Ten Social Business Lessons from Warren Buffett

The recently completed Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting (#BRK2016) in Omaha offers lessons for integrating social media into business strategy.


1. Be patient. Warren Buffett joined Twitter just before the 2013 annual meeting during a live television broadcast. He has tweeted only eight times, but his account has more than one million followers.


2. Be strategic. Buffett's most recent tweet, April 29, promoted the first-ever live steaming (#BRKLivestream) of the Berkshire meeting by Yahoo! Finance.


3. Be entertaining. Buffett acknowledges that, "There's a little bit of P.T. Barnam in me." Buffett again brought celebrities to Omaha - singers Paul Anka and Jimmy Buffett, writer and producer Vince Gilligan, and former super-model turned business woman Kathy Ireland.


4. Cultivate offline relationships. Buffett's social network of Bill Gates (28.4 million Twitter followers), Becky Quick (110,000 Twitter followers), Andrew Sorkin (498,000 Twitter followers) and others is active promoting his ideas within social media. In Twitter, for example, our NodeXL social network analysis (SNA) consistently finds that Gates, Quick and Sorkin are near the center of influence year after year.


5. Coordinate traditional and social media. Buffett is a reliable source for The New York Times, CNBC, Fox Business, Yahoo and others. His message is consistent across media platforms.


6. Feed the beast. Buffett and Gates offer photo opportunities with an annual newspaper toss before the meeting and a Ping-Pong match after it. Traditional and social media devour these videos.

7. Timing is everything. Investors jammed into the CenturyLink arena at 7 a.m. The live stream began at 9:30 a.m. central, with a break for lunch. The business meeting and voting did not begin until 3:45 p.m. This minimized the publicity damage from a rejected climate change motion related to the potential risk to Berkshire's extensive insurance business, which Buffett denied.

8. Stretch the event. Buffett and his associates sit for strategic media interviews before, during and after the meeting - including a lengthy annual question and answer session with CNBC on Monday morning. The UNO Social Media Lab tracked a growing social media conversation throughout the many days across platforms - Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.

9. Reinforce the brand. In many ways, Buffett projects the brand of value investing. He offers a consistent message over 51 years of Berkshire Hathaway that successful business is about long-term relationships.

10. Never give up. Buffett at 85, and his partner Charlie Munger at 92, show few signs of slowing down. On stage for hours Saturday, they quipped about working to 100. They clearly love the work and find passion for it.

Too many social media plays are short-term with no business relationship in mind. In isolation from broader business goals, social media strategies and tactics are likely to fall short.

By contrast, Berkshire Hathaway, investors, and Buffett's extensive personal network in business, politics, entertainment and sports guarantees that his name is always buzzing across media and social media channels.