Learning Curve: The boss does social media

The boss decides it's time to embrace social media. What are the pitfalls?

Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

What is it? Sometimes the truth cannot be kept from the chief executive any longer. Even the most cloistered and secluded boss will have heard that there is something out there called social media and that it is proving rather popular. And, finally, the moment comes when he or she cannot be held back any longer. It is time to give it a try. But the results can be a little embarrassing. Forget 'dad dancing'. Out there in cyberspace, where nothing can be deleted forever and people have long memories, a digital mis-step could cause major commercial damage.

Where did it come from? All bosses know they are supposed to be good communicators. They ought to have a story to tell that is 'compelling'. So with each technological advance hopeful leaders get out there and ... communicate. Company-wide letters were replaced by emails and voicemails. Blogs were started, and sometimes maintained. Facebook pages were launched and now not even Twitter is safe. Branson, Alan Sugar and Tesco boss Phil Clarke have all had a go. But the first big media surprise of 2012 was the unlikely arrival of @rupertmurdoch on Twitter timelines. He started out keenly enough, sometimes in too much of a hurry to punctuate.

Where is it going? You might feel that once a boss as (in)famous as Murdoch is on Twitter there's a danger he'll spoil it for everyone. Within hours of him being onboard, #murdochsdeletedtweets started trending but disappeared quickly and mysteriously. That's the problem with the transparency of social media - people really can see what you are getting up to. In theory, it is good for bosses to be out there and visible, promoting their businesses. But they also have other tasks to attend to. Tweet if you must, but tweet carefully.

Gradient: Steep and slippery.

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