How to Lead Others with Social Media

social media leadershipMy Dad taught me how to use a hammer. How to hold it and swing it just right. How to “let the hammer do the work” as he would say. It’s a small thing, but it’s something I’ve been thankful for my whole life. Something that has made building things easier and more efficient for me.

We’re talking Social Media at work today and as I prepared for the conversation it struck me again what powerful tools Web 2.0 provides leaders. I haven’t been on the “scene” for very long, but by the nature of this beast, I’ve fallen under the influence of a few terrific mentors. Michael Hyatt and Chris Brogan have surfaced for me as the two that most closely fit my philosophy on business and relationships. They’ve taken what I’ve always believed about people and work, and they’ve blazed a trail through the world of social media. Their thoughts and ideas–and mostly their example–have been a tremendous help to me finding my way in this new world.

Leaders need to see Social Media as a toolbox. Like other tools, if you learn to use them wisely, they’ll make your work a lot easier. Likewise, if you use them incorrectly, you can really hurt yourself. And if you don’t use them at all, well, you can get the job done, but it will take a lot more effort and a lot more time.

So here are a few guidelines for leading with the tools in your social media tool box:

1. Know what the tools are good for. I live in an apartment in New York City. It doesn’t make sense for me to go get a radial arm saw–even if “everyone else is doing it.” You’ve got to know why you’re doing it. Social media tools are good for leaders because they allow you to serve more people. Michael Hyatt refers to twitter as an Influence Amplifier. I love that. I think it applies to most social media tools. They give you an opportunity to create vast networks that transcend geography. You can also get close to people you would never normally be connected to–specialists, CEOs, artists, influencers. But what’s the purpose of this network? To influence and serve those people by sharing your life and work.

2. Learn how to use the tools. Web 2.0 is about creating quality conversations; it’s about exchanging value. It’s not about broadcasting yourself, interruption marketing, or meaningless drivel. The relationships you build are human relationships. As human relationships, they live and die by the principles of authenticity, trust, and mutual respect. Violate any of those principles–in person or via the web–and your relationships will suffer. So be yourself, focus on helping others out, and remain open. Approaching social media with a spirit of sincere service and generosity is the key to staying engaged and building a community.

3. Organize your tools. Social media can quickly become overwhelming. Knowing the purpose for each tool and developing a system that allows you to filter and process incoming information while responding efficiently and effectively is critical to keeping everything running smoothly. It’s a good idea to designate a headquarters (usually your blog or website), the central hub where you want to drive traffic. Next you create forward operating bases (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) where you interact with friends, fans, or followers. The final tier is to make observation posts (RSS feeds, Google Analytics, Google Alerts, etc.). Next, I’d suggest choosing an application that will centralize all your information processing (Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, etc.). My final word of advice is to add the necessary disciplines into your schedule to make sure you’re spending enough time (but not too much time) contributing and receiving from your growing network.

How do you use social media to lead others? What tips have you found useful?

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