Dutch CEOs avoid Twitter, social media like the plague

Not a single CEO of the Dutch AEX companies uses Twitter.

This is according to a study by the Volkskrant on the social media policy of the major companies.

Many PR departments would like to see their CEOs use Twitter or other social media, but they have difficulty convincing their bosses of the necessity. The public relations department of Akzo Nobel would love to convince CEO Ton Buchner to use Twitter, just like their PR colleagues at Philips with Frans van Houten. The PR department of Delta Lloyd hopes that the impeding retirement of CEO Niek Hoek will bring change. "It is important that the way we communicate not only suits our audience, but also the one who communicates. Who knows whether we'll be charting a new course with our new CEO."

It may be that the CEOs find Twitter an overrated media. A communication medium with only 140 characters is rather an intellectual restriction.

CEO Nancy McKinstry of Wolters Kluwer seems to agree with this opinion. "Nancy communicates very actively and regularly with customers, employees, partners and investors. She does not tweet, because Twitter is a less suitable channel for her conversations with these groups - it lacks the depth and personal aspect that is so important to build lasting relationships at the level of CEO."

On the other hand Twitter and other social media offer a new way to reach people other than television commercials or PR messages. Twitter also has the advantage of forcing its users to get to the point. This is sometimes preferable to the long drawn out TV commercials and PR messages.

In the 90's CEOs such as Rijkman Groenink (ABN Amro) and Cees van der Hoeven (Ahold) spent a lot more time in the spotlight. Legally speaking they had no more power than their other colleagues on the board. That changed with the advent of the American CEO model in the Netherlands, which is now common in the management of all major Dutch companies.

The crisis and various scandals (around Ahold and ABN Amro for example) have caused Dutch executives to become a lot less visible.