VW CEO’s opening gambit on Twitter

Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess joined Twitter in December 2020, but his first tweet was posted only on January 20, 2021.

In his few replies so far, he has confirmed that the tweets from the handle are his own.

What is truly interesting is his first tweet. It tags 3 other handles.

Tagging Twitter is understandable; more of an opener.

Tagging Volkswagen’s corporate handle is obvious.

But tagging arch-rival Elon Musk and adding that he is (on Twitter) “to get some of your market shares” was a pleasant surprise.

For context, Elon generally has good-enough things to say about Volkswagen (publicly, on Twitter, at least) and rather good things to say about Diess in particular! Last year, Musk referred to Diess twice – in September and October.

And he has actually been charitable towards Diess, even when not asked pointedly – both of Musk’s tweets were replies, without even Musk being tagged! In both replies, Musk volunteers with his opinion about Diess, and that’s saying something!

Corporate leaders’ first tweets usually tend to be safe and/or mundane. But, I assume Diess has good advice from his corporate communications team – tagging a rival, and one that makes news instantly, is a great strategy to herald his own Twitter presence and get the media (and others) to notice. And using that reference/tag to position VW’s own market success is even smarter – all the attention the first tweet will garner will also observe the company’s success at the same time!

Imagine – without tagging Musk or talking about Tesla (without mentioning it by name, understandably), the tweet would have been rather banal, like a simple placeholder.

But no – there is a second interesting aspect to his first tweet as well! He could have simply stopped with, “I’m here to make an impact with @VWGroup”.

But he adds: “…especially on political issues”!!

That’s both bold and confident – to use the ‘P’ word as a way to signal the kind of Twitter use he is likely to indulge in.

When the CEO of Siemens, Joe Kaeser, quote-tweeted Diess with a formal welcome and a note of caution on the ‘P’ word, Diess, having clearly thought-through and anticipated this question, responds:

An impressive Twitter debut that doesn’t follow the safe template and comes across as someone who gets what makes this platform click!

That he chose to post his first tweet on the day The Wall Street Journal published this story about Volkswagen and Tesla also says a lot!!



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