To tweet or not to tweet? For Hudson Valley executives, that is the question.
Seven years after the birth of Twitter on March 21, 2006, President Barack Obama has an account and the Securities and Exchange Commission has recognized the network as a channel for corporate disclosure, but only a scant few top executives in New York City's northern suburbs have joined the gab-a-thon.
Although Mario Gabelli (@MarioGabelli), chief executive of Rye-based money manager GAMCO Investors (GBL), is a regular presence on Twitter, Indra Nooyi, chief executive of Purchase-based PepsiCo, is notably absent.
IBM boss Virginia Rometty, who speaks extensively about social media, has an account that appears to be hers (@ginnirometty), a profile picture and more than 6,000 followers, but she has yet to unleash a tweet.
John Carey, a professor of communications and media management in the Fordham University Schools of Business, said that in some cases, the company may be making a wise tactical decision in gagging top executives.
"The big issue is whether a CEO or person should be on Twitter or the company itself," he said. "I think you could make a better case for the company. With the CEO, it depends on their personality and their ability to communicate to the public."
If a honcho like Tony Hsieh, the chief executive of online shoe retailer Zappos.com, with 2.7 million followers, can connect in a positive way with the Twitter community, he or she becomes "the face of the company."
"People feel that," he said.
"Sometimes the feedback is bad," Carey said. "There's a lot of nastiness out there. You could evoke that by something you say."
For instance, Rupert Murdoch, founder and chief executive of News Corp. (NWS), the media giant whose assets include Fox Broadcasting, 20th Century Fox, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, found himself in the crosshairs of online pundits in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings.
As the FBI was gathering evidence, the Post published pictures that erroneously labeled bystanders at the race as key suspects.
"All NYPost pics were those distributed by FBI. And instantly withdrawn when FBI changed directions," Murdoch said on Twitter.
In another posting, Murdoch, whose Twitter style is described by Carey as "irascible," chides The New York Times for an op-ed piece:
"NYT op-Ed today argues. US inhospitality to teenage migrants led to Boston terror attack. Give us a break! And they charge $2.00!"
But for Ralph Martinelli, vice president of Today Media and publisher of Westchester magazine, social media primarily is better used as a vehicle to advance a business agenda than debate.
"Personally, I use social media to promote Westchester magazine," he said.
Martinelli said Twitter works particularly well to promote sponsored events.
"It helps to support the brand," he said.
Likewise, Seth Rowland, president of Cortlandt Manor-based software developer and consultancy Basha Systems, said that he segregates his work social media from his personal social media.
"We made a decision that Twitter is only to be used for business and Facebook would be used for personal notifications," he said.
Rowland said the company uses Twitter to spread the word of new developments in his business and blends posts from Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn on the Web to boost his site's search engine rankings.
Another issue for executives who use social media: Should they write their own postings on social media or assign the job to media specialists in public relations or marketing?
Carey said that his research suggests that about half of executives do their own posting and half leave it to others.
Gabelli's frequent postings about the NBA, for example, indicate the money manager writes his own tweets.
"Nets/Bulls ----what a game! Knicks--ex JR @ 1 and one to go," he wrote, referring to a Brooklyn Nets-Chicago Bulls playoff game and a later one in which the Knicks would play without guard J.R. Smith.
Twitter posts from @BarackObama come from staff members of his Organizing for Action advocacy group, but those signed -bo actually come from the president, according to the account's guidelines.
The SEC got involved with social media in July 2012, when Netflix CEO Reed Hastings posted on his personal Facebook page that the media company had streamed a billion hours of content the previous month.
The SEC sent Netflix a "Wells Notice," a letter that signals the agency plans to pursue enforcement action. But by April 2013, the SEC had changed course, ruling that public companies are allowed to use social media such as Facebook and Twitter to publish nonpublic information as long as investors are told which channels to monitor.
Two latecomers to Twitter are former President Bill Clinton and NBA star-turned-sports-commentator Charles Barkley. Carey said that Barkley's avowed formula for Twitter is 60 percent entertainment, 30 percent information and 10 percent promotion.
Earlier this month, in two appearances on Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report," Clinton was pressed by comedian Stephen Colbert to embrace Twitter. Colbert said he set up an account for the Chappaqua resident under @PrezBillyJeff. Several days later, Clinton again faced off with Colbert, who pressed for a more dignified handle such as @BillClinton to mostly promote his global initiatives. As of Monday afternoon, Clinton had 528,084 followers.
Whatever the correct formula for success, Carey said, the one thing certain about the online world of the future is that it will change.
"It's all evolving," he said. "Twitter is very different than it was three years ago. Whatever it is, Twitter will be different."