Tesco CEO Philip Clarke has disappointed his army of 10,000 Twitter followers by doing a disappearing act from the social networking site.

Clarke, celebrating his first year at the helm this week, carved out a reputation for himself as the digital evangelist of supermarket chiefs, setting himself up with a public profile on Twitter as @clarkepatesco.

He tweeted an average 27 times a month last year on a range of subjects - congratulating Tesco executives who had won gongs from the Queen in one missive and tweeting about the beauty of Inverness in another. However, he has been conspicuous by his absence this year.

Clarke had succeeded in creating a culture that recognised the importance of social media and it was now time to pass the baton on to others, a Tesco spokesman said. “It was almost a way of saying to our company it’s alright to tweet,” he said. “He’s deeply embedded the importance of social media into the business, but it shouldn’t all be on his shoulders.”

Industry observers suggested it would be OK to scale back activity but a mistake to stop altogether. “There was clearly some glasnost at Tesco last year with lots of their executives getting on the site,” said Kantar Retail analyst Bryan Roberts. “Clarke stood out among the big four because he was using it and it was a nice idea, so for that to be shut off seems retrograde.”

Asked if Clarke planned to tweet again, a spokesman said: “Watch this space.”