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Twittering Leaders To Learn From

If you haven't at least heard of the social networking toolTwitter by now, you might want to crawl out from under the rock where you've been living and check it out. The site -- which allows users to update other people ("followers" in Twitter speak) on their whereabouts, share links to articles and pictures, and pass along any other information they can squeeze into 140 characters or less -- has been growing at a feverish pace (since it launched in 2006) and, although the site does not yet have a viable business plan itself, Twitter has become a prime way to monitor breaking news, keep up with friends and promote brands.

As an avid Twitterer (Twit? Tweeter?) myself, I thought it would be interesting to look at leading CEOs and thought leaders who use Twitter to make their everyday life more accessible and transparent. For those leaders out there who haven't been bitten by the Twitter bug yet, take a hint from the following five Twittering CEOs and set up your own Twitter account you update yourself (and yes, we can tell when you have someone else update it for you).

1) Tony Hsieh, Zappos.com CEO, @zappos

Zappos is a unique company (one of their core values is "create fun and a little weirdness"), and their CEO isn't afraid to put himself out there on Twitter. Tony Hsieh, who joined the company in 1999, shares personal stories from his life, from meeting Ivanka Trump, to his misadventures while traveling. What's great about his Twitter account? He's personable, outgoing, and exemplifies Zappos core values and business model. At a time when CEOs are getting a bad rap, having someone willing to share so much of himself with others is refreshing.

2) Jack Dorsey, Twitter founder and chairman, @jack

Twitter founder Jack Dorsey shows how elastic Twitter's platform is: He updates his account via the website, text messages, and third-party Twitter applications, and keeps his followers constantly up to date on his travel, insights and interesting conversations. When he does travel, he takes the time to meet up with "Twitter folk" wherever he happens to be -- and of course the Twitter platform makes these meetings simple to organize. By using Twitter himself so much, Dorsey exemplifies the value of the product he helped create.

3) Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, @johnculberson

No, he's not a CEO, but Texas Rep. John Culberson calls himself a Twitter "Rock Star." If you've ever asked yourself, "What exactly do congresspeople do all day?", you can find the answer on Culberson's Twitter account, because he isn't afraid to voice his opinion and let you know what's going on in Congress. In late March, for example, he twittered:"Back in DC House ready to vote on naming 2 post offices again - what a waste - Rome is burning & Pelosi has us naming post offices." Culberson also engages in back-and-forth discussions with his followers, answering their questions and offering information. He Tweets himself and doesn't rely on a legislative assistant to do it for him. Follow his lead and you may get some followers who don't agree with you, but you'll also gain some who value and respect your opinion. You may not agree with his politics, but he shows how a public leader is using Twitter effectively.

4) Gerould Kern, Editor, Chicago Tribune, @gerrykern

Is your industry receiving a lot of criticism? Face your critics and put your top leaders on Twitter. That's what the Chicago Tribune did when it debuted its new masthead March 19. While it seems like the newspaper's publisher and top editors are still adjusting to the Twitter phenomenon, their actions show a willingness to put themselves out in the public eye. Clients, users, and readers all have questions -- and ideas -- to help your business. What better way to listen and to interact with them then by addressing them directly in a medium they're already actively using? Edward Liddy, take note.

5) Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, @michaelhyatt

Thomas Nelson Publisher CEO Michael Hyatt is a great example of someone outside of the tech world who has jumped on the Twitter bandwagon and used it successfully to get his company's story told online. His Tweets range from the personal (enjoying his church's Lenten service) to the business-related (getting readers excited about new products and strategy). According to the company's site, Thomas Nelson's goal is to "Honor God and Serve People." When your company's goal is so ambitious and wide-ranging, Twitter offers a way for CEOs to show how those values play out in their lives everyday.

For more ideas of who to follow, check out Tweet Congress and ExecTweets.

Washingtonpost.com intern Lauren Gentile contributed to this report.

By Jodi Westrick  |  April 2, 2009; 12:45 AM ET  | Category:  Technology Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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I'm new to Twitter (a few weeks) and was delighted to discover an old friend--Michael Hyatt--leading the way. As a writer, I started tweeting to network, as part of "pre-marketing" for my memoir-in-progress. While my blog http://wwwpenandpalette-susancushman.blogspot.com/ is still my main squeeze, Twitter is a great way to meet interesting people.

Posted by: sjcushman | April 6, 2009 7:51 PM

You forgot to include DavidLWylie in your list of important tweeters!!!!

www.twitter.com/DavidLWylie

Posted by: northmiamidave | April 6, 2009 9:25 AM

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