CIO view: Five tips for using Twitter

CIO view: Five tips for using Twitter

Summary: It's time for every CIO to consider using Twitter. Here is some advice on making best use of this new medium.


Despite the explosion of Twitter into mainstream awareness, many senior executives are unsure whether this new social mechanism is valuable or a waste of time. For CIOs, the issue particularly hits home because social channels, such as Twitter and Facebook, are attractive to enterprise users but also pose a potential risk for information leakages.

Some CIO's such as Oliver Bussmann from SAP, Seton Hill University's Phil Komarny, and the General Services Administration's CIO, Casey Coleman, have embraced the new medium. Many other CIOs have made tentative steps but are uncertain how to proceed.

Also Read: Recognizing the top 25 'social' CIOs CIO Twitter Dashboard

One of India's leading industrialists, Anand Mahindra, recently described how he uses Twitter. His comments are insightful and reflect an accurate understanding of Twitter dynamics (emphasis added):

To summarise, when people ask me, “why are you on this (twitter)”, I say, “It helps build my company and the brand. How does it help you build the brand? You can use it as a broadcast channel and it is enormously useful as the numbers multiply. Say, if you have half a million followers, there are very few English language newspapers that can boast that kind of circulation. So, there is a broadcast value to get your message out.

But you learn very early on twitter that you will have no one following you if it is a one-way channel and it’s purely broadcasting and only brand-building. Followers will ALLOW you to get your message out, they will PERMIT you to broadcast your messages, they will PERMIT you to build your corporate brand and identity PROVIDED you are of interest to them. They don’t follow you simply because they like your brand. They follow you if you say things that are of value to them, if you share something of yourself with them, because curiosity and voyeurism is part of everybody. We all would love to know what Michael Jackson was thinking or what Bill Gates is thinking or Madonna is thinking. If they don’t share their thinking, I don’t think anyone would be interested – the real live following wont be there.

These reflections lead to five important lessons for CIOs who want to tweet:

  1. Twitter magnifies your voice. Who follows you is more important than their numbers. When customers, staff members, and your CEO follow your tweets it means you are doing something right.
  2. Don't be a shill. Your brand is important but one-way advertising broadcasts will bore your followers and cause them to lose interest.
  3. Say something interesting. You cannot force anyone to follow you so be insightful, engaging, slightly provocative, and fun. Just like in real life.
  4. Share yourself and honest. The value of Twitter rises as you expose your real interests, concerns, and goals. Don't hide behind admins and assistants - make yourself accessible.
  5. Never forget, followers are the boss. This is most important of all: followers control whether or not your message gets out. Always respect and value your followers.

Success with Twitter depends on getting out there and experimenting. Follow these guidelines and your tweeting experience will be useful and valuable.

Thanks to JP Rangaswami for bringing the Mahindra article to my attention on Twitter. JP is currently an executive at and is a former CIO; his brother wrote the excellent article.

Topic: Social Enterprise

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  • Sound advice, and not just for CIOs!

    Excellent post. I'll add that it helps to put some time into identifying one's intended target audience(s) and giving some thought to what is going to be of the most interest to them. Listing ahead of time some potential areas for leaking sensitive information will make it easier to avoid them.

    I agree with the focus on quality over quantity, with regard both to how many followers you have and how often you tweet. A single memorable, interesting tweet will do more to win and keep followers than a flurry of forgettable ones.
    Marlon Feld, WebINTENSIVE Software
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