Embracing social media: What every leader should know

Social media has changed the way we communicate and share information. Over the past few years social has truly become part of our identities, both business and personal. Recent stats indicate that 72% of all internet users are active on social media, a number that isn’t likely to go down. 89% of internet users under the age of 30 actively participate in social media platforms – and businesses have taken notice.

 

Brands are actively engaging their audiences on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram with exciting results. There’s no doubt that social media is one of the fastest and most effective ways for organizations to connect with their audience, gain brand exposure, and build loyalty – but is the same true for executives?

 

 

The short answer is yes.

 

 

Connect and conquer

Executives are uniquely positioned to carve out influential spaces for themselves on social media. They already have name recognition, which gives them a tremendous boost on day one. If they are consistent in sharing their point of view with their audiences, they can give themselves, and their companies, an opportunity to build relationships with the people who matter most – customers, partners, and influencers. With a Twitter feed or LinkedIn blog, executives can start, guide, and participate in the conversations happening in their industry instead of hearing about them later. In fact, they just might be key to their organizations’ overall PR strategy.

 

 

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, is an example of just how powerful an executive can be on social media. His recent Tweet sent Tesla stocks soaring – all from a few well-placed words. A few years ago, he used Twitter to publicly fact-check a New York Times review that contained misleading information about the Tesla Model S, a move that lent strength and credibility to his brand.

 

 

While not every executive can expect such dramatic results, it’s never too late to polish up on your social smarts and start connecting with the people who care about what you have to say.

 

 

Put your best foot forward

Like most powerful tools, social media doesn’t always produce desirable results. Victories outweigh disasters, but the echoes of a poorly timed Tweet or ill-worded Facebook post can last for months. Here are a few things executives can do to assure their foray into social media provides value and reduces communications risk:  

 

  • Consult a professional. Social media can be confusing, even for someone who uses it on a personal level. Meet with someone who specializes in social media for business leaders – a pro who can quickly evaluate where you stand, give you pointers, and steer you in the right direction for future success.

 

  • Create rules. Knowing best practices for what you should and should not post will help safeguard against poorly worded statements, or posts that could be deemed offensive. Quick rule of thumb: if you’re not sure, don’t hit “Send.”

 

  • Stay secure. Set up a security protocol for handling your accounts so they don’t fall into the wrong hands. Review your security plan every few months to change your passwords and ensure that nothing is outdated.

 

  • Show your personality. People want to connect with leaders on a personal level. Social media is a great way to directly engage people all over the world in a relaxed, casual way.

 

  • Be aware of passionate responses. It’s easy to ignite passion and spark discussion on social media – but tread carefully. If someone is harassing you or your followers, don’t be afraid to block and report them. On the other hand, don't automatically pass off an opposing opinion as "trolling". It's important to know the difference between an audience member and a harasser.

 

  • Don't be opportunistic. There's a big difference between responding to the moment and responding inappropriately to the moment. Some media moments are made for you and your product - like when Arby's tweeted timely about Pharell's hat at the Grammys. Other conversations are better left to the news. For example, promotions  leveraging the discussions about Ebola are in very poor taste and disregard the fears and suffering of many. If it's hard to know the difference, see the first advice and consult a pro.

From championing social causes to marketing their brand, executives can make a difference with just a few clicks. As social media evolves and adopts more users, it isn’t just smart to hop on the bandwagon – it’s a precursor to professional success. Leaders have the power to start and maintain smart, respectful conversations around their brands, so what are you waiting for? Get social!

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