CEOs who don’t take social media very seriously are an endangered species – top SA futurist

If you aren’t tweeting and checking in regularly to social media channels, and have delegated these roles to others, you are in danger of becoming a business dinosaur. That is the stark and compelling warning from Graeme Codrington, one of South Africa’s most sought-after futurists in global business circles, in this open letter to CEOs. 

Social media is more than a technology – it is a mindset, he explains. It is also, he reminds us, a phenomenon that is reshaping every aspect of business.

Graeme is known for delivering scary messages in a palatable, entertaining way. But don’t be fooled by his mesmerising charm: his ideas are backed by in-depth analysis, and he has a team of full-time researchers working on identifying the really important trends that will shape the future world of work. Ignore his words at your peril. – JC


Graeme Codrington - don't delegate all your social media engagement or you will soon be obsolete.
Graeme Codrington – don’t delegate all your social media engagement or you will soon be obsolete.

By Graeme Codrington

Dear CEO,

You’ll lose 100% of the shots you don’t take.

You’ll find this pithy advice in almost every motivational book. But being a cliché doesn’t mean it isn’t true. You have to be in it to win it.

In the business world, this maxim is applied when companies look seriously at new opportunities and take risks in new markets. This is the essence of business development, and most business leaders pride themselves in their ability to spot key growth opportunities and push their companies towards these.

It seems strange then, how few CEOs are taking social media seriously. An American report released last week by Domo and surveyed 500 top CEOs and discovered that less than 4% of them were active on Twitter. Fully two thirds of them (68%) have no social media presence at all. The only network CEOs have a reasonable presence is LinkedIn, but these are mainly just static profiles with no interaction or activity.

So, possibly the greatest revolution in communication is a mystery to the world’s business leaders. This is a space they have no personal understanding of. So how can they make decisions that are meaningful in this space? And how can they lead their companies into the digital age?

My colleague, Mike Saunders, based out of South Africa, is one of the world’s leading thinkers in what is being called ‘social business’: the ways in which social media is reshaping every aspect of business. He has recently written about the importance of social media for businesses in what we call ‘the connection economy’ – his post is well worth reading. The key point is that CEOs and business leaders need to get their heads into this game. It’s not something they should simply delegate to others – it’s something they should be personally invested in. Social media is more than technology: it’s a mindset.

Another social business expert (and also ex-colleague of ours at TomorrowToday), Mike Stopforth, also wrote recently about why leaders should take social media seriously. He quotes a McKinsey research report: “by fully implementing social technologies, companies can potentially raise the output of employees by 20 to 25 per cent. McKinsey’s research also reveals that seventy two per cent of companies use social technologies in some way, but very few actually realise the full benefits.” Could it be because the implementations do not reach the very top? I am pretty certain this is key!

Business leaders who do not embrace social media are becoming dinosaurs in their industries and within their own companies. Luckily, this is fairly easy to fix. But it will require them to step out into unknown areas where they have limited skills and no experience, where they risk making mistakes and possibly looking a bit foolish (none of this has to happen, of course, if they’d be prepared to get training and assistance – something most CEOs are not keen on). So, this boils down to a control issue really. And possibly a pride issue too. But the alternative is extinction.

Come on, CEOs, do the right thing! Get some skin in the game. And get into social media.

Graeme Codrington is a speaker, author, futurist, board advisor and expert on the new world of work. He is director and international parter at TomorrowToday. For more about him, visit