Berkshire Hathaway 2013 Annual Meeting Audience Question # 61

How social media has affected Berkshire’s businesses

Warren Buffett:

OK. Station 2.

Audience Member:

Hi. I’m David Yarus from Miami Beach, Florida.

On behalf of the internet, welcome to Twitter.

And my question is: how has social media impacted your business and any Berkshire companies, and what impact do you see it having on the world in the short and long term?

Warren Buffett:

Probably half the people or more in this audience could answer that question better than I can.

It has… certainly in a place like GEICO, you know, we are… it makes a difference, and over time will make a huge difference in marketing, just as the internet made a change.

I mean, GEICO was founded in 1936 and it had a great business idea of going direct, but it did it entirely by mail, initially, and it worked very well.

And then it progressed to… as the world changed, it, you know, went to TV advertising and phone numbers and that sort of thing, and then it went to the internet, and now it goes on to social media.

So, you know, we have to listen to our customers in all our businesses. Some of them it’s much more dramatic than others.

And I’ve been amazed, you know, at how fast the world has changed. I thought the internet, for example, in terms of GEICO, would affect younger people very quickly, in terms of their buying habits.

But the truth that it spread across the entire age range very, very quickly, a huge change. And you have to respond to that. And I am not the best person, by miles, to do that, but we have people that are very good at it at our businesses, and they’re thinking about it plenty, and they’ll continue to think about it.

But it would be a terrible mistake to put me in charge of social media at Berkshire Hathaway.

And Charlie would not be a particularly good choice, either.

Charlie, do you want to defend yourself, or…

Charlie Munger:

Well, I don’t understand it very well. For very good reason, I avoid it like the plague.

And I hate the idea of the teenagers in my own family immortalizing for all time the three dumbest things they said when they were 13.

Warren Buffett:

We would have been in big trouble, Charlie.

Charlie Munger:

We would have been in big trouble, both of us, if that were the system.

And so I think there’s a time when your ignorance and folly ought to be hidden.

Warren Buffett:

Yeah.

Charlie Munger:

I also think that when you multitask like crazy, like the young people do, none of the tasks is likely to be done well.

Warren Buffett:

Is there anyone we’ve forgotten to offend?

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