Businesses should take a lesson from Twitter

I anchored CNBC’s coverage of the European Central Bank (ECB) Rate Decision Special show last week. This involved saying: “Welcome to CNBC. Jean-Claude Trichet is speaking. Let’s listen in,” then tweeting snippets of the proceedings to my Twitter followers, of whom there are literally dozens, including several who think I’m the librarian in Massachusetts who happens to share my name.

This is a simple task and I’m faintly embarrassed to admit I get paid to do it. The tougher element is deciphering what the devil Trichet is saying.

He did say “monitor very closely”, but he did not make any mention of being “vigilant”. Apparently that is code for the ECB might raise rates the month after next.Then Trichet produced a white hanky and started dabbing at his nose. My twittersphere friends and I (under the Twitter handle @BeccyMeehan) speculated this might be a further layer of code, but it turned out the poor chap does actually have a cold.

Speaking of unfathomable codes, I recently went to RBS to interview chief executive Stephen Hester about his results. I was handed a presentation from which I learned “good jaws drive improved profitability”. Hmmm. I thought I was just being dim, until later that day I interviewed a Very Successful City Big Cheese, who shall remain nameless. As he flicked through the slides, he turned to me and said: “I’ve no idea what all this jaws stuff is about – I don’t believe anyone can make head nor tail of this lot, there’s just so much info.”

I’m all for full disclosure, but imagine a world in which we all just speak like normal human beings, get to the point and then shut up.

Which brings me back to Twitter. Not necessarily the natural habitat of normal human beings, but nevertheless, the most important messages might benefit from being pared down into 140 characters.

For instance, Jean-Claude Tweet-chet (sorry) could post: “Inflation is still rising. We might raise rates again, but we’re not sure. We’re happy Portugal asked for help. I have a cold today.”

Ryanair’s chief Michael O’Leary might also be well-suited to the platform. This wonderful quote from him is clear in meaning and would definitely fit into a tweet: “You’re not getting a refund so **** off.”

Beccy Meehan is an anchor at CNBC.