Social media offers many great opportunities for “ordinary” people to become people of influence. How? The more people share, the more influence potentially grows because their audience potentially grows. I addressed who should engage social media and why in Part 1 of Social Media: Why “get on it.”
One of the greatest opportunities for influence, however, lies with business or organizational leaders. Social media is an avenue to thought leadership that reaches employees as well as interested stakeholders. For instance, leaders can influence company direction simply by consistently informing employees about their vision and the direction they are collectively going (remember, it is actually the employees who bring the vision to existence!). Social media offers the most personably direct line of contact beyond one-to-one or one-to-small group contact.
I conducted research at a large company to determine if a blog authored by the CEO would have any bearing on employee connectedness to the company. Other research showed that employees with a deeper level of connectedness to their organizations strongly tend toward having a deeper level of commitment to that company and its work. They see themselves as company representatives. Could a CEO blog positively influence that level of connectedness? That was the research question and the results were a profound, “Yes.” a CEO has a strong opportunity to motivate, direct, mentor, lead and influence employees simply by making himself or herself virtually available to employees. (The complete study is published in the Journal for New Communications Research, Vol. 1, a publication of the Society for New Communications Research).
Throw in podcasts, a vidcast, Twitter, an occasional Instagram pic from an executive leadership team meeting or regional sales meeting and you have an executive gaining significant equity with his or her greatest asset – employees – with a minimal investment of time.
And this goes for divisional VPs, departments directors and anyone else in leadership. The secret is intentionality. In other words, think before you Tweet…or blog…or podcast…or post to Facebook, and say something that matters (more on this in a future article). Other internal communications research shows repeatedly that employees never feel communicated to enough by their leadership. After seeing the results from my study, I am convinced that social media offers a mutual benefit to business leaders and employees. And that’s just the internal influence. Leaders like Michel Hyatt, Thomas Nelson’s chairman of the board (who originally started a blog years ago to communicate to employees) builds influence and goodwill for himself and for his company through his engagement with external audiences as well.
Of course you don’t have to be a CEO or chairman of the board to use social media to influence others. Think of it as, “same-same, but different.” Same principles as the CEO above, but different messages. Do you think an auto mechanic could grow his influence (and business) by helping the rest of us by simply Tweeting things like: “When was the last time you changed your oil? What’s that? You were waiting for the check engine light to come on? Yep, time for a change.”
Or how about a school teacher who shares study tips? How would THAT endear him or her to parents? Or maybe an IT whiz kid who dropped the “Geek Speak” and actually translates the latest technology in layman’s terms so the rest of us can have a clue.
Realistically, social media is a neutral medium and its literally power is in the hands of the beholder. There are a lot of people who aren’t using social media who should because they have something worthwhile to say, and social media is the easiest, cheapest most ubiquitous way to say it to people waiting to be influenced…possibly by you.
(Read Part One of Social Media: Why “get on it?“)