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Learning to leverage social media is one of the top five ways managers can future-proof their success, according to new research by the CMI.

The survey, which assessed the competencies of 750 of the UK’s top leaders, revealed that technology was the most common area of weakness, with over two thirds of managers admitting that they are ineffective at using social media.

Are you among the anti-social 68 per cent? Javier Burón, CEO of Twitter management platform SocialBro, explains why managers can’t afford to ignore social media and how senior staff can add value online.

1. Learn to listen

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard CEOs and senior managers say that they know their company should be on Twitter but they don’t see the point in embracing it personally. The easiest way to get value from social media is through listening. Take the opportunity to follow conversations and find out what your customers, shareholders, competitors and prospects really think about your brand. Twitter can also help you to understand what is being said about competitors and keep abreast of trends and changes with your industry and market. 

2. Then talk

You are the spokesperson for your company in the media. Show your customers you value them by speaking to them directly through social channels. It’s likely that they are already talking about you so get involved in the discussion. And I don’t just mean sending out automated sales tweets about your products. Talk knowledgeably about your industry and answer questions as they arise. Once you get more comfortable using social media, focus your time on engaging users with lots of followers or connections and who post insightful content. To do this effectively, consider using a social media analytics tool, which will help you to track down the influencers in your industry.

3. Don’t fear debate

Everybody has heard about Twitter backlashes but these are avoidable and the benefits of open discussion and (usually) constructive feedback outweigh the risks. If the criticism needs to be addressed by one of your team, take the conversation away from the eyes of the public by asking the complainant to send you their email address via direct message.

4. Remember the value of experience  

Many companies entrust social media activity to their most junior staff. While they may have more time in their schedule and seem more confident in the social sphere, they are unlikely to have the wealth of industry experience to engage in the kind of conversations that position your business as a leader in its field. Don’t hand the keys to your Twitter to someone who is under-qualified just because you think you’re too busy. You wouldn’t send them off to a business pitch without support so don’t expect them to carry your online reputation alone either.  

5. Social isn’t about time wasting 

Yes, the internet is a wonderful thing for those with a tendency to procrastinate, and many CEOs cite lack of time as a reason for not using social media. But it’s just as easy to waste time going for coffee with someone who turns out to have nothing to bring to the table. Make your time go further by using social media to research the people you want to talk to on an individual basis. Start the conversation online, judge its worth and then decide whether or not to take several hours out of your day to meet them face to face. This is just one example of where doing social right can make everything else seem like a waste of time. Use social media wisely, taking advantage of time-saving management tools like SocialBro, and it can make you more efficient in the long run.

6. Expand your network

Twitter is great way to make new contacts, helping you to build relationships with people in different cities or even on another continent. Striking up a conversation on Twitter with someone you want to link up with can be just as valuable as attending a physical networking event. You can pick and choose the people you talk to and you have the added benefit of being able to guarantee the quality of your coffee.

7. Keep up with your team

Your employees, particularly younger members of staff, are likely to be active on social media. In order to manage them and be seen as relevant, you need to understand what they are doing online. While you may decide to keep your social engagement to a minimum, you can’t be an effective manager if you refuse to keep up with technology.

8. Trust your staff

With an understanding of social media comes the confidence to empower your staff to experiment – within reason. Give them the time and support to try out new ideas but remember to draw a line at anything that falls outside your company ethos. It sounds simple but sometimes people need to be reminded not to insult your customers or use offensive language. 

9. Don’t fall behind

Chances are, your more disruptive competitors are already pushing the boundaries on social media. You might be beating them now, but if you leave the field open for them online you can bet that they will catch up with you, winning the most talented staff and stealing your customers.

10. Social media isn’t going away

Just like email and mobile phones, social media changed the way we work. You can try to ignore it but it isn’t going to disappear any time soon. Don’t be like those dinosaur directors who still write their email by hand to pass on to their PA; get involved in the social conversation now and reap the benefits.