If you are like many leaders, it’s hard to find the time for social media. Delegating it to an assistant or even hiring an outside firm to manage it for you is an easy way to eliminate something from your already too-long to-do list, right?
That is a big mistake, according to Justin Foster, cofounder of the branding firm root + river. Foster believes that there is a truth waiting to be amplified inside every organization. The most successful companies today are the ones that know that truth and how to share it with customers and employees alike. And as a leader, that task needs to begin with you.
I spent some time talking with Foster to find out why.
Q: We know why social media is important for companies, but tell us why it’s important for individual leaders, too?
A: Most customers and employees now expect a level of engagement from a brand’s leaders. They don’t want to hear from a logo. They want to know that a company has a face, a voice, a personality. They want to feel a connection to a person. The leaders of innovative organizations are eager to be the “Face of the Brand” — especially the CEO. They don’t use spokespeople. They reach out to and listen to employees and customers. They talk directly with the media. For them, social media engagement is a natural extension of their thinking and behavior. The reverse is true as well. Leaders that are uncomfortable being the “face” will struggle with individual social media usage.
Q: What’s wrong with delegating social media?
A: Some delegation is fine. For example, having a content creator interview leaders for blog posts or videos. However, the more “social” of social media — such as Twitter — requires direct engagement. Delegating engagement is either a sign of insecurity or arrogance — neither of which are 21st century leadership habits.
Q: What do you say to leaders who feel they can’t spare the time to keep up with their own Twitter accounts?
A: Even a leader that it fully engaged in social media is only spending a sum total of 15 – 20 minutes per day. So to be blunt, I think saying there is not enough time is an excuse. Leaders that love people, that love interaction, make time. From a practical perspective, 100 percent of social engagement can be done on a mobile device. This allows a leader to fit social engagement into the seams of life.
Q: What sort of payoffs can leaders who do make the time to engage with their customers and employees online expect?
A: Social is a spherical strategy, not a linear one like an ad campaign. As such, the payoff is spherical as well. In essence, leaders that engage in social media exponentially increase the brand’s digital sphere of influence. Simply put, they reach more people than organizations that don’t have leaders using social. This reach means more brand awareness, a larger platform for message amplification, and a broader net for talent attraction. Internally, it sustains cultural integrity by having leaders that come out from behind the logo and lead the brand from the front.
Q: What sort of conversations should leaders be having through social media?
A: In a 21st century organization, one of the CEO’s primary responsibilities is the human experience of the people that touch the brand — employees, customers, communities. Leaders that are having conversations with these constituencies are directly connected to influencing the brand experience externally and internally. They are doing quality assurance, R&D, marketing, recruiting etc. — all just by listening and interacting on social.
Q: What sort of things do leaders need to be careful of in their social engagements?
A: I believe it’s the same things a leader needs to be careful about in their daily lives:
- Don’t be boring.
- Don’t be stupid.
- Don’t be fake.
- Don’t be a jerk.
This is why there is a direct correlation between emotional intelligence, EQ, and how a leader engages with people — either on-line or off-line.
Q: How should a leader’s social media integrate with the company’s social media from a branding standpoint?
A: A leader’s social media presence should be separate, but aligned, with the company’s brand strategy. For publicly traded companies, this means the social media presence of a leader should have a ratio of 70 percent company focused and 30 percent personal. For an owner, this ratio actually flips to 70 percent personal and 30 percent company.
Q: Who are some CEOs that are hitting the ball out of the park when it comes to social media?
A: Mark Cuban, Richard Branson, Satya Nadella and Marissa Mayer are great examples. Tim Cook has also dramatically increased his social engagement. For smaller organizations, a CEO that is engaged on social remains a competitive advantage. There is still digital real estate to be earned through engagement — especially in non-tech brands.
Q: Can you give us an example of one of their best tweets?
A: There are really no “best of” tweets. It’s more about intention, authenticity, consistency, and level of interaction. Not coincidentally, these are the same timeless factors of being an interesting conversationalist!
This article was written by Bryce Hoffman from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.