Social media is a relatively young phenomenon, but everyone at least knows what it is, even if they don’t know how to use it. And while most senior-level executives know what social media is and how powerful it can be for organisations, the majority don’t necessarily understand how they themselves can take advantage of it.
Social media matters for one simple reason: the sheer number of people who use it. In August 2015 Facebook passed an important milestone, with one billion users in a single day, along with well over 1.5 unique users each month. Coupled with the ease with which users can create and share content, it’s easy to see why social media has become so universally popular.
Despite the undeniable power of social media, however, many organisations continue to resist taking part, either because they fail to recognise its potential, or they don’t understand how they can leverage that potential. Because there’s no single metric that organisations can use to measure the financial impact of using social media platforms, it’s easy to overlook what social media can do.
Just as many organisations underestimate social media, so too do many senior executives. The reasons for this are virtually identical: many execs don’t really “get” how to use social media, and as a result they don’t see its potential.
Top-Level Execs Who are Doing Social Media Right
Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn: the “top three” social media platforms have well over two billion users between them. While there are many organisations and individuals who are using these platforms to great effect, it’s also all too easy to get it wrong. Examining the ways in which senior-level execs are using social media is a useful strategy for improving your own profile. So who’s doing it right?
Richard Branson: An active blogger and social media user, Branson uses a mix of social media platforms to create and share content, and regularly links to his own blog posts on Twitter and Facebook as well as highlighting news and content from other sources. This strategy has easily allowed Branson to solidify his reputation as a thought leader with more than 2.2 Facebook and 6.5 million Twitter followers.
Arianna Huffington: The LinkedIn profile of the President and Editor-in-Chief of The Huffington Post Media Group demonstrates how valuable content curation can be. Huffington regularly publishes articles to LinkedIn, with a balanced mix of personal and professional topics that have helped her accumulate 2.5 million followers on that platform alone.
Padmasree Warrior: Former CTO of both Cisco and Motorola, Padmasree Warrior demonstrates that social media is immensely useful when it comes to making powerful people seem more relatable. Warrior is highly active on Twitter, posting frequently on a wide range of professional and personal topics, and comes across as being both relatable and likeable, having earned more than 1.6 million followers.
Tips for Using Social Media
Start with a good profile: When you create a social media account you can, if you choose, add a great deal of both professional and personal information, and it’s definitely a good idea to add plenty of detail. At the very least, a profile should include a biography, photo, and career history, with reference to your professional experiences and skills.
Network, network, network: For organisations, social media is typically all about marketing, with Twitter and Facebook the most common platforms being used for this purpose. For individuals with networking in mind, LinkedIn is generally the place to be. If getting started on LinkedIn feels daunting, think of it in terms of real-life networking: simply start by connecting with people you already know. Over time you’ll make new connections just as you would in the real-life work environment, either by naturally coming into contact with new people, or being introduced by existing contacts.
Mix professionalism with personality: Professionalism is essential when you’re networking on LinkedIn, but it’s not necessarily the best approach on Twitter. The 140 character limit lends itself to a much less formal approach, which means Twitter is a good place to let your personality shine through.
Protect your reputation: Information travels quickly on the internet, and while you can delete information and content from your account, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s gone for good. And once you establish a professional presence online, your online persona and reputation become an integral part of your reputation overall. As a result, it’s always important to carefully consider what kinds of content you share, and ensure that you’re not posting anything that might hurt your reputation in the future.