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Sometimes a fact just jumps out and grabs you.
I was doing some research for my regular ‘Social CEO of the Week’ blog. The CEO in question was Stuart Garner, owner and Chief Executive of Norton Motorcycles, the iconic British brand which he rescued from obscurity with a combination of his own money and investment from the British Government.
Picture © Amit Lennon (www.amitlennon.com)
I read an article about him in Director magazine and this bit stopped me in my tracks:
The big boost came when George Osborne, the chancellor, announced £4m (approx. $5.8m) of government funding to support 600 new jobs for Norton and its business partners. How did Garner pull off such a feat?
“It started off when I tweeted George Osborne, who’d announced he’d invested £10m in Ford to make a cleaner Ford transit engine. “I said, ‘What about us?’ and a week later his private secretary called me and said, ‘We’d like to have a conversation: we’ve had a look at your business because you’ve sent a tweet. What’s going off at Norton?’
“To cut a long story short, I knew that George Osborne could write the biggest check of anybody I know. I asked him for £7.5m to rebirth the British motorcycle industry supply chain, the academy and manufacturing. “After following things up, he connected me with an organization called Advanced Manufacturing Supply Chain Initiative (AMSCI) and within three months the grant was agreed.” The £4m was supplemented with another £2.65m from Santander Bank.
Wow. If anything demonstrates the power of social media, that does. It also shows the value of a CEO being ‘social’.
Garner could have approached Osborne through the ‘official’ channels, but the fact he did it via Twitter — in public — put the onus on Osborne to respond. After all, Garner had already staked a lot of his own money and his reputation on rebuilding an iconic British brand. By reaching out to the Chancellor in such a public way, what could Osborne do? He had to respond and be seen to help.
And there’s the rub. Social’s value (and its danger) is its public nature. What you say is seen by your followers and can be amplified and shared so their followers see it too. Depending on how many followers you have, and how engaged they are with you, this amplification effect can be profound.
In interviewing Garner for my blog post (which was all done via Twitter by the way), I asked him why CEOs should use social media. This was his reply:
“CEOs should be on social media now. It’s a great platform to get connected with ALL stakeholders. This gives better and faster understanding of all aspects surrounding your business.”
There you have it — straight from the horse’s mouth: “CEOs should be on social media now.”
To see how CEOs are putting this into practice on Twitter, have a look at my Twitter list. Some are more active than others, but all understand the value of being seen and being heard on what is arguably the most revolutionary new communications and networking tool the world has ever seen: social media.