Despite pretty much the whole world being on social media, it seems that many a CEO are amongst the rare breed that aren’t. It emerged earlier in the year that less than 1 in 3 executives have even a single social media profile. This is despite research showing that consumers are much more likely to trust a company whose executives are active online.
So the words of General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt and General Colin Powell should be mandatory reading for any executive reading this. They were guests of Salesforce’s Marc Benioff at the Dreamforce 2012 event this week.
“I was born analog, and I’ve been desperately trying to catch up with the digital world,” Powell said lightheartedly, describing how he was watched the “information evolution” change the world and reshape politics, economics, and barriers between people.
Immelt was similarly enthusiastic. He stated the importance of using social media within GE to ensure that the company stayed “young and fresh”.
“One of the pillars of our culture is to be a learning company and always want to work on what’s next,” Immelt said. “So that just arches over everything.”
He went on to say that the biggest challenges he and GE faced were fighting size and bureaucracy, and that social media was the main tool for overcoming both of these obstacles.
“Today organisations move too slowly,” Immelt said. “By using technology, I think you can move faster. You get more transparency. You get more access.”
Powell gave a warning to companies everywhere that are lagging behind the demands of Generation Y as they enter the workforce.
“You better keep up with them,” Powell advised. “They’re not going to keep up with you.”
Powell added that because of social media, there is “so much transparency, and we’re moving so fast that we have to respond to every bit of data that comes in,” which has to be acted on immediately.
“You have to have channels in place to distribute the information in a safe and secure way, but make sure it is usable without overwhelming the whole system,” Powell advised.
The message from both was clear. If you’re not social yet, you better become so sooner rather than later.