When twitting turns serious business

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Free social networking and micro-blogging service Twitter recently announced a new commercial venture — ExecTweets — aimed exclusively at the corporate sector. Sponsored by Microsoft, it allows users to find and follow top business executives on Twitter. Several top CEOs, who are already Twitter enthusiasts, include Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson, AMD’s CMO Nigel Dessau, Cisco’s CTO Padmasree Warrior, Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwartz and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. They are all accessible through the service.
In India, politicians like Rahul Gandhi too are tweeting. Rahul’s last update read, “Presently in J&K but no time for sightseeing.” Now we are not sure if the AICC general secretary twitters himself or has somebody updating it for him, but it is pretty obvious that he finds social media as an apt medium to connect with the people he talks a lot about in his speeches — the youth.
Social networking sites, namely Facebook and MySpace, too are becoming regular haunts for CEOs and corporate honchos. For instance, Vishal Gondal, CEO, Indiagames, recently admitted on his Facebook profile page that Zoozoos, the characters in Vodafone ads, could be a potential character for gaming. Web 2.0 evangelists agree that social media can be used to boost output by collaborating with users directly. In this case, Gondal got a thumping feedback on his idea from readers in real-time.
Creators of ExecTweets write in their blog, “There are over 100,000 C-level executives on Twitter, but it’s difficult to know how to find them, which to follow and where the most important conversations are happening.” The application works by pulling in updates or tweets from executives, which are then organised under different industry verticals and topics, making it easier for a user to follow conversations relevant to them.
Other Indian companies that have joined the twitter land include TCS, Acer, AOL India, Big Oye, Kingfisher Airlines, Fastrack, Wipro, Zapak and India Today.
Actor Gul Panag, who is very active on Twitter and blogs, articulates that social networking is an ideal place for self expression. “You don’t have to think about what others might think or feel as it is totally your space,” she writes. Also on Twitter, where Panag has nearly 1,225 followers, the actor recently complained about the food served on a Jet Airways flight and said how carrying tiffin would be a better idea. In its response, as Panag tweeted later, the company offered her upgrade vouchers.
Then there are executives such as California-based Padmasree Warrior, who exudes confidence in their company when she tweets, “Not only is Cisco profitable, but also a leader in corporate social responsibility… Great companies give back.”
Josy Paul, chairman of BBDO India, acknowledges that it’s an emerging medium for people and brands to cash in on. “These days you know that an ad might be missed in print, but no way would it go unnoticed on sites like Facebook and Twitter,” writes Paul.
The way things are, you never know a CEO might just send you a pink-slip in the form of a change in Facebook status.

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