CNET también está disponible en español.

Ir a español

Don't show this again

HolidayBuyer's Guide
Culture

How far off is the CEO Twittering era? Closer than you may think

Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz helped popularize corporate blogging. So CNET News.com's Charles Cooper asks him about the likelihood he and fellow CEOs will take the next logical step.

Amazing how much Twitter is dominating the conversation of late. So at the risk of "all Twitter, all the time" overkill, I was intrigued when Sun Microsystems' Jonathan Schwartz recently confessed to Tim O'Reilly that, yes, he Twitters, but no, he won't fess up his user ID for public consumption.

Schwartz: So two Twitters walked into this bar... CNET News.com

Sun's CEO twitters? Cool. Then again, he is an early adopter. Schwartz was one of the first and most frequent users of corporate blogs to get out the word. Of course, not everyone agrees about the amount of credit he deserves. Waggener Edstrom's Frank Shaw says Schwartz is wrong about blogging. My take: Shaw is wrong about Schwartz being wrong about blogging. More than any other CEO, Schwartz has become the face of corporate blogging. But that's a side debate for another time.

The more interesting question now is, how far off are we from the day when Schwartz and his fellow CEOs reach for Twitter when they want to get out the message? My hunch is that this is going to be a generational issue, and Schwartz sees a similar evolution. So I asked him about the likelihood he and fellow CEOs will take the next logical (and technological) step. Here's what he had to say:

Q: As it applies to CEOs of public companies, are there any different requirements which might govern their twittering?
Schwartz: Well, I don't use Twitter to discuss Sun's financial performance. I use it to keep in touch with my friends and relatives. So I'm sure there are some that use it (as with any messaging service) for business purposes...For me, it's a tool to keep me close to my social circle, not my professional circle. (For that, I use LinkedIn and Facebook.)

We've seen more CEOs take to blogging. But Twitter's a bit of a different use of the technology. It's more immediate and more interactive. Do you see it being embraced by CEOs as more of a mainstream tool of conversation?
Schwartz: No, but then again, that's just me. And at 42, compared to some of the CEOs I met at O'Reillys' Web 2.0 fest, I'm an old guy. As choices emerge, demographics and preferences become more important--the good news is, we all have different choices today than even five years ago. And once those choices sediment, it's tough for people to change. I used to know senior execs who had their e-mail printed out. That's mostly gone.

The example I use is this: When's the last time you learned a new (spoken) language? It's a lot easier for a 3-year-old to learn a new language than a 30-year-old; the same applies to social infrastructure (although I'd like to believe the hurdles are a lot lower). People change all the time, so do communication preferences and technologies.

Are we still far from the day when CEOs will start announcing real news on their Twitter feeds, or do you think it will be more of, "Hey, I just fed the cat" kind of stuff?
Schwartz: That's like asking "what will people do with ZFS?" or "what will people do with the Internet?" What people do with Twitter will be dependent upon who they are and how Twitter evolves. Both represent limitless opportunity...Do I expect news to be broken on Twitter? Yes. Financial news? Why the heck not?

****

A colleague points out that Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, is already Twittering up a storm. Talk about change on the fly!