It is interesting to note that many established leaders are ignorant of the possibilities of using cyberspace in their communication strategies, whilst their followers are open-minded and active. The silent message from these leaders is that they don’t care that communication has changed or that they need to remain abreast of the changes. We cannot lead or communicate as we have in the past, we need to “speak the language” that our followers want to hear. With careful and strategic planning, even just to understand and to use one mechanism of social media, could be enough to give the message of “I care, I’m nearly there, I’m coming with you” to your team. Don’t be a dinosaur – interact with your team on their communication platform. If you as an experienced leader do not feel you need to use cyberspace, please ensure that you at least understand it!
Social media has made the world one big global village dominated by the strength of relationships in a currency of caring, powered by word of mouth. Remember when one person would complain to one other? Those days are over, now you can tell the world. Social media cannot be called new media, it can be called now media. It is not going to go away, so leaders need to embrace and understand it – and then use it effectively as part of a strategic communication plan. It does not mean that you cancel out all traditional media (television, radio, magazines and newspapers) as these have a perceived elevated credibility factor. Because the coverage has had to be approved by an editor, the audience perceives the information to be more credible, unlike social media where there is no barrier to entry online. Tangible materials such as magazines and newspapers are subject to greater emotional processing (measured by brain activity in the visual and spatial areas). Greater emotional response and deeper impact is what you are wanting when you are building a brand, so don’t move from traditional to social media in isolation; rather try to integrate the two. Duplicate your traditional media coverage into the online platforms for deeper impact.
Leaders make the mistake of trying to prevent their staff accessing social media in work time, banning it completely. Instead, they should explore ways in which it could benefit the business, for example restricting the times of access eg lunchtimes and one other hour. It can be used for collaboration and knowledge sharing, research using online focus groups, networking, community building and advertising. Like anything, it needs a level of commitment, responsibility, maturity and balance. Business is built and expanded through inter-personal relationships, and social media offers vast access for this. Social media is free, instant, reactive, allows conversation, is accessible and has powerful reach. There is no credibility factor, no barrier to entry, so anyone can say anything, anywhere. Know that and manage your personal brand accordingly.