For some executives, social media can still feel like the final frontier. The networks are known to be assets when used properly, but there’s genuine concern about what could happen should tweeting go sour. We’ve shared some examples of CEOs who are doing a great job at tweeting, but it’s understandable that there are still some serious roadblocks to hopping on the Twitter bandwagon. The good news for CEOs is that with the right knowledge and attitude, Twitter doesn’t have to be an insurmountable obstacle. It can be easier to navigate than you think.

We chatted with two marketing experts to get a better idea of the behind-the-scenes planning that allows executives to comfortably pen 140-character missives without being a risk to their companies. Emily Howard Griebel is the director of integrated marketing at McKee Wallwork & Company, and Chris Garcia is a search marketing/PR specialist for Loud Interactive. They shared the prep work that happened at their companies to enable their respective CEOs the freedom to tweet with confidence.

CEO Steve McKee: McKee Wallwork & Company

According to Ms. Griebel, CEO Steve McKee (@SteveMcKee) has been a Twitter inspiration to the staff at his marketing firm. “He understands Twitter’s unique culture and quirks and uses them to his advantage in having a strong following,” she said.

In terms of the groundwork for Twitter use, McKee Wallwork doesn’t have any formal policies for its employees to follow. “We are highly encouraged to be on Twitter and use it regularly,” Griebel said. “There’s an overall understanding that what we say on Twitter represents the agency, so we are careful to always be professional, strategic, and friendly.” But the tight-knit group doesn’t lay out strict guidelines, and Griebel noted that the CEO has no additional restrictions as the head of the company.

Despite the lack of formal rules, Mr. McKee’s activity on Twitter has elements of the “it takes a village” mentality. The CEO heads the strategy department, which leads the conversation about use of Twitter, but Griebel said that the company’s integration architecture, creative, and media departments also participate in crafting the content and strategy for its presence on the social network.

The company’s philosophy toward Twitter means that there isn’t a brand-name handle on the platform. “We don’t have a company Twitter account because we believe that Twitter is best suited for individuals,” Griebel said. And that’s clear from the fact that thirteen of the agency’s team members are active on the network, and each of their profiles is accessible from the contact page of the McKee Wallwork website. “As marketing covers so many facets of business, we maintain a unified presence by sharing our insights from each of our own perspectives,” Griebel said. “It allows us to be and seem more well-rounded as an agency and not a ‘one trick pony.'”

McKee’s tweets have also helped land clients. For example, Griebel said that a friendly greeting on Twitter led to a lunch date, which then developed into a pitch for a tricky marketing problem. That simple Twitter interaction ended up becoming a major rebranding assignment for McKee Wallwork, and it was all possible because the CEO was active and social.

CEO Brent D. Payne: Loud Interactive

Loud Interactive is a Chicago-based SEO consulting firm led by Brent D. Payne (@BrentDPayne). Payne was a popular presence on Twitter before launching the startup, and according to Garcia, his success with the network served as a model for the rest of the company. “Although we recommend strategy, he gained thousands of followers on his own, so we model our policies after him and not for him,” he said. The company allows Payne creative freedom over his account, which serves as both his personal and business voice. “Brent’s Twitter has been wildly successful and most of the Loud Interactive employees like following him on Twitter,” Garcia said. “Our brand is all about visibility and Brent’s Twitter definitely has a voice all its own.”

That example has helped other people at Loud learn how to craft their own unique styles. “As we develop as a thought-leader in SEO and digital consulting, it’s important that our employees develop their own brand and voice,” Garcia said. “We obviously do not allow employees to share company or client information and we try to keep bad-mouthing the Loud Interactive brand at a minimum. However, we understand humor and allow our employees creative freedom.” The only standard for Twitter policy is that the team is encouraged to be on the platform, and as long as employees are careful to abide by any copyright and federal work regulations, there are no formal restrictions.

Even though there is no set policy for Payne’s activities on Twitter, his presence has become a key part of Loud’s public relations. “No one sells Loud Interactive better than Brent, so we encourage him to post as many pictures of the office, company culture, and employees as possible,” Garcia said. The whole company has discussed the ups and downs of Payne’s tweets, including the posts that were not so successful. And although Payne takes the lead and has final say on his account, the company’s other departments offer recommendations and advice on strategy.

Having a well-known presence already on Twitter was a huge help for the growing startup. “Brent helped gain the Loud Interactive Twitter account over 20,000 followers and our brand visibility continues to grow because of his posts,” Garcia said. “His integration of personal, business, and company posts make our followers invested in our success.”

A company of any size can take advantage of a vocal and original leader on Twitter if the executive is savvy about the ins-and-outs of the social network. The combination of tweets about Payne’s work and personal life has added some honesty and credibility to his promotions of Loud, according to Garcia. “As we grow, we will meet the challenges of having Brent’s voice so visible,” he said. “Brent is a true character and his voice needs to be heard.”

Does your company have insights about the challenges of getting a CEO on Twitter? Let us know in the comments!

[Image credits: Petras Gagilas]