Tim Scott and I have spent the last few months talking to leaders from a range of sectors and industries about how and why they use social media in their roles. For some, it is about sales and marketing. For others, it is about understanding trends and key issues. For others still, it is about being present for customers, members or service users.
You can find all of the interviews from the series here.
When it comes to social media, Tim and I typically offer a three-step piece of straightforward advice: Be you, dive in, share stuff.
We believe that you get the most out of social media when you get involved with the conversation. It is a place to be authentic – showing up as yourself, not an auto-generated post. It’s about sharing your ideas and knowledge, about adding to the dialogue, and also disseminating information with the people that follow you for the greater good.
When it comes to the leaders we talked too, there are some common themes. Here’s a summary of what they told us.
First of all, social leaders show their personality. As Simon Blake said, using social media makes you human. It’s not just about professional posts or corporate messages, but sharing a bit of family and personal too. Social leaders understand that you don’t have to always have to wear that leadership face.
Social leaders understand how to fit it in – and they do it. When we talk to people about using social media, time is often one of the biggest barriers they put up. People think it’s going to take up too much of it. But it just doesn’t have to. Social media is about filling in the minutes. G and I are breakfast tweeters, often found on social media alongside tea and toast. Peter Cheese checks Twitter in taxis or train journeys. It’s about making the time – and those leaders who see the benefits do just that. And, as Asif Choudry said…. JFDI.
Social leaders value the direct connections. Whether it is connecting with customers, members or constituents, they listen, engage and respond. Tom Riordan, Chief Executive of Leeds City Council said that Twitter gives him a direct communication route to the outside world. They recognise the benefits of the immediacy and speed of information.
Social leaders pick their platforms. They understand that different social spaces provide different results and opportunities. They know that you can’t do them all. So they find the one that works for them best. As Rebecca Jeffery said – pick the platform that suits your personality!
Social leaders don’t worry too much about the potential negatives. There can be downsides to social media use. You will find the occasional troll. You will always find someone who disagrees with you and isn’t afraid to say so. There can be harassment or bullying, or even people stealing examples of your work. But our leaders recognised that the good stuff of social media outweighs the bad.
Social leaders use social media as learning for themselves. Social media can be a valuable learning tool. The concept of the personal learning network has gained interest of late. The idea that your social connections can be a valuable source of information and knowledge. It can also be a way of keeping up to date with trends, technology and opportunities. As Phil Jones , MD of Brother said… it puts you at the epicentre of understanding.
Interestingly, Twitter is the most used platform. All of our leaders are using it, one way or another. We love Jo Swinson’s description of why she loves Twitter: ‘its immediacy, for the brevity… and also the curation of randomness that you can put together in your stream’.
Social leaders do it for themselves. None of the people we spoke to outsources their own voice to anyone one else. As Asif said… if you can’t be bothered posting your own content, don’t do it at all.
We’d like to say a huge thanks to all of the leaders who took the time to share their thoughts, views and insights on how they use social media. We really hope this has been and will continue to be a useful resource for aspiring social leaders in every sector.
Before we began this series we believed one thing: that social media presents an opportunity for leaders. An opportunity to engage with customers and employees alike, to create a personal brand, to lead authentically and openly. To share and collaborate in a different way. To role model the digital skills that all organisations need now and tomorrow.
It is still a rare thing to see leaders using social media really well. There are some excellent examples but they are few and far between. Previous research into Fortune 500 CEO’s found that whilst most of them could be found on LinkedIn, they weren’t exactly active. Those that had managed to find their way to other platforms like Twitter still weren’t really all that social. This is why we wrote our practical guide for social media for leaders. To encourage them to get more social for the benefit of them, and their organisations.
The time for social leadership is now.