The Digital Conversationalist

10 tips on how to be a world class Social Media leader

I was delighted to speak at the Social Selling 2018 event in Singapore, organized by Black Marketing and Chris J Reed. It attracted a fantastic audience and wonderful speakers, and I want to thank everyone who came up after my speech, or shared on social media, that they enjoyed my insights. That’s the #givingeconomy in action and I really appreciate it.

It was a great event, so put it on your calendars for 2019!!

One of my content commitments every time I speak, is to summarise either the talk or answer questions that are asked. For those not in the room (and others interested in my deck), I decided to put together a summary of what I discussed this time, much of it involved how to be a social media leader.


It’s all about trust

I kicked off my presentation talking about the fact we are living through a significant time of distrust – which we can all feel, when considering the global instability impacting us all.

There is no doubt we are living through a time of cataclysmic change which impacts every aspect of our lives… and fingers crossed it doesn’t all end in catastrophic destruction!

For business leaders, trust (or lack-of) is a critical issue to understand in today’s environment.

Every year, I read Edelman’s Trust Barometer, as well as other trust research, to understand the lay-of-the-land for business within a world of distrust. This report should be required reading.

While lack of trust saw its biggest spikes, especially in places like the US (the Trump effect), UK and Australia, trust has gained significant ground in many countries in Asia – notably China.

On the positive side, business leaders have regained trust and are expected to lead on the critical issues facing our time – the environment, equality, diversity, and so much more. Let’s hope they embrace this opportunity. You rarely get given a second chance after all.

However, the best news for me was, the experts are back in fashion! Obviously, the Fake News crisis has helped, because people like us haven’t always been vigilant enough in what we share. No matter, the world is a better place when we listen to the experts.


It’s all about the customer

Once we understand that earning and sustaining trust must be a critical strategic priority for all businesses today, the next reflection needed is to really sit back and understand where the customer is and how they are interacting in the world.

And the customer is overwhelmed. We know that, because we are all customers and we all have thousands of brands vying for our attention and wallets.

We’re not just overwhelmed by work priorities either. We’re being overwhelmed by all of the news and events competing for our attention on the digital channels. Everything. Hurricanes. Human catastrophe. The refugee crisis. Donald Trump. The global economy. Serena Williams. Nike and Colin Kaepernick. Rising intolerance and racism. As well as the local moments happening in every country. You name it. We’re being bombarded by it.

So, what are we doing? We’re withdrawing inside our bubbles of trust, where only those welcome can join us inside. We’re protecting ourselves from the onslaught and craziness of this time.

How can a brand break through when our walls are higher than ever before?

Well we empower our people, as social leaders, to participate with integrity and relevancy on social channels. That’s the opportunity today. It’s not employee advocacy. It’s social leadership and this trend is only beginning.

I believe all professionals in business today have an amazing opportunity to lead on social media. To be ambassadors for their brands. However, first, it’s critical to be an ambassador for yourself.

The revolution taking place right now is we, the people, have power. For the first time in human history, the powerful do not own the information cycle. We do. We read what we want, have access to all the world’s information, can create our own information, and we don’t have to let anyone or anything in that doesn’t align to our ideals. That is both a positive and a negative.

For brands, it is your employees who have access to the customer inside the bubbles of trust, because we the people have that rare quality – we are trusted. Time to embrace it.


Here are my top 10 tips to be a world class social media leader

  1. Focus – if you’re all over the place and no one can pin you down, it is very difficult to be heard or to build a profile as an expert in your field. The statement – the riches are in the niches – is very relevant to successful social leadership. Get laser-focused on what you want to be known for, put your stake firmly in the ground, and spend 80 per cent of your time on professional social media channels talking about this topic. That is how you become known, by being focused. If you don’t know what your focus is, ask your community, but it is always something deep inside, something you’re passionate about, and it’s usually linked to that little bit of magic you bring to the world
  2. World Class Content – the next step is to start sharing world class content. If you want to be a social leader, creating your own content is critical. However, the vast majority of my time is spent sharing other people’s world class content, but always ALWAYS with my opinion on why I am sharing it. We need to help people find and spend time with great content, so if you always include your opinion on why you’re sharing information, you are already performing better than most today, because you’re delivering a service. This is how you draw people to you and your content. And the final point – participate. I wasn’t going to include this as content initially, but then realized it is. It’s also the best way to establish yourself – by commenting, asking questions, and creating conversations on other people’s content. Yes, that is what we’re there for right? To create conversations. Both the curation of content with your opinion included and participation in other’s posts/content is microblogging and it’s very powerful. Make this the majority of your efforts on social media, and you will start to build a solid social leadership position. Equally, if writing isn’t your strong point, it’s never been easier to do video, and you can also draw, design, share photos to tell a story, and more. The only thing that matters is value – is it Amazing, Inspiring, Useful, Impactful and Worth your audience’s time?
  3. Integrity is everything – 100 per cent of the C-level business leaders I work with do not appreciate the megaphone approach to social media so common today. To be a social leader, I believe integrity is everything, especially if you want to get your bosses support and respect. So, don’t preach, serve. Don’t sell, earn your audience’s respect for your knowledge and wisdom. I encourage everyone to set a goal for your social participation too. Mine is to make people laugh, think or cry – across all of my social media platforms. That clear goal really works for me, as it guides everything I do. I’m not claiming perfection, of course, we are all a work in progress
  4. Grit is King – there is too much talk about short-cuts to success in the social world, and the reality is, if you want to claim your space as a social leader, you need to make a commitment and be in it for the long haul. I have been doing this for more than a decade, and for nearly eight years, no one was talking back. I kept going, because I really believed in social leadership as the career opportunity and social change opportunity of our time. Claim your space, but keep going, no matter what. It is getting harder and harder to stand out, however with integrity and passion at the core, you have more chance to shine through
  5. Build a tribe – I know the term tribe is a bit overused, but that’s what we’re in the business of doing today. Recently, Seth Godin said: if you’re seeking to build awareness, consider building a community instead. To me, this is a tribe. What is a tribe? A social division in a traditional society consisting of families or communities linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties, with a common culture and dialect, typically having a recognized leader. Really think about what this means as you build your tribe. You are the leader of your own tribe, but it is the collective cooperation that ensures tribes flourish
  6. Audience – while this should be the most obvious thing, most people think about what they want to say, versus what their audience wants to hear. Ask your customers: what do you care about? What frightens you today? What are your biggest challenges? How can I help you? Then address your content to answer those questions. Always, always put yourselves in your customer’s shoes. That is how you become a world class social leader
  7. Don’t do too much – we are living in the era of content shock and there is so much coming at all of us today! Everyone is overwhelmed and suffering from FOMO!! At the same time, a constant issue raised by the professionals I work with is the amount of time needed to succeed on social media. My answer is: do less but always be world-class when you show up. Don’t add to the noise. Add value and a quality of information your audience can’t ignore, and you will break through the clutter of infobesity. However, if you are creating your own content, it does require more time commitment. Start with one blog or video a month, and once you start feeling the benefits, you will naturally make the time to do more. However, you don’t have to do more than you can handle right now. Find your starting point and get going
  8. Be positive – we are living in a time when fears and anxieties are filling our digital channels every day. It gets overwhelming some days, depressing too. However, I believe we gain nothing when we are part of the negative cycle of information. People will switch off us, because we’re all getting too much of it and don’t want to hear it anymore!! Sure, we can’t help contributing to it sometimes – it’s a frightening time for the world – but if you can, be a positive force for good in the world. Your audience will appreciate it
  9. Give (#GivingEconomy) – If you want to be a world class social leader, spend as much time helping others succeed as you do with anything else on social media. The more senior or influential you are, the more impactful that is. Succeeding on social media is not a solo-sport. It’s about all of us, coming together, engaging in conversation and supporting each other. Not just the stars, but everyone who is delivering real value to their social networks. If there are amazing people in your community doing amazing work, help them succeed. You will gain so much more in return with this mindset
  10. Be You – I know authenticity is an overused word today, but it is a must if you want to be a successful social leader. When you are not authentic, it comes through – no matter how you try to hide it. So, tap into your deepest self, share your passion for your topic, and don’t get distracted by all of the other noise going on around you. It’s so easy to get distracted by everything else going on, to let that voice in your head tell you you’re not good enough, etc…. Push it all aside and go for it. The more authentic and genuine you are, the more people will trust what you have to say

Don’t sell. Share

Don’t pitch. Serve

I love this quote…

“The best way to sell something: Don’t sell anything. Earn the awareness, respect and trust of those who buy.” Rand Fishkin, founder, Moz

I have built my entire business with this philosophy and I know it works. I want everyone to understand that it works too.

If you take three things away, I hope it’s this

  1. Get focused – this is the first and most important part of building a social leadership position
  2. Deliver excellence – the only way to be world class is to always, always have this mindset in how you participate on social media
  3. Be of service – one of the most important things to do, is to have a real mindset of serving your audience. It’s not about you, it’s never been about you

Here’s the deck if you’re interested

I hope writing this helps anyone who wants to be a world class social leader, take the reins, get out there and do it! It really is a privilege we can all enjoy today, and I will continue to share my passion for social leadership, because it is beyond powerful the benefits you gain when you do it well.

Anything else needs to be added to my top 10? Let me know? I’m always learning.



Want proof social leadership transforms business and attracts customers?

Check out this case study with IBM Asia Pacific. Incredible results.

Want to be a super star online?

Social leadership

Don’t know where to start, check out my e-learning course How to build a rock star personal brand today.

I believe it’s time for all of us to embrace our voice and embrace the future. We do this by working and living out loud with meaning, intention and by being true to ourselves.

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