One of the more challenging things for business leaders to understand about social media is how much it is about sharing “love.” When I bring it up with clients, I usually need to pause for the “wait… what?” response. The general concept may demand an extra mindset shift for those in the business-to-business (B2B) world. More pointedly, I’ve realized that being open to receiving this social media “love” is even harder for most to grasp than the idea of giving it.
And, no. It’s not just you. This does sound suspiciously like relationship self-help. But, after meeting another leader whose contributions would amplify her company’s innovative work — if only she’d bring her voice and wisdom to social media — I’m convinced the metaphor is apt.
A Tale of Two Leaders
Here’s a quick case study taken from my experience at a national industry event (with individual and organization names omitted):
Leader A: This impressive corporate leader was on a panel of fellow big thinkers and policy types where he shared some history and statistics about his company’s innovations. He was proud of his team’s noteworthy work, and rightly so. The conference audience was very engaged and excited to hear all he shared. It was apparent that this company had been a too-quiet industry influence for some time, but that day their low profile approach was clearly a missed opportunity. The audience of also influential leaders in the field had no obvious place to direct their appreciation. They could not go wild sharing and cheering in that important social media moment.
Lesson: Fans of this leader and company have no easy way to show their B2B “love.” The company has not established that they are open to it by creating and developing a Twitter entity to receive it. Of course, the company may not support individual leaders on social media as a way to avoid risk. But, that could be a tad shortsighted. The organizations that find ways to support, if not encourage, their individual leaders in use of social media miss out in significant ways.
Leader B: This leader has major name recognition as a government official and an excellent, active Twitter handle. After her rousing and inspiring keynote, the like-minded conference attendees went nuts with joy. Those of us on Twitter relished hooting, cheering and re-sharing each other’s celebrations of her leadership. We collectively believed that everyone in the world should find a way to hear her speak, and our “love” of her in the conference Twitter stream made that very apparent.
Lesson: This leader and her organization know that accepting “love” is smart and will only further the impact of their messaging. She speaks and tweets as authentically as possible given her official role, and it inspires. Worth note: while everything this organization does as a government body is quite transparent, their communications teams realize it is important to continually point the public to their work — narrating their own story in real time. They need not be dependent on media coverage, which can be a big bonus.
Authentic Leaders Love “With”
In the excellent primer on executive use of social media, The Engaged Leader,author Charlene Li writes about the move from talking at people to sharing withthem. In my mind, this point is not given enough attention in a frantic social media posting culture. (Do yourself a favor and read her book).
The vulnerability necessary to share with, rather than talk at, simply builds more trust. Still, the one-way, broadcast is often the default — if my eight years of seeing anecdotal examples is any indication. When there is no authentic give and take, there can be no “love.” No “love” means any relationship created will be short-term (to return to the self-help metaphor).
Instead, an authentic leader’s social stream — whether in the form of their individual or organizational account — will be noticeably generous. It will thank or cheer others, be a curation of valuable links, and add value to the broader conversations. A more intentional, “sharing with” method reflects an unusually social media-aware leader and builds lasting, mutually-beneficial connections.
Lower Boundaries, More “Love”
As leadership consultant Ron Carucci put it recently in Forbes : “Prevailing management wisdom has over-taught the importance of boundaries in workplace relationships.” While he’s specifically referencing employee engagement, I’d argue that this applies to the unnecessarily high boundaries in all sorts of relationships leaders need to be developing.
The leaders on Twitter who share “love” powerfully disprove that prevailing management wisdom. By becoming more accessible through social media participation, wise B2B relationship-builders actually change the paradigm. They become vulnerable. They give of their expertise and support others long before they take.
Leaders who share with others and trust the process will more than earn the “love” they (are sure to) receive. Are you ready to be exposed to it?