Twitter is what you make it. It’s a virtual environment that can be tailored precisely to your consumption or creation needs or goals. So I’ve long been curious about its use by winning, and losing, leaders especially in tech.
On the success of AMC CEO Adam Aron not only shepherding his movie theater company not only through a pandemic, but out the other side in far better financial shape than it had gone in, Matt Levine wrote in his newsletter recently:
[Aron] has raised umpteen billion dollars and gotten his movie-theater company through a global pandemic in much better financial shape than it was before the pandemic by going all-in on embracing his meme-stock status. And, yes, that requires being down to clown on social media.
There is a traditional view of corporate social media in which a board would tell its chief executive officer to be cautious and anodyne on Twitter. There are many things that can go wrong with an unhinged Twitter presence, and not a lot that can go right, is what your lawyer would probably tell you. But the last few years have altered that calculation, and now the things that can go right are like “raising billions of dollars of retail capital when you need it most, at all-time-high valuations.” Arguably it’s a breach of fiduciary duties not to be weird on Twitter all the time.
Businesses in all sectors are realizing that the upside of engaging, approachable, and even entertaining executives on Twitter can be far greater than the idea that they could occasionally embarrass themselves.
In my experience building content platforms for companies at all stages and sizes across industries, social and web content usually has two main goals:
- To drive sales or revenue
- To attract talent
In tech, attracting and retaining talent is a common killer of entire businesses, so building a culture of approachable, transparent leaders is particularly crucial for survival.
It seems that the only embarrassing option for any leader growing especially tech companies these days—with the exception of early-stage, heads-down, founder still does a lot of everything startups—is to not reap the gains of a presence on Twitter that not only fires up current or potential customers and investors, but attracts talent as well.
I was reminded of this when I recently caught venture capitalist Bryce Robert’s crusade against the Fastly CEO, Joshua Bixby, who is facing accusations by investors and former employees around poor work environments, failed leadership, and a general refusal to accept outside guidance.
The company has a completely stalled product pipeline, and in comparison to the CEO and CTO of competitor CloudFlare (who are two of my favorite follows on Twitter both for their consistent humor & wit in addition to their tech insight) has zero representation from executives on Twitter, which Bryce called out:
Flexport’s CEO solves part of the supply chain crisis
Beyond memestocks and software company rivalries, CEOs that advocate for clear solutions to major domestic issues with broad support can generate policy changes on a domestic level extremely quickly.
Ryan Petersen, CEO of Flexport, hired a boat and taco truck in October around the Port of LA to gain crucial, first hand knowledge into the supply chain bottlenecks paralyzing the U.S. economy and driving many current sources of inflation. He laid out policy changes to fix the disaster which the Governor of CA and Mayor of LA almost immediately adapted just hours after his sharing them, demonstrating how the convergence of business, media and politics is an extremely powerful force today.
It’s clear that prior lawyer-induced phobia of Twitter is actually inhibitory to growth not only of a company, but thought around U.S. policy at large.
In fact, I’d argue that if a CEO isn’t taking advantage of attracting talent, investors, customers or advocates on Twitter in 2021, then they’re probably doing not much of anything at all.