social platform providing the deepest insight ever into the human psyche for CEOs. For that select group, I’d say that it provides extremely valuable insights into your business or brands or breaking news but in terms of the human psyche, not so much. Here is what Singh said, however:
“I think the language of leadership is changing. Leadership is no longer about muscles – it’s about being connected and listening to customers. It’s important to listen to what people think about your organization.” (Really like this since connection is the new social currency and he is right, the language of leadership is changing.)
“They can use it as a listening and discovery device if nothing else.” (Absolutely. In our own research, we point out that not everyone can tweet or partake in Facebook or YouTube or even LinkedIn. You might work in a highly regulated industry and it’s just not for you. But you can certainly use social media to listen carefully to what is going on with your employees, customers, media, investors, NGOs, competitors and industry, to name a few.)
“It all depends on what you want to get out of Twitter. Brands need to establish what their objective is. Is it engagement? Or acquiring new customers? You should imagine your brand as a human. What kind of human would it be? Would it be a friend? Your mother? Your father? You should try to find a voice that sounds like a human and be true to that and humanise your brand.” (Ditto. We always tell CEOs thinking about using social media, what is your strategy? Once you know that, the rest is easy. It serves as the perfect filter. I would add a few other objectives to consider….to be prepared for a crisis, to reach employees around the world, to hear from customers and the all important and critical objective for many companies today…to attract the best talent.)
“Before brands even think about tweeting I think it’s important for brands to listen. It’s a bit like going to a party. Before you start talking you should figure out who is there that is meaningful to you and the tones and themes. At a party there will be different tables. You would not just start speaking – you want to find out which table is most interesting and then discover what they are talking about and then express so the order should be listen, discover, express. If you just want to listen and discover then that is ok too.” (Good analogy.)
I always try to see what the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, is up to on his Twitter account. He is not a CEO in the technical sense but he really works hard at demonstrating that he is a human being. And he does it frequently and I bet reaches many people all at once (he has 9.84 million followers! Yikes). A good example to follow if you want to show that you have soul and your reputation is built on your character.