Top execs making new contacts via Twitter

For some business leaders, networking online is as important for them as face-to-face meetings, but it lacks direct interaction for in-depth discussions.
Written by Victoria Ho, Contributor

For some business leaders, using social networking tools online has become as important to their jobs as face-to-face meetings, although direct interaction remains the choice for in-depth discussions.

Following a recent study of top executives using social networking sites, 81 percent of the Fortune 100 chiefs do not have a personal Facebook page, and only 13 CEOs had listings on LinkedIn.

Public relations firm, Blue Trumpet Group, which conducted the study, said its results gave the "impression that the 'old boys' network' is clearly the preferred method" of communication for these business leaders.

Social networking tools make interactions convenient and if it's convenient, human nature is to gravitate toward it.
Padmasree Warrior, Cisco CTO

Padmasree Warrior, CTO of Cisco has a Twitter following of 755,339. She told ZDNet Asia in an interview, her online interactions "rank right up at the top alongside face-to-face meetings and e-mail".

"Business is still about people and rapport. Social networking tools make interactions convenient and if it's convenient, human nature is to gravitate toward it."

She said communicating online allows her to reach out to people more effectively than with traditional methods.

"As leaders, we need to set the example and break out of our molds. Instead of doing things the way they've always been done, change the rules for the better," said Warrior.

On the other hand, Mozilla CEO John Lilly, sees Twitter as a secondary "ambient" source of information, and relies on face-to-face meetings or phone conversations for deeper interactions.

Lilly, who keeps a personal blog and Twitter account told ZDNet Asia his online activities help to keep personal contacts up-to-date with his life, too.

He said: "A personal network will never go away. But the people who I've known for a long time now usually do have a better sense of what's going on in my life and work during the times when we don't get to see each other."

Both executives said they check Twitter several times a day, and have made new connections through the site. "I've met some people I didn't know before [and] I've been able to connect with people as I travel, [which are] some very useful connections here in my work life," said Lilly.

Warrior said Twitter gives her an "instant community" to go to when she is working through ideas. She said a recent presentation she made was strengthened by responses from the Twitter community as she prepared it.

On making a "personal" connection online, she added: "It's important to be authentic and genuine online. I do all my own tweets. I feel that is the only reason people would want to follow anyone.

"It's important to reveal the person behind the executive."

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