5 steps to becoming a social media leader

Social Media icons on a smartphone

Michelle Carvill, who has provided social media advice and training to organisations including the BBC, LinkedIn and PwC, offers her best tips for becoming more influential in the online world

Thanks to the ever-changing digital landscape, leading a business in a socially connected world can be likened to a relentless game of space invaders, where regardless of how great a shot you are, spaceships continuously emerge.

It’s therefore no surprise that digital transformation is firmly on the agenda of many c-suite discussions. And with it comes a range of topics: the internet of things (IoT), blockchain, augmented reality (AR), artificial intelligence (AI), chatbots, talking tech – and of course social technologies, which include the now, not so new, social media channels.

If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed and are not au fait with being a ‘socially connected’ leader, then these five tips to help you create a social media strategy will help. 

1. Figure out your ‘why’

You may already have absolute clarity on your ‘purpose’. Why you do what you do, why you lead the way you do, why you work for the organisation you do. This ‘guiding’ purpose drives you and keeps you motivated. From a social media strategy perspective, your purpose steers your message, your content creation, who you tune in to and connect with. If you’re not clear, then I urge you to ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are your values, beliefs and passions?
  • Why would someone want to follow you?
  • How do you inspire others?
  • What cause or purpose do you champion?
  • What is your purpose for being social?

It’s quite a useful exercise to ask others to answer these questions about you too. Ask your peers, family members or friends. People whose opinion you trust. The outcomes will assist you with defining your personal brand, what you want to be known for and how you translate that across various media.

2. Understand how you ‘show up’

One quick way to evaluate your current ‘digital footprint’ is to take to your trusty smartphone – and simply, Google yourself. Then ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do people find when they currently search for you?
  • Are you happy with what’s out there?
  • How recent are any articles? Are they from years ago – or right up to date?
  • Are there any elements that you feel are missing?
  • Are you the leading brand custodian?
  • Are you seen to be a thought leader – championing the big IDEA, leading the conversation?
  • Is your digital footprint how you want it to be?

This short and simple exercise is often quite illuminating.

Of course, you ideally want to be visible where your audiences are – and as a leader, a key audience will be those you lead and inspire within your organisation. How visible are you within your organisation? These same questions can be applied internally as well as externally.

3. Listen before you engage

You have two ears, two eyes and just one mouth. On social media activity, be sure to use them in accordance.

Start with listening. My Smart Social Focus Model © – Plan, Listen, Analyse, Engage, Measure – focuses on listening well before engagement takes place.

Many people just dive in and start sharing. But that’s not smart and it’s not focused. Start with listening, and continue to listen.

Without exception, every one of the leaders I interviewed told me that the ability to tune in and listen to customers, competition, partners, suppliers, influencers, thought leaders, investors etc – quickly and simply via social media, was gold.

Whether it’s running simple searches on the networks, tracking keywords on Google Alerts or using more sophisticated tools – tune in and start listening before you even think about engaging.

4. Plan your content – If you don’t plan for it to happen, then it won’t happen

Listening in will help you steer your content too. You’ll understand what others are saying or asking. This can be a great start.

Other content ideas are frequently asked questions or email themes you find yourself repeatedly sharing. Some of the best content that engages others is when it is solving a problem they have.

Speak to your teams too, find out common issues that arise. If you have a front-line customer service team speak to them also, they are often an under-utilised goldmine of information.

As to content planning, this is a seriously meaty topic. A simple exercise is to map out January – December and have a look at what’s happening in your world, spot opportunities for key content development, around key dates or events.

The goal is to make content creation a habit. Sit down with your team, agency or PA once a week and review your content plan, commitments and opportunities.

5. FTI – Beware of ‘failure to implement’

Failure to implement is a terrible disease. Despite learning about this many years ago, I still see it everywhere. Training courses, away days, planning sessions. I’ve even fallen prey to it myself.

Most ideas or plans fail thanks to FTI. It doesn’t matter how fired up you are, and how great the plans are, if you simply don’t take action and implement – things don’t happen. There’s no opportunity to review, revamp, revisit and learn.

Research shows us that if you’re held accountable to others, then you’re far more likely to implement. Therefore, be sure to share your plan and targets with a coach or colleague and plan regular check ins.

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About author

Michelle Carvill

Michelle Carvill

Michelle Carvill is Founder of Carvill Creative - a social media marketing agency founded in 2002. Passionate about the digital future, she advises clients on online marketing communication and Social Media Strategies and leads a team delivering practical social media planning and daily management.

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