Nothing makes me question an executive’s business acumen faster than their resounding “no,” when I ask them if they’re on Twitter. At that point, I visualize my you-can’t-be-serious emoji, I take a deep breath and think to myself, “Hold on, there’s hope.”
Granted, some people are not into sharing their private life with total strangers, and that’s OK. But when you’re a business leader, you’re also a communicator, a broadcaster, the voice of a community that is looking for guidance, reassurance, and above all, for inspiration. If you don’t have an online presence (beyond LinkedIn), in my eyes, you’re slacking. You’re caving. You’re resisting your role.
This has nothing to do with an egocentric or narcissistic need to tell people that you’re the C (anything) O of x company or the President of y organization. Nor it’s about having to hide your personality because you’re representing the #leadership. That’s a total misconception. I’ve lost count of how many executives in corporate America feel that they can’t be themselves on social networks, or that (also for the same reason) they don’t want to support the social presence of the company they work for. Why that’s happening, among other interesting dynamics, is something that I ought to explore in my upcoming book Freedom of Self-Expression in The Era of Social Media.
For those who refuse to read the memo, in the digital era being social isn’t just about expressing one’s views with imagery in 140 characters of witty blurb. Being (on) social is also about sharing knowledge, safeguarding great causes, learning about best practices, and about the world beyond the office’s walls. It’s about creating a community for the purpose of everyone’s highest good, fostering meaningful conversations and having fun in the process of connecting with other human beings, just like you. It’s about taking responsibility for what our society must preserve and what it must undo.
In case you didn’t realize it, being in a leadership position doesn’t mean that you have to blackout your personality or the skills that got you there in the first place. With guidance, you can share your passions, your struggles, your successes, your business life and your goals. There’s a new generation out there wanting to know how you made it, what inspires you, how you relate to others, what makes you a leader, how does your work impact your community and what you think of it all.
The real question here is, how many business leaders are, actually, knowledgeable about the way social media (really) works? Many of you don’t even know the top social platforms’ key features or critical updates, which could impact your company’s communication strategy.
Many of you believe that if you just hire or outsource the best marketing team (never mind your limited knowledge), or that if your business has a presence where it “needs to be seen,” you’re off the hook. In many occasions companies (meaning you) hire other people whose resumes simply read some trending keywords, which don’t always add up to a natural desire to be out there, wanting to talk to the world to connect with others and develop more.
When a leader doesn’t know the digital landscape of their industry, he or she is not familiar with meaningful, digital conversations or with those who are listening. You might have the numbers down from a software tool (data/insights), but if you’re not exploring social media for yourself, as a leader, you’re oblivious to the fact-checking, inquisitive nature, with which the rest of us associate you.
Social networks, as we know them, have changed the business game, in a big way. Some players got played; some winners lost and the underdog now has an amazing opportunity to become an overnight sensation, when a message hits an audience’s spot. Smart businesses are always trying to capitalize on that. In the ‘best’ cases, spending blindly in so-called “influencers,” instead of harnessing their own voice.
Brand Miami is changing, and many leaders here have a lot, on which to catch up! If your business doesn’t have an online presence, never mind whether it’s popular or not, you’re the official member of an older generation, trapped in an archaic business model. You’re missing out on opportunities to connect with the ever-sohungry- for-new-ideas minds of the digital world.
In essence, we all crave what we can’t have, and we get to have what we fight for. But there is not such a thing as teaching someone how to be social. We are who we are, and it is what it is. Not everyone is Richard Branson, Tim Cook or Elon Musk. But no matter how successful you think you are, if you’re not on Twitter, if you don’t fully understand Facebook, if you’ve never pinned a pic or #hashtagged a word, you’re an old-school leader. Something that, perhaps, our thriving community can no longer afford.