While most companies have embraced the fact that, like it or not, social media marketing is a necessary evil of corporate branding and client communication, these accounts are usually relegated to a bubble gum intern tasked with rehashing press releases. Twitter, in particular, scares off more than its fair share of corporate higher-ups who shy away from strict character counts and direct interaction with mere mortals.
There's a lot to be said, though, for C-level executives who put themselves out there and lend personality to their brainchild’s online presence.
Still think CEOs should stay put in a stuffy conference room? Below are 10 CEOs who have unleashed their social potential, attracting huge online audiences and sculpting a brand personality in the process.
Chris Brogan - @chrisbrogan
Day Job: CEO & President of Human Business Works, an education and media company
Backstory: Having authored several books on the subject, and launching his own "unconference" series (PodCamp), Chris Brogan has established himself as a bona fide social media maverick.
Highlight: Chris Brogan has nailed the ideal combo of commentary, conversation, and personality in his feed.
Follow for: Thought provoking Vine videos ("What exactly is Rice-A-Roni?"), latest social media news, gym rat bragging (rightfully so), and links to general business inspiration
Gary Vaynerchuk - @garyvee
Day Job: CEO of VaynerMedia, a Brand Consulting group specializing in social media
Backstory: First gaining notoriety in the world of wine connoisseurs for his podcast Wine Library TV, Gary Vaynerchuk hung up his goblets in 2011 to focus full time on VaynerMedia, which he co-founded with his brother.
Highlight: Ask and you shall receive—when Gary asks his followers what they need right at that moment, he actually delivers for them, breakfast staples and all.
Follow for: Social media truisms (“I don't care how many followers you or I have, I care about how many care”), mentions of newest social power players, live sports coverage (mostly hockey), and restaurant reviews (mostly in NYC).
Tim O'Reilly - @timoreilly
Day Job: CEO of O'Reilly Media, a "technology transfer company" centered on technology book publishing and tech conferences
Backstory: A 1975 Harvard grad, Tim O'Reilly has become a technology activist strongly in favor of open source software and working towards a Global Brain.
Highlight: Curated content pulled from all over the web turns O'Reilly's feed into a primer on the current state of technology and government.
Follow for: Internet activism, government critiquing, and emerging science and technology news.
Jon Ferrara - @Jon_Ferrara
Day Job: CEO of Nimble, a social CRM platform for small businesses
Backstory: Nimble isn't the first walk in the park for veteran entrepreneur Jon Ferrara. Two decades before founding Nimble, Ferrara launched GoldMine, another CRM, which was eventually bought out by FrontRange.
Highlights: Content is king for this #SocialSelling prophet with a steady flow of blog posts detailing all aspects of marketing and brand building.
Follow for: Guaranteed responses to @mentions, link digests that will improve your business ("7 Steps for Sales Teams Going Social") and insights into the future of social lead generation.
Roman Stanek - @RomanStanek
Day Job: CEO of GoodData, a cloud-based business intelligence system for reporting, analytics, metrics & best practices.
Backstory: GoodData is Roman Stanek's third endeavor after founding Systinet (bought by Sun Microsystems) and NetBeans (now owned by HP)
Highlight: Stanek's feed may not have the strongest personality, but it sure makes the future of Big Data feel close at hand.
Follow for: Big Data ("Election 2016: Marriage of Big Data, Social Data"), little data ("3 Sales Pipeline Metrics You Must Master"), and visual data.
Spencer Rascoff - @spencerrascoff
Day Job: CEO of Zillow, a real estate marketplace providing open access to home prices and apartment rent data.
Backstory: After co-founding Hotwire.com, Spencer Rascoff joined Zillow as CFO and VP of Marketing in 2005. Rascoff later became the company's CEO in 2010 and lead Zillow through its IPO the following year.
Highlight: Don't let the Harvard pedigree fool you, Rascoff isn't afraid to share his views on anything from online trends to oral health ("I hate going to the dentist. It's like, well, going to the dentist.")
Follow for: General geekiness ("Thanks to @johnhcook for giving my wife great 'anchor text'"), investing tips ("Culture eats strategy for lunch. Never invest your time or money without checking it on @glassdoor."), and endearing sarcasm ("Great news! Apparently there is a bank account in Libya with $11 million waiting for me").
Caroline Ghosn - @carolineghosn
Day Job: Founder & CEO of Levo League, a social good startup providing career resources to young women.
Backstory: Caroline Ghosn spent four years post-college working at McKinsey and Company before launching her own endeavor aimed at enabling young females to succeed in business leadership positions.
Highlight: Love flows freely from Ghosn who responds to most if not all mentions of her and her company from social admirers.
Follow for: Female empowerment ("take new risks :: seek opportunities :: do better work") and relentless positivity.
Stephanie Horbaczewski - @stylehaulsteph
Day Job: CEO of StyleHaul, a YouTube community of more than 900 content creators in the fashion and design space.
Backstory: Stephanie Horbaczewski first earned her credibility as the Director of Marketing for Sacks Fifth Avenue, but this ingénue is now tackling fashion from a different angle. Harnessing the crowd-sourced power of 16-to 24-year-old vloggers, Horbaczewski has created YouTube's No. 1 fashion and beauty channel.
Highlight: If a tweet isn't concluded by a series of exclamation points, it's almost guaranteed to contain a heart icon.
Follow for: Latest fashion tidbits ("Just love the holographic trend. It is so superhero."), shameless gushing ("awwwwww *blush* heart #AXSLive"), and industry buzz.
Marc Benioff - @Benioff
Day Job: CEO of Salesforce, one of, if not the, top cloud-based CRM providers
Backstory: Benioff honed his software skills throughout 13 years at Oracle before founding Salesforce in 1999 with the aim of creating an "on-demand information management service."
Highlight: Equal parts unique content and RT's makes for a feed peppered with varying perspectives and interests.
Follow for: Healthcare advancement idealism ("Let's bring forward the future of health. Take the first step with @MeForYouOrg."), San Francisco sports, and of course the musings of one of the Best CEOs in America and the World (as named by Forbes and Barron's, respectively).
Aaron Levie - @levie
Day Job: CEO of Box, a cloud-based file storage platform for personal and enterprise use.
Backstory: Aaron Levie co-founded Box out of his USC dorm room in 2005 as a college business project. Levie's storage in the cloud has taken off to such an extent that now 92% of Fortune 500 companies are using Box for storage and collaboration.
Highlight: A refreshing lack of links, hashtags and RT's allows Levie's of-the-moment thoughts to shine.
Follow for: Quips ("'Apple is doomed,' said no correct analyst ever."), factoids ("27 years ago, a 12 pound laptop with 10MB of memory cost you $9,135"), and truthiness.
Do you follow any other CEOs or executives with interesting Twitter accounts? Let us know in the comments below or tweet at us @BFMweb.