Where Science Meets Muse

If a Giant Company Starts Twittering is it a Sign of Innovative Behavior?

Posted by Plish on May 21, 2009


I came across this article that asks the question, “Is Chevron, Shell’s Twittering an Innovation Indicator?”

The article discusses the variations in the two giants’ approaches and concludes that in spite of the fact that Shell uses Twitter more passively than Chevron, 


Twittering = Innovation!



Using Twitter as a channel for disseminating press releases, countering negative PR, and providing hurricane updates, is less a sign of innovative behavior and more a sign of shrewd business.

For the sake of argument, let’s use my favorite definition of Innovation.

Innovation = Creativity x Risk Taking

Applying that definition to this situation, let’s look at what these companies are doing in the following table:


You tell me, if a big company starts twittering, is it being innovative?

or smart?


5 Responses to “If a Giant Company Starts Twittering is it a Sign of Innovative Behavior?”

  1. You’re right, it’s probably just smart business if you weigh what Chevron is doing against all other companies out there in the world. Certainly, Twitter, Apple or Cisco is more innovative.

    Couldn’t you argue that Chevron is innovative within its own industry since it it using tools in a creative and risk-taking way that other Big Oil companies are not? And if so, does it mean they’re more likely to take risks and be creative in other parts of their business model?

    I should add. I don’t think using Twitter is risk-taking. But in the oil and gas industry, folks are pretty tight-lipped and messages are controlled. This is “dialogue” is a significant departure from that and so I had to put the question out there.

  2. I call it jumping on the bandwagon. They didn’t create it, they’re following pop culture, nothing more. It costs them nothing (except the time of whoever in PR and Marketing get assigned to deal with it), no additional infrastructure, no maintenance, along with their FaceBook and MySpace pages.

  3. Plish said

    Hi Kirsten! Thanks for stopping by!

    Having spent a few years early in my career in the petrochem industry, you are correct – they can be pretty tight lipped. Can one say that since this type of behavior is new to the particular industry that it is innovative? If I give Chevron some matches and they decide to use them instead of rubbing sticks together (which is what everyone else is doing) they will no doubt be considered trailblazers in their industry and in fact some other companies will look on and say, “Matches are a fad.” To the rest of the world, Chevron is entering the 21st Century. Not really innovative in the bigger scheme of things, yet, in a basic sense, they are doing something new to their industry.

    Does this mean that this could be a harbinger of innovation to come? Maybe. Most bigger companies are continually leveraging exciting new product launches against their money making base projects. They hedge their bets in this way. Given this, innovation in one part of the business, often does not translate into innovation in other parts of the business.

    Having said all that, what this DOES show is a paradgim shift, a change in perspective and openness that while not necessarily innovative on its own, will most likely result in changes in perspective and new market insights (provided they’re open to those insights and not just trying to convince others how great they are), which in turn can result in newer and truly innovative products. This shift in paradigm shouldn’t be trivialized.

    Thanks for thought provoking discussion!

  4. Good thoughts. It would be interesting to look at the differences between Exxon and Chevron, in terms of its culture. Based on my anecdotal experience, Exxon is one of the most conservative and tight-lipped companies I’ve come across. And yet, they’re still making tons of money.

    Some argue that Exxon will likely suffer in the future because of its lack of transparency and aversion to risk. It’ll be interesting to see if that ever unfolds.

  5. Plish said

    Interesting about Exxon. It’s amazing how effectively oil companies pump the market (no pun intended).

    But, If that’s truly the case then I think they will suffer. The world’s changing and there are even better ways to do business than they’ve been doing.

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