Do you think CFOs should be using Twitter?

Randy Miller's Profile

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?

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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.

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Member's Profile

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.

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Proformative Advisor
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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.

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Member's Profile

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.

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Member's Profile

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.

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Topic Expert
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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!

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Timely topic. I wrote about this in my blog recently. (Which you can read here:
http://blog.dergelcfo.com/2012/03/15/cfos-and-twitter/ )

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.

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Proformative Advisor
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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.

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Randy,

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.

Examples:

Appropriate Use:
- A CFO tweeting about their upcoming investor presentation
- A CFO tweeting about a press release referring to an earnings release

Inappropriate Use:
- 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.

Anyone else?

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Member's Profile

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.

Good luck,

Dave

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