Which business leaders are winning Twitter?

For the last several years a team of young executives, a business school professor, and a Twitter marketing director have crunched numbers to answer this question, weighing engagement data and the volume of leaders' tweets for the previous year to produce a ranking of CEO's influence on the social media site.

  1. Tim Cook (Apple)
  2. Bill Gates (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation)
  3. Elon Musk (Tesla Motors)
  4. Donald Trump (Crazy Embarrassing Political Spectacle, Inc.... sorry, just not going to link)
  5. Richard Branson (Virgin)
  6. Rupert Murdoch (21st Century Fox)
  7. Aaron Levie (Box)
  8. Ash Ashutosh (Actifio) [With less than 1k followers this one is sort of baffling. Anyone know why he might have made the list?]
  9. Satya Nadella (Microsoft)
  10. Brian Chesky (Airbnb)

As David Dubois, the INSEAD professor who supervises the yearly ranking, notes in the post, different leaders use different strategies to reach the top of the ranking. Cook, for instance, is an infrequent tweeter, but when he does send out a message it tends to be quite personal -- such as taking a stand on LGBT rights. Gates, meanwhile, is much more active, but it's mainly his tweets having to do with his philanthropic work that garner attention. Branson is human and humble. Musk has mastered the art of the tease.

Authority is out. Humanity is in.

Still some common lessons emerge for those executives hoping to maximize their own influence. Authority, apparently is out. Humanity and vulnerability are in. "Traditionally, leaders' ability to influence has been based on the extent to which they harness their power and strength. Authority and the ability to guide others through hardship have historically been central to the growth of leaders," writes Dubois.


But today followers aren't mainly looking for strength; they want to engage in a conversation. "The advent of social media has driven this change in social dynamics and new research shows that the most influential CEOs today are social leaders, open to listening, engaging in dialogue with stakeholders and responsive to their followers," continues Dubois.

The bottom line: "Digital leaders that get the most attention for themselves and their brands on social media are those who share their personal causes, express their hopes and ambitions and engage with their followers."