“The amount of attention on me has gone supernova, which super sucks. Unfortunately, even trivial articles about me generate a lot of clicks 🙁 Will try my best to be heads down focused on doing useful things for civilization,” Elon Musk tweeted a few weeks back. It’s hard to take the Tesla and SpaceX boss seriously about this commitment to being less controversial.
Musk is a champion of attention-grabbing Twitter antics. His missives have spurred SEC investigations, resulted in defamation suits, unleashed troll mobs, dragged the world along on an acquisition soap opera, and even offered TMI on his sex life (or lack thereof). I think I speak for most of the world when I say it seems like the guy would really benefit from chilling out on Twitter for a while.
But maybe Musk isn’t entirely insane in his prolific use of Twitter (the contents of his tweets is another discussion). Enraging regulators (and litigious cave divers) clearly isn’t a good idea. But new research out of University of Texas at Austin suggests that frequent tweeting actually is good for executive careers.
If you’re an executive, tweeting pays, literally.
To figure out the effect of tweeting on executives’ careers, the research team examined the Twitter accounts of CEOs, chief marketing officers, chief information officers, and chief product and innovation officers at large public companies, and compared the frequency and content of their posts with their career progression and compensation.
All this data crunching yielded clear conclusions. The more often executives tweeted about their work and skills, the higher the likelihood they would be offered a step-up position at a higher salary. “Executive candidates such as CEOs and CIOs who modestly — but frequently — tout their knowledge, expertise, and skills on Twitter were 32% more likely to attract higher-paying job offers after interviews,” reports the UT release highlighting the findings.
“Self-promotion worked in this class of people,” UT’s Andrew Whinston bluntly commented.
The researchers also weren’t shy about recommending frequent, credential-burnishing tweets to those looking to rise to the top in business. “People who are actively self-promoting on Twitter will benefit from doing that,” Whinston added. “It’s worth some time and effort to promote yourself on Twitter.”
The key word here is “modestly.”
That suggests Musk’s Twitter addiction might not be entirely crazy, at least in principle. As annoying (soul-crushing?) as the constant noise generated by a handful of Twitter power users might be to the rest of us, this research shows social media remains an effective way to brand yourself and get your message out to a wider audience. But the key word in the findings is “modestly.”
Musk’s personal brand is of an iconoclast with dreams so big that neither rules nor social conventions can contain him. Twitter has definitely helped him project this image, but it isn’t at all clear he’s coming out ahead with this “real-life Iron Man with nine kids and no filter” shtick. He’s wildly successful, yes, but maybe he would have been even more successful without all the drama. His approach may not even be working for him. It definitely won’t work for anyone else.
Frequent, more conventional tweets highlighting your skills, confidence, intellect, and impact, however, probably will. Whether you love or hate the results of this study, they are clear: Social media self-promotion works. I leave it to you to decide what exactly to do with that information.