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A new breed of leaders: Six social media must-haves

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There is a critical gap that exists today in b2b businesses—focusing on creating social media literacy. According to an article in McKinsey Quarterly titled Six Social Media Skills Every Leader Needs: “Organizational social-media literacy is fast becoming a source of competitive advantage.” I’d like to thank Thad Zylka of JDA Software for sharing this with me. A smart organization will understand that creating a groundswell for your brand starts from the inside, top down. The fear and trepidation of embracing social media will lessen if we can educate and properly arm our internal troops to use social media tools. But this takes a new breed of leaders.

The leaders themselves must have the right skills to affect change company-wide by putting the right controls, policies and practices in place to truly harness the power of social media. According to McKinsey, this means at the organizational level, leaders should encourage usage through thoughtful orchestration and role modeling, become architects of social-media-friendly infrastructure, and stay ahead of rapid technology shifts. I want to emphasize the six things McKinsey laid out and elaborate on those.

The leader as content producer

As the McKinsey article states: “As video communication rises in importance, effective leadership will increasingly require the kind of creative skills we know from the world of ‘auteur’ filmmaking—an authentic voice, imagination and the ability to craft compelling stories and to turn them into media products that make people take note and lean forward.” The new leader must understand how to effectively communicate consistently, not just once a quarter in a production environment, but with frequent updates that’s raw and unpolished.

The leader as distributor

The new leaders must understand this paradigm shift and look at ways to influence their messages to get to the right people and the right channels using an internal blog to promote frequent communication and exchange ideas. This can foster a culture of openness and engagement— the ability to help spread positive culture for the company. Understanding how the distribution channels work to increase word of mouth can help the organization and its brand.

The leader as recipient

It can be overwhelming managing multiple channels to consume information and communicate with your audience. What executives must decide is when and where to engage to get the most bang for their time. The world is changing and the leader must see the entire communication universe for what it is, decipher which channels are crucial and when to engage with their audience. They must understand which channels are important for consuming information and which channels are right for engaging and participating.

The leader as adviser and orchestrator

According to McKinsey, social media literacy is still in its infancy. We’re often excited to launch and roll without putting emphasis on raising the media literacy first with key stakeholders and the rest of the company. Smart leaders can help accelerate organizational change by tapping the right social media natives to launch an education program. My advice and something we’ve put in place at JDA Software: Start small, then grow using a phased approach. Educate the leaders, bloggers, HR, legal and customer-facing groups. This is how you create a groundswell.

The leader as architect

To affect change, the leader must enforce controls to mitigate risks to the brand. This means architecting a model that embraces internal and external interactions and a sense of shared responsibility—through a social media policy and best practices to maintain the integrity of the brand while enabling your employees to openly share information.

The leader as analyst

Creating an agile, responsive organization means that the leader must understand the implications of emerging trends and technology innovations. According to McKinsey, executives who monitor weak signals and experiment with new technologies and devices will be able to act quickly and capture the advantages of early adoption. I believe that leaders who understand which technologies yield results will be better positioned to align their overall strategy with future investments— to better arm their employees and serve their customers.

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