Wednesday 11 December 2019

Our top CEOs slow to move on Twitter

There are some well-known business people tweeting regularly -- and you might just spy them if you look hard enough, writes John Reynolds

'HOURS queueing in a gale with Jedward fans to see a politician talking outside a bank? There's a metaphor in there somewhere," tweeted Andrew Kavanagh (@kavatarz), CEO of Dublin-based animation and film-production firm Kavaleer Films, as Barack Obama visited in May.

But are the country's top business chiefs tweeting equally witty comments, or making informed and incisive political or economic observations from their iPhones and BlackBerries?

For the uninitiated, Twitter is the social network used by many people from their mobile phones to post short updates on everything from what they had for breakfast to whether Ireland will default, not only for their "followers" but also for anyone with internet access or a smartphone to see, if they haven't made their tweets private.

Mostly, they're not. Despite dozens of internet, IT and tech giants employing increasing numbers of people here -- and of course it's still hoped that Twitter itself will open a European HQ here -- CEO of Microsoft Ireland Paul Rellis (@Paul_Rellis) and Martin Murphy, MD of HP Ireland (@MartinTMurphy), are the only tweeters among the chiefs of our best-known multinationals.

Rellis's most recent tweet, to RTE Dragons' Den entrepreneur and presidential hopeful Sean Gallagher (@seangallagher1: "Great news for you Sean! Keep the faith!") was on June 20, so perhaps he's simply far too busy to tweet very often.

Having signed up in May, Murphy's most recent tweet was on May 25: "Really enjoyed Enda Kenny's visit to HP's spiritual home in Leixlip -- he did question my golfing ability, which calls for a rematch!"

Declan Ganley's high public profile since he ran in the 2009 European elections and now increasingly as a TV -pundit on current affairs means a Twitter profile is valuable to him.

But Twitter and other social media can be a threat to corporate culture and their need to control what their CEOs and employees are saying, according to Jack Murray (@mediaflash), MD of Media Contact, one of the country's leading social media training companies.

"A lot of people on Twitter are individuals, promoting themselves or their own brands. There's a lot of control of the message in big corporations. It's harder to manage someone on social media; it's impossible to control.

"If you're a career-focused executive who wants to do well in a company and get promoted to a management position -- or you want to remain in one -- then you're not likely to be tweeting your opinions that might cause controversy," he adds.

According to Ipsos-MRBI figures from May, it's estimated that 385,000 people here over the age of 15 have a Twitter account, about 80,000 of whom are thought to be active daily users.

You won't find any CEOs or well-known business people among the top 100 Irish tweeters though, and among 200 of the best-known Irish business people, including those abroad, only 30 have Twitter accounts, and of those about 15 would be tweeting daily.

Bord Gais boss John Mullins, who was in the news earlier this week, is the only semi-state boss who tweets. He told a follower, after he announced he would take a cut in pay and bonuses: "Right thing for the country and for the company. I will continue to try my best regardless."

CEO of Tesco Ireland Tony Keohane (@TirTony) tweeted about the opening ceremony for a new store in Temple Bar last Friday, while also tweeting now and again is former Science Foundation Ireland boss Frank Gannon (@Irishscience), who tweeted in February about a rugby game in Australia, where he's taken up a new job.

Former RaboDirect boss Greg McAweeney (@GregMcAweeney) also tweets from his new role down under, complaining earlier this week: "Listening to my wife on the phone to Vodafone 'customer service.' They must have the most appalling service in Australia. Beyond funny."

Murray says: "Social media is about the conversation, it's inclusive and you can bring people along with you. Business people who can tell stories and make them interesting so they resonate with people will attract a lot of followers. It's also for listening, talking, sharing and also asking questions."

Among those who do this well is Iona Technologies co-founder Chris Horn, who regularly tweets incisive comments and links. Surprisingly, 3 Ireland boss Robert Finnegan is the only telecoms boss who tweets occasionally.

However, among our younger multi-millionaire businessmen who tweet are Dylan Collins (@MrDylanCollins) and the Collison brothers, John and Patrick.

While the world watched and waited to see if Greece would default, Patrick was talking about default in a tweet earlier this week but, as he's a qualified computer programmer and co-founder of an internet business, he was tweeting a friend with advice about an IT set-up.

Sunday Indo Business

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