Thursday, December 6, 2012

How Much Social Media Time Do You Really Need? (It's Less Than You Think)

Many business owners, leaders and entrepreneurs know they need to be more involved in social media, but worry that it's going to take up too much of their precious time - especially when it's time taken away from their core business. This is a legitimate concern, because of course some people do seem to spend their lives glued to Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. But there's a difference between how much time you can spend on social media, and how much time you need to spend on it. If you're a leader, you might be surprised to discover just how much you can achieve by spending very little time on these platforms.

Of course, the amount of time you need depends on your job and role. If part of your job is to monitor Twitter, engage with customers on your Facebook page, or post event photographs to Pinterest, then you do need to spend significant time on these platforms. But that's because it's part of your job. You're being paid to spend some - maybe even most - of your day there, so what I'm about to share doesn't apply to you.

But what if that isn't the case? If you're a CEO, senior manager, business owner or entrepreneur, it's highly unlikely that social media engagement is a key component of your daily work, let alone one of your KPIs. Even if you're a tech CEO, this isn't necessarily the case (For example, in the early days of Google+, Larry Page, the CEO of Google, was criticized for not using his own social media platform).

To use social media effectively - and efficiently - as a leader, stop treating it as a two-way communication channel, and start thinking of it as a mostly one-way channel. Yes, this is a controversial idea, and flies in the face of what most social media experts will tell you to do. But it's the most effective strategy for most leaders.

Here are five simple things you can start doing now to be a social media leader.

1. Blog

It is appropriate for business leaders to blog regularly, sharing their ideas, insights and vision for the organisation with others. Depending on your organisation, this might be a private blog on the company intranet or a public blog on the public Internet.

2. Record YouTube videos

No, you don't post hilarious videos of your family cat! But there are times when it's appropriate to show your face on camera, and YouTube is one of the most effective ways to do that. There are some well-known examples of CEOs doing this for damage control after a damaging story about their organisation went viral. But don't wait until something goes wrong! Use your YouTube channel to make announcements, talk about your strategy, post media releases, and share success stories about your organisation.

3. Cultivate media relationships

Know where you want your message to be heard, and cultivate relationships with the key influencers in those places. Follow selected bloggers and journalists on Twitter, and re-tweet or reply to their posts occasionally. Go further and comment on their blog posts directly, for an even stronger relationship.

You might have a marketing and PR department to send official media releases to these organisations, but sometimes a personal message direct from the CEO is more powerful than any other form of communication.

4. Host online presentations and conference calls

Host regular conference calls and online presentations, where you take the opportunity to discuss strategic direction and ideas with important stakeholders. These can be run in a number of different ways, depending on what best suits your organisation. Here are some examples:

  • Webinar: A presentation delivered over the Internet, where other participants can see your screen and can hear you speak
  • Teleseminar: Similar, but without visuals (so they can only hear you speak)
  • Conference call: A more open form of teleseminar, where the audience feels more empowered to speak up and participate in the discussion
  • Interview: Somebody interviews you, and the audience listens to the interview live (and has some opportunities to ask questions)
  • Video conference: Similar to an audio conference call, but including video as well
  • Google Hangout: A mix of presentation and discussion, where a few people take part in the discussion, while others can watch live on YouTube

As with your other communication, you can choose whether this is internal or external.

5. Follow influencers on Twitter

All of the examples above are where you use social media for outbound communication. But it can be a powerful inbound communication tool as well (It can still be one-way, just the other way!). As a business leader, it's important to stay on top of trends, environmental changes, current affairs, and other influences on your organisation and industry. You know your favorite sources; now look for ways to subscribe to them online. Follow relevant bloggers and journalists on Twitter, subscribe to RSS feeds from newspapers and magazines, and listen to news and business podcasts.

How can you do social media leadership?

These are just five ideas to get you started on the path to social media leadership. Remember, the key is not about the amount of time you spend, but about the way you use these channels.