Does Your CEO Know What You’re Doing? Does Everyone?


Just call me Obama.

You just looked over your shoulder and had a mini panic attack, didn’t you? It’s okay. Your secret’s safe with me. Back to your cubicle porn.

But really, does your CEO know what you’re doing in social media? What about the rest of the organization? Do they get it or would they look at me funny if I was to ask them about the company Twitter account? If they would, you may have a problem. In fact, you most definitely do.

There’s been a lot of buzz this morning over the news that Barack Obama has never used his Twitter account. Despite his being heralded the Social Media President and constantly congratulated for his use of Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to rally his troops, Barack Obama has never, personally, authored a tweet. When he tweeted moments after winning the election, that wasn’t him. He was guy kawasaki’ing it. When he tweeted he was ‘humbled’ winning the Nobel Peace Prize, again, just guy kawasaki’ing it. He wasn’t there. He was off doing important things. Presidential things, I bet.

Fine. I think we can all agree that Barack Obama probably has better things to do than tweet. Personally, I’d rather him be running the country and ending all those pesky wars. Let’s not look at the CEO of America. Let’s look at the CEO of your company. Or hell, even the kid you have bagging groceries. Do they know what’s going on?

I follow a lot of local establishments on Twitter. In fact, a good percentage of my Twitter follows are local. I’m one of those people who gets off on the “we just took the pie out of the oven” type tweets. They work on me. They work so well that I’m practically drooling on my keyboard. But they STOP working when you show me there’s an organization disconnect. When I take the bait, go into your store, and you tilt your head when I bring up how effective your Twitter account is because you’ve NEVER HEARD OF TWITTER. You “just bag groceries”. You “just work the front desk”. It’s “another department” that handles social media. And now I’m suddenly left feeling awkward. Once again, I’m the girl that spends too much time on the computer while you have a “real job” and “real friends”. Screw you. I get enough of that from my father.

Not to throw out buzzwords, but it’s an authenticity thing. If Barack Obama has never tweeted, then I question that he understands what it’s about or what people are doing in his name. I wonder if he’s as savvy as he says he is or if he just has really good people working for him. Does he have to “get it” as the President? No. But don’t pretend you’re the one that’s tweeting either. If it’s not you on your Twitter account, it’s cool. Just tell me that. Like Britney does. And if social media is your platform, then maybe you should just send out one tweet to say you did it. Just for giggles.

If you’re a company getting involved in social media, then you have a responsibility to make sure that EVERYONE in your organization knows what you’re doing. Even if they’re not all engaging, they should know that it exists. They should get the talk and know the rules. When I’m in line and making small talk with the cute guy at the register, he should know the company at least has a Twitter account when I bring it up. He should be able to talk about it. Because the minute he looks at me funny, I know that social media isn’t built into your organization. It’s something that’s locked up in marketing. Or it’s control by people on a leash. That’s not authentic. That shows me I was once again in a relationship with someone that doesn’t exist. Do you KNOW how many times I’ve had a George Glass in my life? Faking entire relationships is exhausting.

Social media is one of those that you either do or do not, there is no try. And if you do it, everyone has to do it. Otherwise, it just doesn’t work. Everyone needs to be tuned in and at least have a working knowledge of what’s going on and how it works. It’s a culture thing; you have to have one. Otherwise people feel a little lied to. Personally, I don’t care that Barack hasn’t tweeted. It’s enough for me that he knows it exists. But if I talk to one of your employees about your social media account, regardless if that employee is the CEO or the grocery bagger, they better know what I’m talking about.  If not, you’re just another George Glass in my life.

Your Comments

  • Robert Enriquez

    haha it’s a shame that this happens.

    One of the slyest remarks I have received from a store employee was

    “I think they offer that at the other store”

  • Matt Leonard

    Good job, Lisa.

    “If you’re a company getting involved in social media, then you have a responsibility to make sure that EVERYONE in your organization knows what you’re doing.”

    That is such a true statement. Companies can not control who the public views as a representative of them in the wild. Keeping that in mind, social media isn’t rocket science and companies that are failing to use their human assets properly are missing an opportunity.

  • Michael D

    I agree with you on Obama and I’d be disappointed to learn my local tweeting pie shop (be it pizza or apple) had such a disconnect. I think the smaller the organization is the more important it is everyone get on the same page and at least have a basic understanding of what’s going on.

    On the flip side we’ve experienced times when clients have DM’d me on Twitter to say they are coming in for a visit. I’ve had to explain that staff does not tweet from the front desk (nor do they have access to my account) and it’s possible I may miss the DM and not relay the appointment time before they actually arrive.

    Still, there’s something neat about being able to tweet you’re on your way to a local business, and when you arrive, the local business is aware and waiting to greet you. I dig that.

    • Lisa Barone

      Michael: It was definitely a let down when i walked into a mom and pop to comment on their Twitter account and they look at me funny. I mean, FOUR people work there. SOMEONE has to know what I’m talking about? Way to make me feel stupid.

      I love that your clients DM you to make an appointment. Hee. You definitely need some ground rules for that. That’s just because you’re such an Internet rock star though. You created your own headache. :p

  • Matt Sullivan

    I feel that this goes hand-in-hand with mobile marketing campaigns. There’s nothing I hate worse than showing the wonderful text message for a free beer, only to have the waitress/bartender go get the manager.

    The front line staff needs to understand that these things are happening. Having worked in retail, I know that there are plenty of opportunities to inform employees about what’s going on.

    What about companies where social media is only being used as a broadcast medium with no interaction?


  • Lisa Barone

    Matt: Totally agreed on the mobile issue. It’s really sad (and obvious) when the right hand doesn’t know what the left is doing. It cuts the effectiveness off at the knees. If you’re going to make someone feel awkward about claiming their free beer, why bother? You’ve already killed the experience.

    As for the using Twitter as a broadcast thing, it’s not my preferred way of doing things, but if you’re a major brand, sometimes that’s all people want. It works for some people. I think it slightly misses the point.

  • David Zemens

    Once again, I’m the girl that spends too much time on the computer while you have a “real job” and “real friends”. Screw you. I get enough of that from my father.

    I couldn’t have said it better myself. The organization NEEDS TO UNDERSTAND what social media steps are being taken. Bigger than that, the organization (and it’s employees) need to be conversant with those social media efforts. If they are not, then there social media presence is just another form of direct advertisement.

    I happen to be a guy who spends “too much time” on the computer. I get it. Online friends and relationships are real. Very real. Don’t let your Dad, or anyone else, suggest otherwise . They just don’t get it.

  • Todd Mintz

    Barack gets a pass because there are some complex disclosure issues for Presidents that keeps them off Twitter / Email. However, I wouldn’t give anyone else the same pass.

    • Jeff Cress

      Sorry Todd, I’m not buying your logic.
      It’s not like the person that is actually tweeting for him is posting info that would require any sort of complex disclosure… like maybe disclosing that they are NOT really who the account is intended to lead us to believe they are (ie. the president). As much as he says to the press, in front of a camera, or for consumption by various other forms of media, your argument just doesn’t hold water. Think about it. The traditional weekly presidential radio address is the old-school version of a weekly blog post. Different media. Roughly the same contextual usage within the society of the time.

      The issue, as I see it, is honesty.
      ie. Don’t make it look like it is you doing something, if you aren’t really doing it. Sure, we probably assumed that he wasn’t doing most of the tweeting himself anyway, but that it was at least under his direct supervision.

      • Lisa Barone

        It’s plausible there are security issues involved, even if he was tweeting vanilla stuff. Either way, I just think it should be disclosed. If a handler wanted to tweet under the Barack name, I think that’s cool — it should just be disclosed. The Barack Obama name shouldn’t be turned into a fake avatar or character.

  • Sonny Gill

    Even deeper than the authenticity issue is the organizational disconnect and silo-ed internal setup that these companies are continuing to operate with. The more of this I see the more of a need I see for the social business where an open communications-driven environment is built. Where social media practices are understood and integrated internally first, before trying to launch an external strategy for your community.

    If you don’t have the proper education & communication internally, it certainly won’t be as sustainable with your actual customers in the real-world. Goes hand in hand, really.

    • Lisa Barone

      Awesome points. The more silo’d an organization is, the more trouble they’re going to find engaging in social media because that whole spirit of openness, engagement and giving people a voice is lost on them. That’s how you show up a restaurant excited about the promotion they just tweeted…and you have to talk to 15 people before anyone realizes what you’re talking about.

  • Laura P Thomas

    I can give a little more leeway to a large organization – not because I work “for” one (so, not speaking on their behalf), but because I work “in” one (navigating the daily challenges of that) and understand how hard it is for an employee to keep up with what is happening in all the little pockets of the org that you don’t directly interact with every day despite the fact that it’s talked about in e-mails and internal blog posts – and yes, those pockets are all doing their own thing using social media.

    But, I’m definitely there with you on the smaller, local businesses. When organizing a tweetup last month for a visit from “Twitterville” author Shel Israel, I went looking for a local place that was actively using Twitter. (makes sense, right?) Well, most of them never responded to DMs or @ messages and one even replied: “You would need to specifically contact our Northwest location; their number is xxx-xxxx.”

    Finally I found one that did (@kickbuttcoffee) and we made all the arrangements via twitter. When we arrived that evening, they were ready for us and the guy behind the counter didn’t give me that head tilt. This past weekend, I had the fortune to meet the man behind the twitter account – the owner himself, Master Gohring – at a birthday party held in his Tai Chi & Kung Fu school. If this guy can run two business, with multiple locations and find the time to actively use Twitter and inform his employees, then there’s no excuse for a small business to have “another department” or someone at their “Northwest location” manage their account.

    (exiting my soapbox now)

    • Lisa Barone

      Thanks for sharing your experience. That’s awesome!

      Let me ask you, do you think there’s any way big companies can keep abreast of what the other parts of the organization are doing in not through emails and internal blogs? There has to be SOME way to brief them and help solve the disconnect.

      • Laura P Thomas

        Ah … a way to solve the disconnect – that would be the holy grail for every employee communications professional out there! :-)

        Having worked in that field many years myself, I know very well how you can lead a horse to water, but not make him drink. From face-to-face meetings, to print newsletters, e-mail, intranets, internal blogs and services like Yammer, the best large organizations can do is make the content available in multiple formats and hope that employees engage with at least one of them.

  • Phil Buckley

    As usual Lisa, you are totally in my head. Ran into this today when I puffed up and told a waitress that I was “the mayor” of the restaurant… cricket, cricket… you know, Foursquare….. cricket, cricket… do you know what that is?

    “Oh, yeah, I played when I was little.”


  • Clair Wenzel

    I completely agree with this post. It is essential that everyone in your organization is aware of what is happening around them. While many companies may struggle with the emergence of these new technologies, now is the time to face the music. It is no longer acceptable to ignore the benefits and opportunities of social networking Web sites.

  • Renee Robbins

    You are completely right Lisa! (Are you tired of hearing that yet?)

    For instance, it was so sad to see in the Deloitte study (2009 Ethics & Workplace Study) that more employees had created a corporate Facebook page (18%) than companies had (11%). This is one of the first things that companies should have done. However they blindly watched this opportunity pass them by as they wondered why they have a gossip problem, a moral problem, or a recruiting problem. A company’s leadership needs to be aware of these types of “technological” advances and be able to use them to grow the company. Otherwise you should probably sell your shares of their stock.

    Great post!

    • Lisa Barone

      Were the employees given instructions from employees are just creating renegade pages trying to be helpful? That’s…an entirely different bag of chips. And scary.

  • Suthnautr

    It was obvious Obama wasn’t tweeting when I noticed grammatical errors in tweets such as “A historic…” instead of “An historic…” But hopefully at some point certain messages will still get through – and maybe Obama should check in himself once in a while just to say hi.

    The local business follows that aren’t connected organizationally are a huge problem. I follow a local health food store. “What’s Twitter?”, “We have a twitter account?” That news sent two people bouncing off in different directions scratching their heads until the “guy in charge of Twitter” was found. After less than 30 seconds I could see he was not at all interested in learning anything about how to use Twitter (as evidenced by his once a month tweets, virtually no followers and not following anyone). What’s worse is that he looked terribly disinterested with the links I gave him to this site and one or two others so he could get a clue. That piece of paper probably wound up in the garbage.

    So the question I have isn’t so much “Does Your CEO Know What You’re Doing?” but does the person assigned to create and maintain a company Twitter account know what he or she is doing?

  • Jack

    The opposite failing can be even worse: when a CEO who actually, really does get it sets performance metrics for his direct reports (who aren’t sure they get it) that their direct reports (who may not even have HEARD of it) must all get involved in the discussions … be afraid!

  • Steven Burke

    This makes me laugh. I remember working in a cubical always trying to hide my FB or Twitter…not I get paid to do it. Its amazing how far social media has come. Facebook and Twitter use to be just a way to waist time and talk to friends, now its has been used to fight the HSBC and thousands of companies use these networks to build their customer base.

    Media is definitely changing!