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Why Twitter Is an Important Weapon for Startup CEOs

I admit it, I am a Twitter junkie.

As a venture capitalist, the breaking news, opinions and insights I get from Twitter are invaluable.  But there are only a few thousand VCs in the world (cue joke about that being a few thousand too many), so what are the other 200 million people doing?

They’re engaging in the dialogue.  What dialogue, you ask?  Dialogue on topics that are meaningful to them. And therein lies the opportunity for startup CEOs.  Being engaged in the dialogue around your company, your industry, your competition, your people – is really, really important.  Especially as you scale.

Below are four reasons why I think Twitter is an absolutely critical weapon in the arsenal of today’s great startup CEOs.

To provide a few anecdotes, I tapped into the wisdom of three very successful Silicon Valley execs: Brian Grey, CEO of Bleacher Report;  Narinder Singh, Co-Founder of Appirio; and Tom Bedecarre, CEO of well-known media agency AQKA. Brian and Narinder are running really successful companies with hundreds of employees, and Tom is both a frequent user of Twitter and the CEO of a firm that provides advice to major brands on how to leverage social media.

1) Recognition.  Trust me, a short tweet saying “Engineering team is rocking it today with our new release!!!” means a hell of a lot more than the old, tired 500 word email with too many bullet points.  Twitter is meant for short, broad messages.  If you make a typo, it’s ok!  As Narinder points out, “Connecting to talent is more important than ever.  It’s incredibly competitive out there.  With Twitter, I can stay connected in a scalable and personal way with both current and future employees in a way I just can’t with any other medium.”

2) Personality.  People want to work for companies that have a personality, that have a soul.  This often starts with the CEO.  The best CEOs I know who tweet don’t just tweet about their companies.  They tweet about interesting articles they’ve read.  Or funny stuff their kids did.  Or goofups by their competition.  Or their favorite sports teams.  The bottom line – they’re letting the people in their company and in their ecosystem know they have a personality, that they care about certain topics, and that they’re active.  If you want an example, check out Marc Benioff’s Twitter feed.  He’s active, and oh by the way he’s also running a $20B market cap company.  If he has time to tweet, you have time.

3) Influence.  Twitter is a free medium to engage with more than 100 million active users.  You can’t abuse it (don’t just keep tweeting links to press releases) or people will tune you out.  Done well, however, you can be an influencer – in your company, in your industry, etc.  Brian says it well: “I use Twitter to listen.  See what the conversation is, the sentiment with respect to our brand.”  By listening, you’ll find opportunities to add to the conversation or even influence the conversation – whether it’s that one employee who needs to know you care or the 100’s of customers who rely on your service every day.  They’re tweeting, and they’ll know when you’re listening.

4) Engagement.  It’s about being part of the conversation – whether it be among employees, your industry, your investors, the media, etc.  “It’s free, it’s widely used, and it enables you to tap into the zeitgeist of your industry on a real-time basis,” says Tom.  For more on this subject, read Gary Vaynerchuk’s terrific book The Thank You Economy.  I can’t do it justice here, but Gary describes how everyone – from global brands to the local dentist – are using Twitter and social media to engage and getting MASSIVE benefits from it.

CEOs must be good at a lot of things to succeed.  Communication has traditionally been considered one of them.  With Twitter and social media at large, I’d argue that communication is more important than ever.  If you’re a startup CEO and you’re not using Twitter, GET STARTED NOW.

It takes time to earn the benefits, but they’ll be there over time.  #promise!

(No, GGV is not an investor in Twitter.  Kinda wish we were, though…)

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