How CEO Influencers Impact Social Branding on Twitter

It’s safe to say that Crimson Hexagon and the rest of the social media research industry would be missing its heart and soul without Twitter. The platform is always striving to expand its impact on the world of social media and online technology. A fundamental aspect of Twitter’s success and popularity is its true competency of how to most effectively reach its users.
What happens when we turn the tables and take a look at what the masterminds behind tech-industry companies are up to when they log in to their personal accounts? Crimson Hexagon decided to take a look using Social Account monitors from our ForSight™ platform to see how CEOs of major technology companies communicate their views and interact on Twitter. It seems fitting to start with Dick Costolo – his best stuff helps us do ours.
Dick Costolo Twitter Tech CEO Influencer
As CEO of Twitter, Dick Costolo is well-known in the industry for his influential leadership abilities. His impact on the company after becoming CEO in 2010 is a testament to these claims. Since filling the shoes of CEO, Twitter’s reach has quadrupled to over 200 million monthly active users, offices have been opened all over the world, and the company itself has tripled in size. He is also the brain behind Twitter’s introduction of “Promoted Tweets”, which are used to advertise more directly to users based on interests expressed online; this idea alone has significantly increased the company’s revenue. When we monitored his personal Twitter handle, we found no differently; @dickc leads his 1.17 million followers with a combination of industry insight, witty communication, and expertise. A balance of relatability and humor are the X-factors in one of Costolo’s most popular tweets from the month of February. This particular Tweet boasted 139 retweets and 595 favorites at the time of its ForSight analysis.
Another key to @dickc’s social media impact is the genuine nature of Costolo’s online conversation. Tweeting back and forth with his fans is the reason his personal reach on Twitter is heavy on the mentions. We can see @dickc got chatty with friends and fans online over the week of February 2nd – February 8th by checking out our Social Account monitor’s Total Engagement data for his personal Twitter handle.
Tech CEO Dick Costolo Total Engagement
2,474 Twitter mentions of Costolo’s account were counted over the course of that one week alone.
Tech CEO Influencer Tweets2His followers can count on Costolo to read and possibly even respond to their interactions with him online, even if they are total strangers. Here, a fan writes to @dickc on February 25th to express how excited he is to see Twitter’s CEO speak at an event. Costolo humbly responds to his supporter within the hour.
By prodding and stimulating honest conversation with his followers online, Dick Costolo is increasing his Twitter mentions, and ultimately, Twitter impressions. Let Microsoft’s new CEO Satya Nadella test our Social Account monitor’s ultimate measure of a Twitter account’s reach and impact.
ForSight’s “Sent Post Impressions” combines the sender’s followers and the followers of all users who have Retweeted the post to count the amount of times that a particular post could have been seen. At Crimson Hexagon, we use this information to gauge the total potential impressions that an account’s sent posts can have within a selected timeframe.
It was the tech-industry Tweet heard around the world. On February 4th, Satya Nadella’s debut from his personal Twitter account, @satyanadella, was a statement of both his personal relevance and his professional commitment to his new position.
Satya Nadella Microsft Tech CEO Influencer
By poking fun at his incumbent Steve Ballmer with this initial Twitter activity as CEO, Nadella is certainly putting his personal account on the pedestal. Flamboyancy in the Tweets of professional industry leaders can often be blown out of proportion, but Crimson’s Social Account monitor for Nadella’s personal account shows how potent his presence online can be. When Nadella committed to using Twitter in such a unique way, Microsoft’s CEO position became a much more influential role in the industry than Steve Ballmer could have ever imagined.
Using the graph above, we can observe the relationship between the content of Nadella’s Tweets and his Sent Post Impressions figures. In his case, the inaugural Tweet the world was waiting on lived up to its expectations. The 24,350 posts between January 26th and February 25th were overwhelmingly positive in sentiment toward the new CEO, welcoming Nadella into his position. Take a look at the most common topics associated with his Twitter handle during that time period. A great deal of positive reinforcement was expressed to Nadella’s Twitter account in support of his newfound CEO status.
Satya Nadella Microsoft Tech CEO Influencer Topic Wheel
It’s notable how @satyanadella has far less Twitter followers, but far more reach, than fellow industry CEOs’ personal accounts. At 130K followers, Satya Nadella has had 29,418,118 Sent Post Impressions in the past month. More to the point, Satya’s initial Tweet as CEO was responsible for 22,303,212 of those impressions. The exciting flair of personality in one Tweet was enough to propel his Twitter reach and impact on the public far past that of his peers with more formal accounts. A valid contrast to @satyanadella’s transparent approach to his personal account is Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and her personal Twitter handle, @marissamayer.
At 534K followers, we can assume @marissamayer’s Tweets are always read and spread by a substantial amount of people online. Despite that 534K figure, which many people consider to be the most important number when it comes to Twitter, Marissa Mayer’s 11,440,175 Sent Post Impressions over the past month are much less impressive than Satya Nadella’s reach. The reason for this is how Mayer’s Tweets are almost all impersonal, news-related, and include links to other professional business sites and stories. In comparison to the personality exposed in Nadella’s recent Tweets, it is easier to see something like this from Mayer during the Super Bowl and move right along down your feed:
Marissa Mayer Tech CEO Influencer
The nature of this Tweet is informative, so less feedback seems necessary. The interaction with business-oriented, link-through Tweets like these may incite Retweets, but far less mentions. In the end, a lack of personality, in favor of official news-related posts and Retweets, leads to less Twitter impressions than an online character with fewer followers and a similar Tweet rate like Satya Nadella.
A more consistent approach to having an online personality can be seen in Aaron Levie’s personal account, @levie. The 28-year-old CEO of preaches personal opinions, advice, and his own take on technology news to his 87.8K followers in a constant flow of posts.
Aaron Levie Tech CEO Influencer Post Impressions
In the graph above, we see how Levie achieves a significant and comparable amount of impressions each day over the past month on Twitter. He has a fun, edgy online personality that shines in Tweets like this one from February 19th:
Aaron Levie Tech CEO Influencer
The response from his Twitter following has been overwhelmingly in favor of his opinionated online persona. Here, one of Levie’s followers appreciates the content of the Tweet above within one minute of the original post:
Aaron Levie Tech CEO Influencer Tweet1
Aaron Levie also offers bits of motivation via his Twitter account. An example from February 7th ties his personal expertise in with his view of the nature of competitive business:
Aaron Levie Tech CEO Influencer Tweet2
And we have to assume Levie had something to say about Nadella’s promotion, right? Well of course he did. Amidst growing speculation toward the end of January that Nadella was the right man for the job, @levie chimed in with his utmost support:
Aaron Levie Tech CEO Influencer Tweet3
Then there’s the CEO of the social media management dashboard company Hootsuite, Ryan Holmes. Known to his 28.6K Twitter followers as @invoker, Holmes uses his personal account to promote his own views on the technology industry. Nearly every Tweet links through to one of his written articles or interviews. His Tweets will catch the attention of those who genuinely care about his skills or the topics he discusses online. Here he goes on February 12th:
Ryan Holmes Tech CEO Influencer Tweet
Further insight into our discussion can be seen by lining up two accounts on the impersonal end of the spectrum. If we compare Ryan Holmes to Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer, a similarity lies in how each CEO’s Twitter heavily uses the ability to link through to other online content in their Tweets. The main difference is how Holmes’ account has a stronger, more noticeable tone of ownership of those links in the Tweets. Holmes has just a bit more of an online personality than Mayer because he focuses on endorsing his own online content and work abilities on his Twitter account. CEO Marc Benioff has been in charge since he was a teenager, launching his first business when he just 15 years old. Now he’s the boss of something bigger and he knows it. I mean, let’s be real here…
…it says it right in the e-mail address. Benioff may feel as though his CEO status is worth mentioning, but in his case it is actually another high-profile account mentioning him that helped spread his reach and impact on Twitter far beyond his 91.3K followers. Below is an Auto Sentiment Analysis from a Social Account monitor of his personal Twitter account @Benioff.
Marc Benioff Tech CEO Influencer Volume of Posts
Marc Benioff’s highest levels of positive engagement come from honorable mentions by none other than…the Japanese musician, songwriter, and philanthropist Yoshiki. Truth be told, his recent connection to the internationally recognized celebrity can be traced back to 2013 when Benioff keynoted a special Customer Company Tour event at the Prince Park Tower in Tokyo. Amongst the other tech-savvy speakers who joined Benioff on stage, Yoshiki teamed up with Benioff in a special session to share ideas on innovation, collaboration, and driving social change through the means of focused philanthropy.
Yoshiki first put Benioff’s Twitter on the scene with this post with a picture of the two together from February 8th:
Marc Benioff Tech CEO Influencer Tweet
Marc Benioff Tech CEO Influencer Tweet2You better believe 357 Retweets and 390 favorites on Yoshiki’s Tweet put Benioff on the map in Japan. In fact, our analysis reveals that Japan has 3 posts per million on the topic from Japan, half as much as the 6 posts per million in the States. Marc Benioff’s reach is effectively coast to coast- now more than ever.
But Benioff really killed it when he stopped by for drinks with Yoshiki later that month on the 24th:
Another valuable tech-industry account belongs to General Electric’s Jeff Immelt. This CEO has a very formal, professional fee to his personal Twitter account; it is comparable to that of Marissa Mayer and Ryan Holmes. What makes his personal account worth mentioning in this discussion is how inconsistently he is Tweeting. When Immelt does Tweet, he references his own agenda more often than any other topic.
The content of Jeff Immelt’s Tweets is enough to keep his Twitter campaign on the rise. Impressively enough, @JeffImmelt has managed to gain approximately 500 followers at a steady rate over the past month to total 19.1K at the end of February- a month in which he Tweeted once on the 3rd. I bet we’d all like to be able to pull that off. Yet still, by Tweeting only once a month, @JeffImmelt is significantly limiting his personal online influence over the industry.
On the other hand, LinkedIn’s CEO Jeff Weiner is rather engaging with his followers, even asking them open-ended questions. He discusses hot topics of online conversation including media and movies, as well as his own opinions on the entertainment and technology industries.
On February 22nd, @jeffweiner Tweeted to 107K followers:
Jeff Weiner Tech CEO Influencer Tweet
Looking back, 2,256,069 of Weiner’s 21,970,998 Sent Post Impressions of the month resulted from his only Tweet of the day back on February 3rd:

Jeff Weiner Tech CEO Influencer Tweet2

This kind of popularity amongst his other Tweets shows that people do value not only his opinion, but his presence on Twitter in itself. People want to learn from him, and respect him enough to consider doing so online.
As we’ve seen, some Chief Executive Officers keep a low profile on Twitter. It should still be noted that if limited activity is reserved for quality posts, a Twitter can have quite some reach.
Drew Houston Tech CEO Influencer Tweet
Dropbox’s CEO Drew Houston manages a fair share of Retweets for how little activity he offers online. Amongst his 55.9K followers, the response to Houston’s limited activity is overwhelmingly positive in sentiment.
Drew Houston Tech CEO Influencer Volume of Posts
One highlight of Houston’s month came on February 10th. Dropbox co-founders Arash Ferdowsi and Drew Houston won the Founders of the Year award at the 7th Annual Crunchies Awards, a ceremony sponsored and co-hosted by major technology industry blogs TechCrunch, GigaOm, and VentureBeat.
ForSight’s Word Cloud is able to organize the most commonly used words and phrases used in Tweets to and about an individual’s account. A lot of well-deserved congratulations were passed along @drewhouston’s way during that two-day period of Twitter excitement following his success at the Crunchie Awards. The most noise in @drewhouston’s month undeniably came from the media and this award.
Ah, last but not least in our Social Account analysis- the CEO of the beloved Apple Inc. In only 44 Tweets, with activity picking up as recently as the start of New Year, Tim Cook’s online personality is starting to take form. His Tweet rate is steadily growing, and although he keeps his circle tight by following only 35 people, he has still managed to accumulate over 406K followers.
Tim Cook Tech CEO Influencer Post Impressions
A couple shoutouts to Steve Jobs on his birthday really resonated with his fans. The first of two Tweets showed up early on February 24th:
Tim Cook Tech CEO Influencer
This Tweet received 7,962 Retweets and 4,621 favorites. Soon after, Tim Cook Tweeted another influential quote by his late friend and mentor.
Tim Cook Tech CEO Influencer Tweet
Now this Tweet received 8,264 Retweets and 4,821 favorites. The momentum of his online personality shows in the response of his dedicated followers. These back-to-back birthday wishes show Tim Cook’s emotional side just enough to spark a connection with those he impacts on Twitter.
After all is considered, we will long remember these technology industry leaders for some legitimate measure by their social media presence and online personalities. Sometimes it takes a little nostalgia about Steve Jobs to think about how a Twitter personality wants to be remembered.
In order to wrap up our discussion, we simply have to put all of the brilliant minds we have picked apart in one place to see how they stand up to one another. Which CEO has the most influential, impressionable Twitter? ForSight’s Social Account Monitor comparative analysis allows us to see the share of voice over the past month for each of the CEOs that we have monitored. Let’s take a look.
Influential CEOs share of Voice
That Satya Nadella Tweet really got his Twitter handle out there…at least for a week. Other than that, we can see how @tim_cook’s Twitter shines on the most consistent basis. Not bad for 44 Tweets…it sure doesn’t hurt to have Apple’s brand in your corner.
All in all, we can take away information from this research just as easily as we can take away perspective. Whether Satya Nadella is making waves with a single Tweet that embodies his online personality, or Jeff Immelt is silent but still gaining followers, it is certainly more fun to follow along with the outgoing individuals of the Twittersphere. Having a distinct, opinionated online personality can help any CEO inside or outside the social media or technology industries reach more people. The key elements in our analysis include the worth in genuine posts, the power of the Retweet, and the effectiveness of directly communicating to followers. There is undoubtable merit in all of these CEO’s personal Twitter accounts in how their sheer existence helps populate the world of social media and contributes to news-worthy online discussion. It’s just, at the end of the day, having a bit of an edge can be the difference in following along and interacting with the daily lives of the technology industry’s brightest CEO’s.
The innovative and unique analysis of these corporate leaders’ Twitter sentiments is an output of Crimson Hexagon’s Social Account monitors, part of Crimson Hexagon’s own ForSight software. For more insights into how technology companies can use the power of social media to build brand and improve customer experience, request an online product demonstration.

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