History changed on September 26, 1960 when a calm and confident John F. Kennedy debated a sickly looking Richard Nixon in the first televised presidential debate. Those who listened on the radio thought Nixon had won, whilst the majority who watched TV, thought Kennedy the winner. From this point forward leaders needed to focus on presentation and connecting with their audience. A similar paradigm shift is now occurring with the mainstreaming of social media. Employees are increasingly expecting more transparency and clarity from their leaders. In order to achieve this, modern leadership must be social media savvy. If a leader wants to bring about change in their organization, social media is now a necessary tool to get the message out and convince people to follow along.  If a leader is not active on social media, they are seen as out of touch, and not able to embrace the modern world.

Start a conversation

The basis of an effective social campaign starts with great content. What do you have to say, how is it different, and why will people buy into what you are saying? Remember that you are not addressing an audience, you are opening a dialog with them. Transparent leadership involves a feedback loop, where what is added to the dialog is more important than what is initially said. By starting a dialog, you are engaging people in your change.

Be you

Your initial content does not need to be perfectly crafted, and should be more spontaneous. This provides an openness and authenticity that makes it inviting for others to join in the conversation. Believe in something, be yourself and show your human side; Tell your story. This is part of building your personal brand. Your audience should be able to develop a sense of who you are, what you stand for, and ultimately how this reflects your corporate responsibility. This will help to develop a sense of trust from your audience. Don’t be like many of today Execs who hide behind a PR team – that sanitize the message, and blog on their behalf.

Packaging and distribution

The packaging of this content is also important. Keep it brief, and release it regularly. There is an unrealistic expectation of social media that by crafting a detailed message, and by putting it out there –  it will go viral. The truth is that the strongest social media audiences are built over a period of time, with consistent, ongoing dialog. Understand how to spread your message on social media. In social media the hierarchy is defined not by your position on the organizational chart, but by the number, and quality of your followers. It’s important to know the social media ‘rock stars’ in your company who most certainly come from corners of the company you may not have direct contact with today. Engage these ‘rock stars’ to ensure that they activate their networks to your message.

Using social media, leaders can transparently share what their companies are up to, in an honest, and authentic way. This enables new connections with employees, and other communities including, vendors and investors. It’s a great way to build the social capital required to bring about that real change you have always believed in.

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