The C-Tweet: Where are all the healthcare CEO's?

This article was co-written by Bunny Ellerin of Pharma 2.0 and Eileen O'Brien, digital pharma diva. twitterTweeting is fast becoming a must-do vs. a what-are-you-doing for business generally and CEO's in particular. Just last week Twitter published Twitter 101, a guide to help businesses leverage the service. Last month, BusinessWeek ran an article about business leaders who use Twitter and profiled 50 CEO’s from a range of industries. There was definitely an over-representation of tech CEO’s, but BW also talked to those from advertising/pr, construction, research, media, retail. But none in healthcare.

Where are all the healthcare CEO's on Twitter? We found a couple like @paulflevy (Paul Levy of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center) and @livestrongCEO (Doug Ullman of Lance Armstrong Foundation) but not many others.

If you’re a CEO or high-level executive, why use Twitter at all? Well, at the core, you are the company’s chief evangelist and represent the brand best. As Michael Hyatt, the CEO of a publishing company, pointed out in the BW article, “Twitter enables me to humanize Thomas Nelson and thus better connect me with our key constituents—our employees, authors, and customers.” Others cited reasons like:

  • Building relationships with customers/clients/vendors
  • Generating real-time feedback from those people
  • Disseminating information quickly to internal and external constituents
  • Meeting potential employees and getting a sense of what current employees really think
  • Acquiring new product/service ideas

We encourage more in the healthcare C-suite to tweet. We follow several CEO’s on Twitter, and have compiled a list of Dos and Don'ts for C-level types to follow when using this amazing technology.

1. Content. To engage people, you must post a combination of business-related information and personal anecdotes. On the business side, this is really why people are following you, so let followers know about company news, important events, interesting company tidbits/facts. You can also post links to interesting articles or retweet good posts. It's ok to highlight press releases, but don't make them your main contribution. Followers will unfollow you quickly if that's the only thing you post. Twitter is about interacting and sharing, not just reprocessing canned messages. Plus, you should pepper your posts with a bit of the personal from time to time. It will draw people in.

Good content examples:

Richard Rosenblatt, CEO of Demand Media, has a great Twitter style. Here are a few of his @demandrichard posts: sharing info on the business, inviting people to connect, letting people get to know more about the person.

  • "Demand Media Daily Fact: Demand Studios has paid out more than US$14MM to its creator community as of June 2009."
  • "Looking forward to the Fortune conference in LA. May attend thursday. Please reply if you are attending."
  • "Made it to mtns after the conference; worth it...3 glasses of wine down and kids all over you tube and watching our videos on wakeboarding."

2. Interaction. Twitter is not just a vehicle to push information out about your company. It's about engaging in the dialogue. The most successful CEOs on Twitter make an effort to interact with followers. Search topics on Twitter and answer questions or provide advice. If you are overwhelmed by questions or comments from followers, be sure to say so and let them know that you aren’t ignoring them.

3. Tone. Authoritative but not smug. And definitely throw in some humble now and again. The regular folks will relate and admire you all the more.

4. Authenticity. It’s got to be genuine and in your voice. The ideal is for you to write your own posts from wherever you happen to be. But let’s get real. Not everyone who should be tweeting has the desire or even has the manual dexterity to do it. So you may need a little help getting started. Pick someone who knows you well or can get up to speed quickly. Be sure to listen first (follow others) and get a sense of the community before you jump in.

5. Don't Tweet to Tweet. Personal details are good (see Content) but not that interested in what you ate for breakfast (unless it was with Obama) or that you'll be on the phone all day.

6. Commitment. Be prepared to be in this for the long haul. The only thing worse than an out of date CEO blog is an abandoned CEO Twitter account. No fewer than 3 tweets a day or people won’t take you seriously. Once you have been tweeting for a few weeks and feel comfortable, add your Twitter name to your email signature and business card.

7. Follower etiquette. Follow others who interest you. It is imbalanced if you have 2200 followers and follow only 100. You can’t engage in a dialogue if it’s all one-sided. Plus, part of the value of Twitter is hearing what others have to say. Also encourage people to follow those you like to follow.

8. Have an opinion. There aren’t too many public company CEO’s on Twitter because their CFO’s and compliance people worry it might affect the stock price. But if you’re a private company CEO, then have an opinion. Don’t like parts of the health care bill, say something. This is your opportunity.

9. Twitter is a Permanent Record. It goes without saying that once someone has Tweeted it’s public record.

10. Twitter vs. Facebook. No contest. Twitter is a business tool. Facebook, while it is trying hard to position itself as a business tool, is a personal update tool. Haven’t used either? Don’t waste time on Facebook, go straight to Twitter.

Are you ready to go? Set up an account at and follow us at @BunnyEllerin and @EileenOBrien.

If you have no clue how to get started, but know you should be on Twitter, contact us for help.