For business leaders, using social media part-time is a full-time job

For business leaders, being on social media part time is a full-time job
Social media isn’t the ominous Shadow IT it once was. Access to LinkedIn, Twitter, and even Facebook has been relaxed the corporate world over.

And while many front-line employees do their companies proud as social media servants, I also see many senior leaders (arguably the most visible brand ambassadors) miss the boat when it comes to helping the organizations they lead via social.

From the conversations I’ve had, CEOs and other senior leaders start using social media for good reasons. First, they want to appear relevant with their (younger) employees. Optics is everything.

Second, as millennials invade the workplace and transform how organizations communicate inside and out, they believe (rightly) social media is a powerful way to engage with employees who’ve grown up as digital natives.

Over the years, I’ve observed four things leaders (from organizations big and small) do well with social media to grow their personal brand within their organization, and beyond its borders.

1. Pick one social network – and just focus there

For even the most seasoned practitioners, doing social media is hard work! Creating compelling status updates takes energy, time, and a good dose of creativity to do it well. For the small amount of time you’re able to commit, pick just one platform. For what its worth, LinkedIn is a good bet for the busy business person. While I love Twitter, I personally consider it a second-level social network for leaders, as it requires an even greater commitment of time and energy than LinkedIn. If Twitter does interest you, check out this post for a few tips on getting the most out of the platform.

In my opinion, as in most things, it’s better to be great at one thing (like LinkedIn), than be less-than-average at a bunch of things (like LinkedIn, AND Facebook, AND Twitter, AND Instagram, etc…). Once you figure out which platform you like best (and it may take a few false starts…), spend your time there, and only there.

That doesn’t mean you can’t be great at one or more social media platforms. Plenty of people are. My advice – don’t start using more than one platform…you’ll get burnt out quickly.

2. Follow your own company’s social media accounts (please!)

Senior executives and people leaders are the chief brand ambassadors for their companies. In my humble opinion, they have a responsibility to scale and amplify what their company is sharing. Sadly, some do a better job promoting their favorite sports team than their own company. It vexes me when leaders completely ignore what their own organization shares.

Once you’ve chosen your focus social media platform, find your company’s own profiles and follow them. Find a few of your employees, and follow them too. And when they share something, do them a favor – comment on it. Even better, if you feel it’s worthy, share it with your own network. They’ll feel pretty special knowing you took some time out of your busy day by acknowledging them. Selfishly, your marketing team will be grateful too!

3. Don’t use social if you’re not going to be social

The worst thing you can do on social media is show up, and ignore. Employees, customers, prospects, vendors, media…they will all try and connect with you in some capacity. And when they do in meaningful ways, connect back!

When you don’t respond to a tweet, LinkedIn comment, Slack or Yammer update, you send a message to anyone following you. You either don’t have the time, or the interest in engaging with them. You also create (or reinforce) the perception you don’t have interest in using social media as its intended – to be social!

I suspect (and hope) you wouldn’t ignore someone whom you invite into your office, ask them to sit for a conversation, and stare blankly at them when they ask you a direct question. The same principle applies with social media. If you’re ignoring customers, employees or business partners via social – you’re not doing your company or personal brand any good. ’Nuff said.

4. Your comment is the content I value most

This is probably my favorite tip. Business leaders are leaders for a reason. People believe in you. Heck, I believe in you. What you stand for, and what you think. I genuinely want to hear what you have to say.

Said differently, there’s a reason people read your emails, not mine.

Admittedly, writing a book or app recommendation in 140 characters or less is challenging, even for the most skilled Tweeter.

Still, if you’re going to take the time to share or recommend something – an article, app or something else – help me understand why you think it’s important. What inspired you? What makes it relevant to your employees? Add a few words and explain why you feel it’s worth your time (and mine) to consume.

More people than you realize care about what you think, and are eager to access what’s between your ears. Social media might be the perfect way for you to give employees and customers what they want.

Some of the most powerfulinfluential business leaders in the world find time to do right by their employees and customers every day via social media – I believe you can too.

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