Business leaders warned to ‘think twice before tweeting’ after boss of takeaway company Just Eat Takeaway told his Twitter argument with Uber threatened to undermine the company’s reputation .
Jitse Groen this week became the latest in a growing list of CEOs to be berated by clients, investors and even regulators for misjudged tweets.
Cat Rock Capital Management, an activist investor who owns a 4.7% stake in Just Eat, pointed to Groen’s Twitter battle with Uber boss Dara Khosrowshahi as an example of explosions that damaged the brand. . The investor said Groen’s tweets had in part resulted in the company being “deeply undervalued and vulnerable to take-over bids well below its intrinsic value.”
Earlier this year, Groen launched a rant to financial analysts on Twitter, claiming that “some can’t even do basic math.” He tweeted that he was “amazed at how bad these analysts have become… All of them confuse definitions. It’s incredible. “
Branding and marketing expert Mark Borkowski said Groen’s case highlighted the difficulties executives face when trying to interact with customers on the platform.
“Everyone sees Twitter as a huge marketing opportunity that can move a business forward, and it really is,” Borkowski said. “But these bosses need to stop and think twice before they tweet, because one poorly rated tweet can take their share price plunge. “
Perhaps the most expensive tweets ever sent were posted by Elon Musk, the maverick boss of electric car company Tesla, in 2018. The US Securities and Exchange Commission fined $ 20 million. dollars to Musk and Tesla after he tweeted that he had “secure funding” to take. the private company at $ 420 per share. The regulator said the tweet, which pushed Tesla’s share price up 13%, violated securities law. As part of the settlement, Musk was ordered to step down as chairman of Tesla.
Musk’s tweets continued to anger some investors. Pirc, an influential adviser to shareholders, including UK local authority pension funds, last year recommended that investors vote against Musk’s re-election to Tesla’s board because his tweets posed “a serious risk. damage the reputation of the company and its shareholders ”.
Pirc said his controversial Twitter blasts cost Tesla millions of dollars in settlements, but Musk easily won the vote and continued to tweet multiple times a day to his 59 million followers.
“Twitter is all about personality,” Borkowski said. “While Musk’s tweets can be very controversial, they fit his brand. Twitter is perfect for renegades, mavericks, and disruptive brands. It’s a lot harder for well-established brands with a solid reputation, if something goes wrong with them they risk damaging their hard-earned brand.
“People now think that to run a successful business you have to be on social media and every brand has to have a Twitter account,” he said. “CEOs see that their rivals’ bosses have a Twitter profile, and they think they should have one too. “
Borkowski said some bosses have been very successful in building a presence and personality on Twitter and using their platforms to promote social issues such as LGBTQ + rights and the Black Lives Matter movement (as well as to promote their brand and their products).
James Timpson, the managing director of shoemaker Timpson, this week celebrated 100,000 subscribers on his account where he weaves photos of his colleagues working in stores with articles fighting against tax evasion and prisoner reform .
This week, he responded to Boris Johnson’s proposal to create “fluorescent jacket chain gangs” of people convicted of anti-social behavior with a tweet suggesting that offenders should be helped to work instead.
Apple CEO Tim Cook received praise for using Twitter to successfully lobby the governor of Indiana to overhaul proposed legislation that threatened to allow discrimination against gay men for religious motives.
Researchers at Harvard Business School and Duke University said Cook “effectively framed the debate using social media at a time when opinions were forming and the impact went beyond politics.”
Borkowski suggested that before CEOs tweet, they should “ask themselves if they have the personality and the temper to set the right tone every time.”
“There is nothing more inelegant than a CEO who publicly attacks rivals on Twitter,” he said.
It was exactly this sort of behavior that Cat Rock had accused Groen of adopting. When Uber Eats announced earlier this year that they would face Just Eat in Germany, Groen went wild in a tweet to Khosrowshahi, accusing him of “trying to lower our share price.”
Khosrowshahi replied that maybe Groen should “pay a little less attention to your short-term stock price and more attention to your technologies and operations.” This prompted Groen to respond “thanks for the advice, and then if I can. Start paying taxes, minimum wage, and social security contributions before giving advice to a founder on how he should run his business.” company “.
Cat Rock founder Alex Captain said, “The answer shouldn’t be happening on Twitter. It should happen in a credible forum with the facts, data, and analysis the business has. “
A spokesperson for Just Eat said, “Just Eat Takeaway.com maintains a regular dialogue with all of its shareholders and we take all of their views very seriously. “