Tuesday 21 October 2014 8:12 pm

Why leaders should use social media

You can build brand trust by engaging directly with your customers, so don’t be shy.
Few chief executives of companies on the FTSE 350 stock index have a presence on social media. While nearly all of them recognise the importance of digital media to their organisations, they still resist using it themselves. They talk about how their tweets can be taken out of context and misquoted in the media. They say they see no return on their time investment, especially when it comes to blogging. While I accept that there are difficulties and dangers, I believe that these leaders are denying themselves a powerful way of creating competitive advantage. Here are six reasons to engage.


There’s no doubt that when business leaders engage in conversations with their customers online, all of those watching are more likely to trust the brand as a result, because they see the person behind the company. These leaders can talk about their vision and values, giving more character to their leadership. People trust people, not institutions.


Being active on social media shows that you are listening. It enables leaders to flatten hierarchies and get things done. When leaders are online and listening, they are far more able to influence the conversations that matter. 
They can learn things first-hand about how customers perceive their services – things that they can take back into the organisation and actually do something about. Having done so, they are able to communicate back to customers to improve reputation and build loyalty.


Leadership takes place in the thousands of conversations that you have with your followers and supporters. Whether you like it or not, these conversations are taking place, and the worst thing to do is to ignore them and not try to influence them. When you can find out what people are really thinking, feeling and doing, you can begin to have a positive influence on those beliefs and behaviours.


One of the great advantages of using social media is that you can speak directly to audiences. Not too long ago, business leaders had only a loose control over the messages being transmitted to the public. But with Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels, leaders can communicate their vision in an unambiguous way to a wide and varied audience. They can be much more consistent in their communications with multiple stakeholders, curating their own content, rather than relying on others.


By creating online “places”, where people with common interests can “hang out” (this point especially applies to Google’s social media channels), business leaders can create mutually beneficial networks. Within those online networks, leaders can ask for help and advice, and enable others to do the same. 
They can post content, articles, information and news about topics of interest to their community. Creating these communities is easier than you might think. 


Leaders everywhere are trying to build more open and collaborative business cultures, with employees connecting with and learning from each other in order to thrive in a world of blistering speed. This is a powerful way to enhance the innovation and imagination of staff. When leaders demonstrate collaboration through their online activities, it is a potent signal – others will follow their example. Leaders who use social media can build relationship capital with important stakeholders.
Kevin Murray is chairman of The Good Relations Group and is the author of two best-selling books: The Language of Leaders, and Communicate to Inspire, published by Kogan Page.

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