Leadership and authenticity in a social world

The debate in business circles as to whether senior management should actively use Twitter as a business tool resurfaces consistently and has been the subject of many marketing studies along with its digital cousins. Application of the insights that these studies offer to brands, brand management teams (and to all businesses that understand the power of branding), will most usually be managed in consultation with a communications professional.

Virtual handshake

Virtual handshake


The information available online is top notch with a value in man power and resources in the tens of thousands of dollars. I urge all communications professionals to tap into this well of intelligence and ask the hard questions about your brand’s relationship to social media. For the sake of this post, the real question that needs to be asked is – what is the social engagement employed by your management team and how much discussion has there been about the likely correlation between leadership, authenticity and knowledge sharing. Let’s be honest, in a knowledge economy this understanding is gold.

For businesses to use social media frequently, consistently and deliver relevant content, we all know that this translates to commitment. If real-time communication is pertinent to a brand, then you should see a well-used account; but what of those brands where the leaders have built businesses and are themselves crucial to a brand’s success? What does Twitter offer them? Or what does it say about them as brand innovators, business people and most profoundly, as people?

I checked out a number of leaders across the creative industries and was pleasantly surprised to see and read posts that were in some cases unrelated to their professional lives. Personal hobbies, art and culture, the purchase of a new dining room table – such posts sit with political links, ideas and innovation. The accessibility and openness of these interactions helps us to find meaning in our virtual relationships, and from a business perspective they provide insights into the human dynamic of potential business partners. The act of ‘following’ others is also a curious notion. Do those who follow others have a greater curiosity and interest in people and their communities than those who don’t? If you are open to others and their experiences in work and play, are you more likely to succeed as a leader?

Back in 2012, around about the time when the worth of social media engagement became a hot topic in communication circles, global public relations consultancy Weber Shandwick conducted research in the form of an audit gauging online engagement activities between 2010-2012. The study looked at the effect that social CEO’s had on companies and provided insights that remain relevant. The following key findings came across loud and clear –

1. 76% of executives said it was a good idea.
2. CEO’s that were active on social media were perceived to be better communicators and better leaders.
3. Employees feel inspired, proud and that they’re working for a tech savvy business when their CEO’s are active on social media.
4. When CEO’s are social there is a direct impact on business results, reputation is improved and employee engagement increases.

The study [ http://www.webershandwick.com/uploads/news/files/Social-CEO-Study.pdf ] raises questions that brands and management teams should already have asked. If not, go ahead, win some strategic communications kudos by including this issue on your next communications meeting agenda. If you’re not in communications, don’t be shy.

And if you still aren’t clear about the far reaching impact that strategic social communications can deliver, check out Bill Gates’ Twitter account. Ask yourself how his leadership, authenticity and knowledge sharing are affecting the world we live in. Ask yourself if your perceptions can be shifted by the activities, views and intelligence of others. Ask yourself how the combination of genuine and strategic communications can make a difference to your brand from the top of your organisation down, from the inside out.

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