How to leverage social media as a leadership success tool

Womens agenda leveraging social media

This article was first published by Women’s Agenda.

This is Part Six of the Women’s Agenda Emerging Leaders Playbook, supported by Charles Sturt University. See the series here.

Social media can present excellent networking opportunities for emerging leaders. It can offer a space for you to connect and engage with role models, to build a broad professional network, and to promote your expertise to relevant people in your field.

It can also provide an avenue to connect with media and be your own ‘editor’, curating and sharing stories relevant to your industry sector.

In Australia, influential female leaders and non-executive directors like Diane Smith-Gander, Dr Kirstin Ferguson and Ann Sherry are all regularly active on Twitter and other social media platforms. They’re frequently sharing stories, responding to news and events and supporting other emerging leaders.

As McKinsey & Company recently outlined, ‘social media literacy’ is a source of competitive advantage for leaders. Social media is often the key touchpoint between an organisation and its stakeholders—a fact leaders should not ignore. While social media managers and producers can be hired, it’s the leaders who play a vital role in setting the tone, messaging and risk mitigation required.

Being active on social media is a means for building your profile and reputation in the industry. It’s also a space to connect with people, communicate with stakeholders (especially for CEOs) and even engage with and recruit future talent.

Many of the women we spoke to for this series are frequent social media posters and have successfully used it to connect and engage with a wide and useful network. Some of them have even landed traditional media opportunities through building their online profile.

And they don’t just use social media—they enjoy it. They see it as part of their work and daily networking activities. It allows them to stay connected to the areas of work they’re passionate about, to keep learning and to share their ideas and opinions with the world.

Plays for leveraging social media for leadership success

Choose your social networks

You don’t need to be on everything. Chose which networks will work for you and your industry. Twitter and LinkedIn are both excellent if your industry is constantly changing and in the news. Instagram might be better in marketing, design, advertising or other creative industries where visual stories or updates are particularly powerful. Meanwhile, YouTube might be a great platform to invest in if you have regular tips or ideas you’re looking to share with an audience.

Update your LinkedIn profile

Even if you don’t plan on using LinkedIn as one of your regular social platforms, set aside time to update your profile. This is your live résumé and one of the first things people will see when they google your name. Upload a professional photo and take the time to consider the headlines and key pieces of information others will see about you on the platform.

Clean up your digital assets

Do you have social media accounts languishing that you haven’t updated in years? It’s time to either delete or extensively update them. Remember that the bios associated with these accounts might be some of the first things people stumble across when googling your name.

Know your audience

What issues do you want to be known for? What conversations do you want to engage in as a professional? Are you looking to be industry specific, or to cross broader subject areas like diversity, leadership, wellbeing at work, health and safety? Consider the areas you’re passionate about, determine who your ideal audience is and think about the content you need to share to engage with them.

Decide how much time you can dedicate to social media and commit to it

Perhaps it’s 10 minutes a day, or even up to an hour a day. While it may seem impossible to schedule this in, try to think about ‘filler time’. Do you commute to work? If so, create a habit of checking and updating your accounts at this time. Remember, this isn’t about posting weekend pics—it’s about professional networking, knowledge sharing and keeping up to date on the news affecting your life and work.

Engage

To get the most of out of social media, you need to engage with your audience. Respond to questions, ask questions yourself and support others in your sector by liking their comments and participating in their discussions.

Know when to switch off

There’s a good reason why social media is so addictive. In many cases, it’s been intentionally designed to be that way. While scheduling time to engage in social media is important, it’s equally important to set boundaries around how you’ll use social media and when.

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