Social Media Has Set the Stage for Leadership – Where Auditions are Always Open and Admission Is Free

This article was submitted by Kaitlyn Nakagoshi on behalf of University Alliance and the University of Notre Dame’s online leadership certificate program.  Kaity is a native Floridian, graduated from the University of South Florida with a B.S. in Management and a B.A. in Political Science, and is currently pursuing a master’s in marketing.

It’s virtually impossible to ignore the ubiquitous nature of social media. From viral videos, to trending tweets, to the Facebook “Like”ing revolution, not only has our ability to connect with each other grown, but so has our need to do so.

With this magnitude comes the necessity to manage social media and align its capabilities with an organizations’ culture and goals. This is where business leaders make their grand entrance. Slowly but surely, business leaders have shifted their opinions about social media from seeing it as an unimportant distraction to discovering its profound opportunities.

The Involvement

Although the trend toward social media marketing has risen within the corporate world, there are still those companies who have yet to implement a strategy. Now is the time for leaders to emerge who will not only push for the use of social media, but will lead the discussion.

If for no other reason, leaders need to embrace social media in an effort to engage with their employees. Today’s employees believe effective leadership communication is the single-most important component of internal communications. Recent survey results also indicate that employees are less likely to leave companies that use social media, and are more likely to recommend the company to others.

With more of the Y generation entering the workforce, the need for social media implementation increases, as this young audience wishes to work for companies that are innovative and on the cutting edge within their industry. Natural social creatures, the younger generations also tend to be a companies’ greatest brand ambassadors.

The Approach

The attitude of a business leader not only affects his or her team members, but the business culture itself. Therefore it is critical that approaching a social media campaign be done with the right frame of mind.

Currently, detailed analysis indicates that most business leaders think of social media as a threat to productivity, having little or no business value. A shift in thinking is critical, and social media must be recognized not only as a platform for change and transparency but an integral part of doing business as well.

Once the mental shift happens, a real culture change can take place within an organization, but only if implemented from the top-down. This means inspiring team members, caring about customers and having a willingness to be transparent and accessible to both, through social media channels.

The Downsides

Performing damage control on social media blunders and customer service complaints is an essential part of the leadership-social media relationship.

One such social media blunder was the case of the disgruntled United Airlines passenger who, after seeing his beloved guitar thrown around until eventually broken on the tarmac, did what any irate passenger would do: he wrote a catchy song and made a video about the incident that went viral.

Carroll, the guitar owner, tried to contact United’s customer service department for nine long months, but to no avail. Reaching a level of frustration incompatible with tranquility, he decided to take Goliath down through creative storytelling and social media. This early PR headache was one of the first to draw attention to the fact that social media empowers customers and should be used to strengthen customer service relations.

Another downside of the social media frenzy is the misunderstanding by some that digital connections can replace personal connections.  Make no mistake; social media is a highly effective way of networking and spreading brand messages, but effective leadership means knowing that nothing can replace real interest, honest communication, and a firm handshake.

The Potential

If you’ve been reticent about incorporating social media into your organization’s culture, the time to strategize is now. Be a leader not only within your own business but within your industry as well.

The best way to get involved both internally and online is to provide real help to people. Find the discussions going on within your industry and lend support and advice whenever possible. Look for ways to engage and connect in person both within your organization as well as in your community.

Social media can seem complicated and overwhelming to many of today’s business leaders. By understanding the real power behind it - the ability to tap into the collective talents of potential employees, associates, clients and prospects to transform their business and drive results – the mystery can be replaced with true value. There is no marketing fairy godmother that is going to come around and sprinkle some social media pixie dust on your brand or company. Someone’s got to step forward and lead the way, in order to solidify a bright and successful future.




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