Social leadership is the opportunity of our time, and yet for some reason, companies are completely distracted chasing external influencers they can’t control to become brand advocates, instead of looking within. The best influencers and advocates any company has today are its employees. More so in the B2B space. No one knows their customers like the employees do.

You may have noticed I refer to it as social leadership versus personal branding, and that’s because the latter covers too many aspects – not just digital. Therefore, to more closely define what I’m talking about, you’ll see me using the description social leadership.

What is social leadership?

It’s your eminence on social media.

It’s your digital persona.

It’s who you are, what you stand for, and what you want to be known for.

It’s the opportunity for any professional seeking to build an incredible career today and if you’re not doing it, I have to ask you – why not?

Equally, if your company is not asking you to embrace social leadership and become an advocate for yourself first, the brand second, well they are missing the opportunity too. Worse, if they are asking you to be a mouthpiece for the brand and not considering your eminence, then they are entirely misunderstanding what social leadership is about. People trust people, not brands. They trust you.

Social leadership requires an organisation to embrace its employees across the business, and it flattens out the hierarchy. Champions within a business exist at every level, not just in the senior ranks. It’s a big shift for companies, especially as most are used to controlling the message of their business.

With social media, the ability to control a company message is long gone and we must empower the people our customer’s trust – the employees.

And yet, why aren’t more employees pro-actively embracing social leadership? Taking control of their career?

Over the years, I have uncovered many reasons why people are holding back, including not believing they have permission to be social leaders, or just generally fearing they will make a mistake. Better do nothing than get in trouble, right? Equally, many just don’t know where to start. But it goes deeper than that.

In my work across Asia, I’m starting to get a comprehensive window into consistent challenges professionals are facing. It’s led me to start my training sessions with a simple question: what makes you cynical about building an online presence?

This simple question is opening up the flood gates, and for me, that is priceless information.

The number one reason: there is already so much noise out there, how can I possibly do anything of value that is not just adding to it?

A beautiful, perfect question and one I value above all others, because it demonstrates a level of thought that to be present, you have to deliver value. There’s enough noise. We all know it and it’s getting louder every day. I love hearing professionals appreciating this. It gives me hope.

The answer always comes down to focus.

To build an amazing online presence, you need to become known as an expert in your field of expertise. However, this is not your job, it’s your passion and sometimes when people define their social leadership story, they realize it can be very different to what they assumed it was going to be.

I work hard to get people to tap into their magic. Some people are natural coaches and they love to teach others – whether it’s about technology, leadership or how to be a better professional. Others care about work life balance as the cornerstone of their working life. For some its mindfulness, health and wellness, or being a cheer leader in their communities. And others love nothing more than solving customer challenges.

There are so many possibilities for your focus, but if you can tap into the core skill that you have – your magic in life and at work – and wrap your personal brand around this, well, you won’t be noisy, you’ll be sharing your passion and people can’t resist passion.

The number two reason is time: it takes so much time and I’m already frantic with the commitments I have?

There are two components to this answer.

First is you must stop doing something that no longer serves you or your company. I see a lot of people spending a lot of time running around in circles doing things that no longer work in the human-to-human world. This work continues because everyone knows how to do it and the company knows how to measure it.

“The new source of power is not money in the hands of a few, but information in the hands of many” John Naisbitt

Show me a marketing spreadsheet or your sales results, and I’ll show you a gaping hole in results on activities that no longer serve the business. I get it. We are speaking about massive transformation.

But individually, we all need to take a step back and say: what no longer serves me? What isn’t getting me the results I need?

The second part is: where do we start?

There are many tips and tricks to make yourself efficient – which I’ve blogged about before and I’ll be releasing an elearning series shortly to dig deeper into this topic – but you do not have to spend an enormous amount of time to be present and engaged on social media.

Once you have your core focus, make a commitment to share two articles a week that align to your theme. It can be from any publication, but the content has to be so good, it speaks to your soul. You want to stand out and build a great brand – only share the best content!

First rule of social leadership – always ALWAYS read anything you share and always ALWAYS tell people why you’re sharing it. You are helping people filter through the minefield of content today – your opinion on why you are sharing something is vital. No opinion – I have to ask: did you even read it?

So you’ve found two pieces of content, please make sure you read them completely (quality reflects on your brand right?), and the next step is: schedule it to appear throughout the week – on Tuesday and Thursday, or Wednesday and Friday. It doesn’t matter. Consistency is important. I use Hootsuite to schedule content.

Total time to share two pieces with your opinion – 30 minutes a week max.

You can spare 30 minutes right?

After that, make sure you engage with anyone who speaks to you on social media, and when you find some spare time during the week – in a taxi, on a train, in between meetings, etc… go onto LinkedIn, Twitter, or wherever you decide to be present, and comment on other people’s posts, share great blogs from friends/colleagues, praise colleagues, share photos of great professional experiences, etc…

This simple method gives you structure, as well as the opportunity to be pro-active throughout the week.

It’s not much right? You can do that, yes?

The truth is, you don’t need to do too much anyway, because if you do, the chances are you’ll overwhelm your audience and people will switch off from you.

I think the biggest misconception about social leadership is how much time you have to spend doing it. Sure, you can dedicate a lot of time to it, but you don’t have to. I spend a lot of time on social media and content marketing, but it’s core to my business and what I’m doing in the world.

Start small and grow as your love for it grows. You can always build your presence and commit more time once you experience the benefits. But find the starting point. That’s the critical piece.

Total time with a few interactions across the week – 45 minutes.

Of course, if you start to blog, you need to add a couple of hours into your week (it doesn’t have to be weekly though), but initially, just start with sharing two great pieces. A bigger commitment with blogging, podcasting, v-logging, etc… is not for everyone, but if you can get there, I promise great ROI if you do an awesome job.

However, one additional thought. If you can also share one piece of company content, even better, because you benefit by the association with your brand. By sharing company content, your business starts to benefit, sees the results of employee advocacy, and starts to support you. But again, only share company content you love. This is your brand, not the companies. Always be proud of what you share.

Conclusion

I love personal branding/social leadership. It is incredibly empowering and I experience massive results every single day. Social leadership keeps me connected to the people I know and care about, however it has also helped me to build a global community and is the core of why I have been able to start my entrepreneurial journey. I live it. Trust me. It works.

But you’ve got to find your starting place. You can’t outsource this and succeed. This is your voice on social media. Own it and become a legend in your field. Also see my last blog on 20 things you can do right now – because making sure your social media profiles are updated and look good is critical too.

My advice is get focused and start in a manageable way. You can grow from there, but you’ve got to start – always the biggest block. I’ve given you what I believe is the most important step here – work out what your magic is – your focus – and then work relentlessly to become known for it.

The rest of the social leadership journey evolves from there.

I really hope this is of value. Please do let me know if you have any other issues stopping you or any other tips to help people take the first step?

Cheers

Andrea

Take action image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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