Start-Up, Small-Business CFOs Flock to Twitter: Study

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Washington, February 27, 2014 | comments

Start-Up, Small-Business CFOs Flock to Twitter: Study
By Maxwell Murphy, February 27, 2014

Almost no chief financial officers at large companies are on Twitter, but roughly 500 finance executives at small companies have active accounts, according to new research by Leadtail Inc., a social-media marketing consultant.

That’s an infinitesimal slice of Twitter’s roughly 240 million users, and they skew toward startups and closely held firms, according to Carter Hostelley, Leadtail’s chief executive. He explained that these CFOs, and their businesses probably grew up with the Internet and think the rewards of tapping a vast, global audience outweigh the risks of public scrutiny, or worse.

High-profile CFOs on Twitter include Stephen Vintz of cloud-based marketing firm Vocus Inc., Bryan Wolff of closely held menswear maker Bonobos, and Greg Lee of cancer charity Livestrong Foundation.

Leadtail mined Twitter feeds between October and December to see what finance executives discussed most. The buzz: leadership, recommendations on whom to followsharing old pictures, CFOs and Obamacare, followed by the season’s holidays — Thanksgiving, Halloween and Christmas.

Last week, Mr. Vintz of Vocus tweeted an article on Facebook Inc.’s $19-billion deal to buy WhatsApp and wondered, “What else could Facebook buy for $19B?” Bonobos’Mr. Wolff fired off five tweets on the Facebook deal, including one that called it “a worrying sign” and asked how often Facebook might need to issue large blocks of stock to acquire companies in order to fuel growth.

Mr. Hostelley says a Twitter presence allows prospective partners, employees and poachers to get to know about a CFO’s likes, dislikes and hobbies, which could prove useful in future dealings.

But tweeting is not without risks.

Gene Morphis was fired as CFO of specialty retailer Francesca’s Holdings Corp. in May 2012. That March, six days before it was scheduled to release quarterly results, he tweeted, “Board meeting. Good Numbers=Happy Board,” causing its stock price to jump. He also previously tweeted about preparing initial-public-offering documents and meeting lawyers, analysts and bankers months ahead of its July 2011 IPO.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has since said social media posts comply with fair-disclosure rules, so long as companies notify investors where to look. But apparently CFOs at large companies are still “#shy.”

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