Thursday, March 7, 2013

Take a Chance on Social Media Leadership

Rupert Murdoch recently made headlines in the online world by personally responding to a tweet from a disgruntled customer (a Wall Street Journal subscriber complaining that it wasn't being delivered to him), and offering to personally intervene in getting his issue resolved. Murdoch's action was endorsed by some online commentators as an example of how CEOs can use Twitter to engage directly with customers.

But is this really the best use of a CEO's time? I'm not criticising Murdoch here - it's generally a good thing when a CEO takes some interest in other levels of their organisation - but I don't think this is the best way for a leader to use social media. If this was a one-off event, and an example of Rupert Murdoch trying to walk a mile in a customer service representative's shoes, then fair enough (and congratulations to him for doing it). But it shouldn't be held up as an example of how leaders should use social media in general. It's unreasonable for customers to expect business leaders to respond to every little problem, and it's unrealistic for leaders to commit time and effort into these activities.

As a business owner or business leader, you're responsible for strategy, not low-level tactics and customer service. You might be involved in the customer service strategy, but that doesn't mean you should be responding to customer tweets every day.

So what should you be doing instead?

If you're a thought leader or business leader, you have important messages to share with certain stakeholders. So think of social media as just another way to share those messages. Instead of using it as a tool for two-way conversations and discussion, use it as a tool for one-way communication of your key messages. This is the key focus of social media leadership - which is about how leaders should use social media effectively.

I realise this is a controversial approach to social media. Most social media experts will tell you to engage in conversations, build your followers, reply to everybody, and actively spend time in online discussions. And I'm telling you not to do these things!

So yes, you do need to take a chance on this idea of social media leadership! But if you embrace this idea, it can reap a number of benefits.

Here are some of the benefits:

  • You focus on strategy: Instead of getting caught up in the day-to-day details of customer service and marketing, you do what you should be doing: the overall strategy and direction of your organisation.
  • You don't interfere: You leave the customer service and marketing activities to the right people. These are the people who have the responsibility, the resources and the skills to do them properly. Oh, and by the way, they probably don't appreciate the CEO interfering with them.
  • You cut through the clutter: If you only use social media when you've got something worthwhile to share (and not tweeting 20 times a day just for the sake of it), you're more likely to be noticed.
  • You position yourself as a leader: Organisations, communities and tribes want and need leadership. Everybody isn't equal, and when you have a leadership position, your followers expect you to act as a leader.

So take a chance on social media leadership!

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