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Leadership Q&A: A Leader’s Guide to Social Media

Social media has swept across the world so quickly that there is no longer any choice about whether to participate or not. Some of the platforms that are used are Facebook, Twitter, weblogs, email, LinkedIn, Ning and Groupsite. Each has it own purpose and use for assisting organizations to develop the social aspect of their business. image

The challenge for organizational leaders is to understand social media’s strategic value. Just having a Facebook page to keep up with the kids is not a sufficient strategic approach to use. In order to think strategically, it is important to know what social media is and isn’t. Here are are five basic keys to understanding the usefulness of social media for organizational leaders.

1. Social media is a tool. As a tool, it is the Swiss army knife of communication. It provides a wealth of ways to communicate your message, receive feedback, monitor progress and stay in touch with people. It is a tool like any other tool. It can be useful or a waste of time and money. It matters how you use it.

2. Social media tools serve our relationships, not vice versa. Social media’s primary purpose is relationship building, not advertising or public relations. It marks the shift from business interactions based on branded abstractions to concrete interactions of people who discover how to meet their mutual needs. Establishing rapport with people, building a network of relationships, and the formation of a tribe that wants to celebrate your company is the right sort of impact for the use of social media tools .

3. Social media’s influence is based on trust. Guy Kawasaki said as much a year ago. Think of trust as a strategic asset. How is it developed, utilized and possibly squandered? This is the key to understanding the importance of social media. It is where we learn how to be transparent, engaged in conversation and open to people outside our daily circle of relationships. These are qualities of leaders and organizations that the public increasingly expects for us to deliver.

4. Social media is a strategic initiative that links the three dimensions of leadership to create a higher level of impact for your organization. The three dimensions are Ideas, Relationships and Organizational structure. Social media is a communication tool for articulating ideas.
Circle of Impact - Simple

It is a tool for connecting people together and for creating networks that leverage the relational aspects of business to create a broader market and resource base. Social media tools elevate the ability of organizations to function collaboratively.  No more silos.  Using social media tools allow for the dynamic at work in the Circle of Impact to expand the opportunities for impact. As a result, higher levels of efficiency and effectiveness are possible from even a nominal investment of time and resources in social media tools.

5. Social media’s impact is directly related to the consistency and strategic purpose of their use. A consistent, timely response is essential if the tools are to make a difference that matters. Remember, to use these tools is to start an on-going conversation that is a give-and-take between people. It is therefore important that clarity of purpose and measures of impact are defined in order to manage the large investment of time and attention.

For leaders of organizations, there really isn’t a choice any longer. Social media must be a part of your overall business strategy. The tools are many and are regularly expanding in choice and sophistication. As a result your plan must be constantly updated in order not to lose ground to competitors.

Social media has potential far beyond what I’ve mentioned here. My advice is start with one application and learn how it functions so that you have a baseline for understanding other tools. The range of choices are from traditional weblogs to Facebook pages to online social networks based on shared interest to online networking tools. Each has their unique value.  Continue to ask what kind of relationships you want with your clients, vendors, stakeholders, employees and industry, then select the social media tools that fits those aims.

Social media isn’t the wave of the future. It is the here and now, marking the next new era in organizational life.  It is the strategic asset that can most easily expand your impact.  The difference can be significant.

About the author

Dr. Ed Brenegar I'm a leadership speaker, writer and consultant who is a mentor and catalyst for change. I assist leaders and their teams in the transitions required to succeed in today's complex organizational environment. I live in Western North Carolina. I'm involved the Boy Scouts, a charitable leadership training group called Lessons In Leadership, an ordained Presbyterian Church USA minister, and am the host of the Say Thanks Every Day social network.

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