The problem here is that the managerialist mindset and social media don't mix, for two inter-related reasons. One is that social media are egalitarian whereas managerialism is hierarchic; there's not much deference on Twitter, and it might be no accident that, AFAIK, very few chief executives are on it. The other is that you can't control social media; nobody can predict what'll go viral, and all bloggers and tweeters know they can't tell what posts will be widely circulated and what won't*.
This culture clash means that managerialism's encounters with Twitter can end in abject failure. BG are in the same position as the hapless HMV exec who asked "How do I shut down Twitter?".
I suspect that when organizational PR works in Twitter, it does so obliquely, and (partly) unintentionally. For example, one of the best bits of PR the police do - and they need good PR - are Oakham Police's tweets. But these work because they humanize the police, and are not the product of faceless PR.
But here's the thing. The domain of obliquity - in which top-down direct control is inapplicable - is much wider than just social media. John Kay has produced many examples of how companies succeed not by aiming directly to maximize profits, but by concentrating instead upon good products. I'd point to other evidence of the limits of managerialism:
- A large chunk of productivity growth comes not from managers raising firms' efficiency, but from market selection (pdf) causing productive firms to enter the market and less productive ones to leave.
- Alex Coad's survey has concluded that corporate growth is "largely a random process." And Paul Ormerod has shown (pdf) that firms' death rates look a lot like species' extinction rates - which suggests that catastrophic failure is largely unpredictable. All this suggests that, as Ormerod says, "executives overestimate the control they have over the fate of their organizations."
Herein, though, lies a paradox. I write all this in the spirit of a leftist, who wants to argue that inequalities of power are economically and socially corrosive and that bosses don't deserve their big pay. However, whilst I would like to reduce the domain of managerialism, other leftists want to expand it, by increasing the role of the state relative to markets. We hear a lot - some of it justified - about economic imperialism, but shouldn't we worry more about managerialist imperialism?
* Up to a point. In my experience, my most popular posts tend to be either more obviously politically partisan ones, or those I put relatively little thought into.