Most people have very strong opinions about social media. I recently had the opportunity to do a presentation on social media to an audience of my coworkers. One of the first questions I asked was, “Do you like social media?” I enjoyed watching the changing expressions across the Zoom call. Everyone had something to say, but there seemed to be two opinions coming through:
“It’s annoying, pointless, frustrating, depressing, dividing.”
“It’s inspiring, meaningful, uplifting, and brings us together.”
These are both valid perspectives, and I find that my own opinion changes day to day. Some days, it makes sense to just log out and read a nice fiction book instead of banging my head on the desk as some political leader or weird uncle totes the latest falsehood. Other days, I spend hours collecting quotes or stories for my personal growth. For example, I may dive into an article that enlightens me on a subject I know nothing about. Ultimately, social media has helped me find friends, build community, and grow professionally and personally.
At ACHIEVE, our leadership team is encouraged to participate in social media for a variety of reasons. Staying offline for the sake of avoiding potential sticky social traps is a missed opportunity. Showing up on social media helps us stay informed, evolves our professional and personal connections, puts a face to our organization, connects us with people we may not normally connect with, and gives us an opportunity to share our personal stories.
Here are four reasons why leaders should engage with social media:
1. Stay Informed
Most social media platforms now have trending articles and hashtags for you to view as soon as you log in. This is a great opportunity to see what people are talking about and why. Join the conversation by sharing a post or article and adding your thoughts.
It’s impossible to know everything all the time, but social media can help leaders get ahead of the curve. Knowing what changes are happening in your sector and the world around you can help you make critical decisions to protect your business and your employees.
Social media is constantly changing, innovating new ways for people to connect and communicate. If you feel intimidated by it, my advice is to stay active so that changes are less abrupt.
It’s impossible to know everything all the time, but social media can help leaders get ahead of the curve.
2. Find Different Perspectives
Ah, the dreaded comments section. When it comes to news stories, I would advise against diving too deeply into the public comments. However, there is much to be learned from the commentary of your peers. LinkedIn is one of my favourite places to see what others have commented on trending articles. Take some time each week to check out what your networks (and your competition) are posting and commenting.
Social media allows us to connect with people we may have missed at a past networking event, someone we have admired from afar, or folks we have never met but who have vastly different life and professional experiences than us. Take a moment to look at who you follow on your platforms – do they look, sound, and act like you? Why is that? Be sure to follow a diverse range of people to broaden your outlook and gain insight.
Follow leaders in their respective communities to see what they are talking about. How can you emulate the conversations and engagement they are creating on their own platforms? The intent isn’t to copy what they are doing, but rather to gain inspiration from how they interact with their community.
3. Humanize Your Organization
People listen to people, not faceless companies. When we are looking for recommendations for a new product or service, we ask our friends, family, and networks. While organizations are not people, having a real human connected to a professional social media account can do wonders. As a leader of an organization, you can link your account to the company’s, share posts to your personal social media account, and help influence social media marketing with your voice.
While the logistics of making this happen will depend on your organizational set-up, the main takeaway is that having a real human element on an often-impersonal internet will help create trust with your existing clients and potential customers.
4. Make Lasting Connections
Given the current state of the world, most of our networking has to be done online. I’ve seen a lot of folks grumble about the amount we have to connect online – and I get it – but I also see a huge opportunity for us to lean in and adapt. Organizations that can evolve quickly and become online innovators stand a good chance of surviving and even thriving during these times.
Your organization has the opportunity to be a force of good. Read a post that moved you? Comment, like, share. You already give positive reinforcement in-person, so don’t be afraid to do it online.
Be brave, authentic, and innovative in your online presence, and you’ll go far.
Look at who you follow on your platforms – do they look, sound, and act like you? Why is that?
I want you to remember that your story and perspective matter. Think of content that has changed your mind. Think of content that has made you verklempt or has driven you to take some action. It’s likely that a personal narrative was tied into a call to action. Social media, whether you like it or not, can create waves of change.
When you create or share content on social media, remember that people are following you. Whatever your professional title may be, you are ultimately a human being, and people appreciate the vulnerability of posting things that are important to you and dear to your heart.
Your relationship with social media is what you make it. The key is to form your own style, create boundaries around your online presence, log on consistently, and show up authentically.
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