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CEO requirements: Twitter followers by the handful

By Audrey Popa

Sep 11, 2018

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An unpredictable result of social media’s mass-spread over the last few years is the embarrassing, rash and almost relatable blow-ups of public figures taking to the platforms to vent on or express their very personal beliefs. Demonstration of “twitter finger wars”, name calling and illogical breakdowns are becoming common appearances among politicians and even CEOs of companies.

What’s unfathomable is that these large high-stakes companies and even parties, have no real procedures in place to filter and moderate the publications coming out of their CEOs or party leaders. Looking at the Fortune 500 CEOs, 61 percent have no social media presence at all, but when thinking of the benefits of being active and cultivating a following, it’s easy to understand why even those who are extremely powerful, fall prey to social media addictions.

Social media has helped companies benefit from what is known as thought leadership, which is the attempt of companies to position their executive leaders as influencers. In the age of social media influencers, the inevitable rise of the tycoon influencer is now on full blast for everyone to click, follow and stream.

Free PR and immediate conversations with hundreds of followers is appealing and obviously profitable, but when is there a line to draw? Whether it be the president of the United States or the CEOs of large and influencing companies, a question of ethics must be asked when looking at free-speech, economic effect, and social media citizens and their reactions in turn. Elon Musk’s vocal presence on social media, alongside his peers, such as Mark Zuckerberg and even Jeff Bezos are obvious examples. In a report on CEOs social media behaviour, CEO.com writes, “Social media… has a major impact on brand reputation. A CEO can either participate in the discussion and influence it, or risk the implications of allowing his or her corporate image to be decided in the court of public opinion.” The effects of these tweets and blasts have real-life and long-lasting effects on markets as well as on the personal lives of many. So is it time for social media companies to take an even larger stand with user punishment? Should the government be involved?

Banning of extremists such as Alex Jones proves to be a positive example of social media companies cracking down on negative impacts caused by popular influencers, but even so, many problematic points arose. The lateness of Twitter to join other social media outlets by temporarily banning the high-case user evidently showed that the company itself did not know how to tackle the censorship of his extreme and abusive tweets while at the same time staying true to their ethos of a free-speech platform for everyone to express their views on.

The concept of social media influencers is a well-known one in the world of consumer brands, but what if these influencers have the power to change policy and generate immense profit for their benefit at the expense of others? There is no easy answer moving forward, regardless though, I will continue to follow these highly important, frequent social media moguls as I wait for their next scandalous comment I can retweet.