There have been a few recent articles about CFOs using Twitter. Do you think this is a good idea, and how should CFOs use it?
That's a big "depends". As they say in acting class, "What's your motivation?" If it's self-promotion (and I'm not accusing you of that), then yes. If it's an innate desire to share knowledge, then "maybe". If it's something else, well, tell us what else it might be.
But in ALL cases, gosh be careful. People, including current and future bosses, clients, board members, investors, etc., may be reading. In fact, you should assume they're reading, just in case. And who knows what they may read in to what you are saying/pointing them to or how they will react. I think that whole undertaking is fraught with risk and you would probably never catch a public company CFO doing it, but there may be valid reasons to do so. Will be interested to see what others say.
Twitter has a substantial risk factor, as we know from watching the many high-profile gaffs that are broadcast on entertainment television. It does, however, provide another medium to reach customers and stakeholders, albeit in a very public way. I do not believe CFOs should use Twitter. Company messages should come from either the CEO or a generic account with the company name.
This question is part and parcel of another more important question: How far are we willing to accept the on-going loss of privacy.
On one hand, we want transparency, the other perfection?
We want the ability to divorce our private from professional lives, but our professional lives [sic employers, customers, vendors, etc] seem to want to intrude. Case in point the recent rise of the potential employers researching candidates Facebook pages.
Sophomoric behavior that was acceptable back in the day, which would have "died" in photo albums is now posted and is no longer acceptable. Rites of passage that are "encouraged" are encouraged as long as you don't tweet or post about it.
That speech you give for your charity or affiliation that has nothing to do with your professional life all of a sudden comes back to haunt you.
Fear of the possible paralyzes future performance and that can't be allowed. That would be like refusing to give your customer service employees phones for fear they might anger a customer. Business didn't freeze, they did it and we as a society moved on.
So, to the actual question. Should CFO's use social media. Yes, they should. Should they use it with eyes wide shut, No. Should they use with due prudence, yes. Should the downside of a gaff preclude them from using social media, absolutely NOT.
Social media is here, and we as CFO's need to learn how to use the technology and culture to our benefit.
From a marketing perspective, each company/organization should be closely controlling and following its C-suite execs efforts in the social media realm. Just as a CFO would never speak to the press without being prepped/cleared/rehearsed, neither should s/he tweet at random. You are an agent of your organization, if you're tweeting, there should be a solid reason for the communication and it should work hand in hand with your corporate media/marketing strategy. If that's not the case, rethink your efforts and your posts.
I think Twitter is a great tool for CFOs - depending on how it is used.
Using twitter falls into 2 categories - messaging and listening. When people think of twitter, they assume more of the former, but the latter can be quite powerful.
Case in point - Last week I had a fruitful discussion with a CFO in Des Moines due to Twitter. The topic was (without going into the details) related to data migration. His company was struggling with some issues in that area and they were tweeting updates. I followed the tweets and when they posted their 'fix', it paralleled what we were looking into. So I picked up the phone and received some great tips!
I would have received advice eventually. In this case, Twitter just provided a passive avenue.
That is an excellent question, Randy. My answer is ... it depends.
Most CFOs go immediately to privacy concerns around their companies in assessing whether or not to tweet. I come from a different perspective and offer two ideas.
First, if you are a subject matter expert in some area and want to build your visibility around that area, Twitter is a venue to do so.
Second, if you are authentically branded and have a hobby or interest that speaks to that strong brand positioning, you can use Twitter to build your brand.
So, as I said, it depends!
Timely topic. I wrote about this in my blog recently. (Which you can read here:
I recommend Twitter for CFOs. There are 2 ways to use Twitter.
1) Differentiation - Most CFOs are not on Twitter. Being on Twitter, even if you're not using it daily, allows the CFO to differentiate themselves and be a little more 'hip'.
2) Building Relationships - This is not as intutive as LinkedIn or Proformative perhaps, but can be a useful tool to build relationships with those who are not in your network. It takes practice and learning, so to do this well you need to commit yourself to it. You may find invaluable.
Twitter. It’s good for you. And you might actually like it.
Then a follow-up question:
If CFOs are using Twitter, how do they use it?
Is it proper for a CFO to use Twitter to build his/her personal brand? (This one goes along with the question of who should "own" the account) Or should the CFO establish a company account for work issues, and do any personal branding (even as a professional) through a separate account?
Personally, I think that personal branding should be separated from what you do as a CFO representing your company, but I would be interested in hearing what others think, and where the line is drawn.
Twitter, like LinkedIn, needs to be personal. It really is all about you (the CFO).
A CFOs personal Twitter account can be used to retweet Company information and tweets, but I recommend that a CFO not tweet about company information directly, especially when publicly listed.
- A CFO tweeting about their upcoming investor presentation
- A CFO tweeting about a press release referring to an earnings release
- A CFO tweeting their company investor presentation
- A CFO tweeting details of an upcoming earning release
Like all social media, what is said publicly needs to be thought through before saying it.
I am a consulting CFO (i.e. work with more than one company). I DO use Twitter, but I do so judiciously to bring awareness to my followers in matters that are professionally relevant to them. I also use it as a tool to raise awareness about who I am and what I do. I have also been CFO for several public companies over the years and understand clearly that what I say can be used against me in ways I least expect. I do not use it to tweet company/client specific information. I leave that to IR or marketing.
In today's flat world of outsourcing, CFO's have become something of a commodity making it hard to tell the good from the bad and the experienced from the not so experienced, Twitter is a valuable "Inbound Marketing" tool that helps differentiate myself in the marketplace.
Twitter (for a CFO anyway) is a tool. Like any tool, understand why and how to use it, and understand clearly what you desire as the end result. Build your plan and process around it. And stick with it. Like a marketing program, it takes planning, execution and time before you achieve the desired result. Do not expect overnight results. It will be a daily and weekly slog. Yes, good tweeting can be a lot of work if it is to be effective.
If you do not have a plan and a goal ... or if it is against company policy (ahem...), then dust off your LinkedIn profile and stick with that to pitch yourself.
CFOs should use Twitter to be more accessible. Build your lists to listen and contribute when appropriate. Same rules apply to Twitter as with any other form of communication. Be responsible.
I can think of little value to the company for a CFO to be using Twitter and lots of reason not to. I spent 15 years on Wall Street as an analyst or managing large funds and I have been CFO for 2 early stage companies. As an analyst I can think of no valuable information that could come from a tweet directly from the CFO. If he is flexing his ego I will take note and if it is administrative, then why is he doing it. The later can be done by marketing on the company's Twitter. In cases where the CFO is the lead spokesman for the company it is typically very controlled or highly interactive. The first doesn't need the CFO for such a short comment and Twitter isn't the right medium for the second.
Only one risk is that a type of information or metric will be released during a good period that you might not want to release in a poor period. Once you start releasing a metric you will be expected to continue doing so. Companies get in trouble for this on a regular basis and it is one reason conference calls are so structured.
The only possible times I can think a CFO should tweet is if it is a private company or a tiny public company with no following. In these cases the CFO can have a active roll in marketing the company. I still am not sure he is the best source for a tweet but in these situations resources are very limited and everyone must wear more hats.
I respectfully disagree.
The world is changing. 15 years ago there was no Twitter, nor any need for it. The world, the people in it, and how they (we) communicate with each other, has changed. Social media tools, including the site we are both currently using, have changed the landscape, just like radio and TV did when they were introduced.
A CFO can certainly have a very successful career without Twitter. Most successful CFOs are not on Twitter. However, if they are able to understand the value of Twitter (or any 'new' social media tool), and are able to harness it to the benefit of themselves and their employer, more the power to them.
Since most CFOs do not Twitter (or blog), those that do can set themselves apart.
There was just an article published on why CEO's are utilizing social media (sic, Twitter) and the use is rising.
I agree with Samuel, maybe we as CFO's need to reassess our box and start pushing those walls out (or even eliminating them).
Further to Wayne and Samuel's comments: I have two good CFO friends who in the last quarter got promoted (yes promoted) to run businesses at their companies as GMs of divisions. This is a definite trend and I think a good one - at least if you find ever-greater challenges and recognition of accomplishment from your CEO and Board a good trend. I think CFOs are in a great position to do new and challenging things at their companies and are, in fact, being asked to do so much more these days. So to Wayne's point about "reassessing our box" as CFOs, I heartily agree. There's a wide world out there and we're in a great position to help steer where CFOs will go next.
That is not to say that becoming and remaining a CFO is not a good thing. It's a great thing, but we can and should be expanding that box so far as it makes sense. I just really like that comment about "reassessing our box". And to pull it all back together, I agree that CFOs should use Twitter with tremendous care, if they use it at all, but that doesn't mean it should be de facto avoided.
I wholeheartedly agree that tweeting data or metrics would likely be I
inappropriate. However, other Tweeting, if done properly, can certainly enhance both the brand of both the individual and the company. The challenge is to tweet appropriately.
Wayne, I can't believe we agree for once :-).
Can you point out the article to me (and everyone else)?