Preparing for public life: getting executives ready for social media
Social media matured as a communication channel last year. With an ever-larger percentage of the population signing up to social platforms business leaders are increasingly taking notice. A recent Australian Financial Review article reported that Australian executives are now joining the world of social media to retain control of their brands. Interviewed in that article was an advisor to Wesfarmers and a man whose advice I respect, Andrew Twaits, who stated: “You really need to get involved to some extent yourself, to understand the benefits of how it might apply to your business”. With that in mind let’s look at how a business leader can prepare for life in the social web.
Know what to expect. It is important to set realistic expectations when setting up an account to connect with the public. Just because it’s there doesn’t necessarily mean that people will automatically pay attention. Developing an engaged audience takes time and commitment. Factor this in, because if effort to develop and grow your social presence is seen as a waste of time then undoubtedly the account will be ignored before an audience has had time to engage. This can cause your brand harm.
Unique insights are sought after. As a digital advisor I have heard the phrase ‘I don’t use Twitter as I don’t have anything interesting to say’ more time than I care to count. The fact of the matter is we all have a unique perspective on the world. Business leaders, in particular, have insights and experiences many people are keen to hear about. Use this to your advantage, keep your eye out for developments that your audience would like to know your opinion on, and plan your updates around it. Position yourself as a thought leader.
Be genuine. Social media gives you a chance to let people see you as you really are. There is no need to be afraid of this as long as you are careful about what you write. People actually want to hear what you have to say and get to know the ‘digital you’.
Take deep breaths. While it is important to be genuine and say what you think, this should never be confused with using your social media account as a platform to vent. Demonstrate leadership online as you would in the office and avoid being reactionary and overly emotional – and don’t get caught up in arguments. The general rule of thumb is if you wouldn’t announce it at a networking function you shouldn’t put it online.
Forget the legal department. As a business leader you have the best interests of your brand at heart. It may help to have a discussion with a legal representative who understands social media before you start you account, but you don’t need to get comments and updates cleared. It would slow you down and end up making you sound like a robot.
The long-term benefits of ‘getting involved yourself’ and developing a strong social media network will be far reaching and surprising – just spend the time thinking it through first.