From Trump to Branson: Why CEOs Are Tweeting (and You Should Be, Too)

Business.com / Social Media / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Many famous CEOs use Twitter to communicate. Let's review a few and go over tips as well as why you too should be tweeting.

No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, you have to admit that Donald Trump’s tweets are wildly entertaining.

The chairman and president of The Trump Organization uses his Twitter feed both to self-promote and take jabs at his rivals:

Trump tweet about his poll numbers set to beat Hillary and Bernie

Virgin Group founder, Sir Richard Branson, on the other hand, takes a more inspirational tone on Twitter. He tweets inspiring quotes, articles about entrepreneurship and pictures of himself looking glamorous:

Richard Branson tweet about positive feedback

Related Article: Credibility Boost: How Live Tweeting Builds Brand Trust

Both of these CEOs use Twitter as an extension of their personal brands. Trump is brash and uncensored; Branson is refined, sophisticated and approachable.

Tweeting isn’t just about promoting yourself, however. It can deliver enormous benefits for both you and your business.

  • Trustworthiness. According to a survey conducted by BrandFog, 81 percent of people say that leaders who engage on social media are “better equipped to lead a company, communicate values and shape a company’s reputation in today’s changing world.”
  • Financial stability. When CEOs release bad financial news on a personal Twitter account instead of on a website or through an investor relations Twitter account, 46 percent of investors assume the problem is a one-time fluke instead of a pattern of bad news.

Even if you’ve never used Twitter before, remember that only five percent of Fortune 500 CEOs currently have a Twitter account. Twitter is an easy platform to use, and it’s a great introduction to the advantages of social media.

To get the most out of being on Twitter, you need to develop your personal brand, learn how Twitter works and commit to communicating with your followers.

It’s a cinch to set up your Twitter account and start sharing your thoughts in 140 characters or less.

Decide What to Say

If the 140-character canvas of Twitter leaves you feeling blank, you’re definitely not alone. But if you’re feeling overwhelmed by tweeting, here’s a secret: Most people only tweet about a few recurring themes:

  1. What they’re reading or watching
  2. Events they’re attending
  3. Company news
  4. Personal news
  5. Volunteer activities
  6. Mundane daily happenings
  7. Comments on other people’s tweets
  8. Inspirational quotes or ideas
  9. Images, Vines or videos

If you’re still feeling uncomfortable about being original, ask your marketing team or marketing agency for some tweet templates.

With templates, you can simply fill in the blanks and then tweet with confidence.

For example, here’s a template you can use to share a great article you’ve just read:

  • Great [insight, inspiration, wisdom, analysis, etc.] from [@person or @publication] on [key concept]. What do you think? #hashtag1 #hashtag2

Here’s another template for a corporate social responsibility project:

  • Check out our team working on [project name]. It’s good to see our people making a difference MT [@employee or @organization]

And a template for a product launch:

  • [Product name] debuts today! We hope you like it as much as we do. Thx for the hard work MT [@employee or @department]

Here are a couple of tips on Twitter lingo and staying within 140 characters:

  • Minimize punctuation. There’s no need to put a period at the end of a tweet or to put spaces before and after a dash.
  • Use abbreviated words. It’s okay to shorten “thanks” to “thx” or to use the numeral “2” instead of “to” on occasion. Think of these shortened words as tools for getting your thoughts out, not as signs of laziness or grammatical deficiency.
  • Mention other people. Involving other people in a conversation is the best way to improve the reach of your tweets. It’s also good etiquette to credit the author or publisher of any articles you share. When you signal someone, use the abbreviation “MT,” which serves as shorthand for “mention.”
  • Incorporate hashtags. Launch your own hashtags, use a trending hashtag (look on the left sidebar of your Twitter homepage) or incorporate a hashtag created by your marketing department. Many people follow hashtags in addition to following their own Twitter feeds, and they’ll follow your account when they see you contributing to the conversation.

Related Article: 5 Practical Tips to Improve Your Social Media Marketing

Balance Your Personal and Company Brands

Are you an inspirational jet-setter like Branson or an opinionated scrapper like Trump? It’s important to be true to your authentic self, but never let your authenticity undermine your company’s market positioning.

If you’re Elon Musk, it’s fine to tweet about your dislike of fossil fuels because two of your companies are built on the benefits of alternative energy:

Elon Musk tweet about gas powered cars, tax credits and oil companies.

Someone who buys a Tesla or installs Solar City panels, and follows Musk on Twitter, isn’t going to mind his environmentalist leanings. If you’re CEO of a coal or oil company, however, you wouldn’t want to share negative tweets about the fossil fuel industry. 

Another tip: No matter how successful you currently are, it’s likely you won’t be CEO of the same company for your entire life.

You’ll want to take your Twitter followers with you if you go, so choose a personal Twitter handle instead of a company-related name unless you’re sure your current job will be your last.

Communicate With Your Followers

Being present on Twitter gives all kinds of people access to you as a CEO, whether they’re admirers, colleagues or employees.

Engaging in conversation plays to your image as an approachable and trustworthy leader.

Notice the, “What do you think?” question in the article-sharing template above. It invites people to comment on the article you shared and give you their feedback.

You probably won’t have time to respond to everyone, but you should chat with other CEOs, and you should tweet to a few employees, customers, investors or members of the general public from time to time.

Related Article: 10 Things You Need to Stop Doing on Social Media

CEOs Belong on Twitter

Getting started with Twitter is as easy as choosing a username, signing up for an account and typing out your first tweet. If you’re nervous, don’t worry.

Your early attempts couldn’t be worse than Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky’s first tweet:

Brian Chesky tweet about "nothing"

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