Twitter Jitters

NEW YORK Are you feeling any Twitter guilt? What about Twitter remorse? Some agency CEOs are feeling both.

But the execs say their guilt — which comes in the form of the nagging feeling that they’re not posting frequently enough — and their remorse-an opposite “syndrome,” if you will, that comes with having said too much-are not stopping them from Twittering as often as they can.

Twittering is increasingly part of mainstream culture and some ad world CEOs have dived right in, including JWT’s Bob Jeffrey, AKQA’s Tom Bedecarre, EVB’s Daniel Stein, Deep Focus’ Ian Schafer and Big Spaceship’s Michael Lebowitz. Beyond the chance to promote themselves and their agencies (and show clients that they “get” new media), such CEOs — much like the general public — find Twittering just plain fun.

“I can lose myself in it,” said Lebowitz, whose “bigspaceship” account has nearly 3,000 followers.

But when asked last week about the negatives of posting stream-of-conscious thoughts in 140 characters or less, some acknowledged there were downsides to Twittering-not least of which is that their words become part of the public domain-a fact that makes them proceed, mostly, with caution.

“Basically, I treat every Tweet as if there was a flattering or unflattering photo of me broadcast on CNN and the words that I’m typing are right beneath it,” said Schafer, who joined Twitter about a year ago and has almost 2,000 followers. “I’ve probably deleted more Tweets than I’ve written.”

So what territory does he think twice about? “Just general industry complaints, for example,” he said. “I have to be careful not to appear like a ‘whiner.’ So, in that sense, I want to make sure what I’m doing is forwarding the industry and not complaining about it.” Rather than criticize another agency’s work, Schafer said he might post something along the lines of, “I also would have done this…”

Some, however, throw caution to the wind. Last month, after R/GA CEO Bob Greenberg characterized the digital work of Crispin Porter + Bogusky as “viral stunts or one-off things” (in Adweek’s Digital Agency of the Year story), Crispin co-chairman Alex Bogusky Tweeted, “Bob Greenberg missed those critical days in nursery school when you learn not to say anything at all if you don’t have anything smart to say.”

Bogusky’s retort prompted Greenberg to send him a note that explained his original quote further, and from Greenberg’s perspective, the two are now “good.”

“[The Tweet] didn’t bother me at all because I like Alex and I respect him,” said Greenberg, who’s not on Twitter. (For one thing, he said, he’d have to be “a better typist.”)

Bogusky, incidentally, signed off from Twitter two weeks ago, after about three months at it. He cited a lack of time (Twitter guilt) and a relatively small following (about 1,500). “If I had a following of 3,000 or something I would figure out a way to manage some sort of version where I don’t feel so compelled to interact,” he replied to a question about his leaving the space, e-mailed by blogger Steven Verbruggen.

Ketchum director James Andrews also threw caution to the wind when, in January, upon landing in client FedEx’s home city of Memphis, Tenn., he Tweeted, “True confession, but I’m in one of those towns where I scratch my head and say, ‘I would die if I had to live here.'” FedEx, needless to say, was not amused. (Relations between the two are now fine.)

Understandably, EVB’s Stein, who said he tries to be himself and as transparent as possible when Tweeting, doesn’t “like to talk about any client-sensitive stuff.” Stein has been on Twitter a year and has more than 300 followers.

“It’s public communications, so you’re still very aware,” said Porter Novelli CMO Marian Salzman, who described herself as “obsessed” with Twitter. “[CEOs] just have to realize that [Twittering] is very different than talking to a close inner circle.”