Are you becoming Irrelevant?
I met intriguing people when I visited the Dave Ramsey organization in Nashville. Yesterday while sitting in Starbucks I finally reconnected with Steve NeSmith their Senior Director of Online Content, Social Media and Email Marketing. I wanted to chat about leadership and social media.
Steve explained the number one reason leaders don’t use social media is they are time bankrupt. His response, “Ask yourself if it’s important to you. Do you find time to network at the Chamber of Commerce?”
While Steve talked, I jotted notes until a local student accidentally dumped coffee on their books and floor. Moments later, I lost Steve’s voice in a clanking mop and yellow bucket bumping along ceramic tiles. Priority – clean up.
Steve didn’t sugar coat the time problem when he said, “If social media is important, leaders find time for it by reprioritizing.”
Every business leader acknowledges the value of the Internet. Steve explained that Facebook has become the Internet for many people. If the Internet is valuable then social media just gained value.
Your customers, employees, detractors, and constituents participate. If you aren’t there, you aren’t where everyone is. You’re becoming irrelevant.
Steve and I grappled to find terms that expressed the meaning of relevance. I tossed out the idea that social media humanized leaders. He didn’t like the suggestion they aren’t already human. Good point.
Your presence and participation lets people know you’re engaged and listening. It’s like walking into a coffee shop and seeing someone you know. Their presence, even if all you do is nod, makes you feel you belong.
Participation in social media removes perceived distance without intruding into real space and makes you seem accessible and relevant.
Connect with Steve NeSmith on twitter: http://twitter.com/SteveNeSmith.
Are the benefits of perceived accessibility and relevance sufficient for leaders to reprioritize? Why or why not?
DISCLAIMER: As usual I’ve written with a direct style. You may perceive this post as a jab at some of my friends that don’t see social media as important as I do. You’d be wrong.
So timely Dan & Steve. But, those who really need to hear, won’t be reading this! I hate that for leaders that have so much to give, but have not taken the time to form a platform to feed others.
It’s one of my frustrations with leaders.
Love how you say, “leaders that have so much to give…” A little over a year ago I had a rather narrow local platform with some regional influence due to my connection with a Penn State Affiliate School. Today, I have a global channel for giving back to others. It has opened the door for connections with interesting people like yourself.
Ouch, Artie. You’re right. By now, if a leader isn’t social media aware, a leader is short-circuiting influence. Why would a leader do that? Significance is not significance if the transfer of value is blocked by inaccessibility or irrelevance.
We were having this conversation at a braai (barbaque) we hosted the other day. 6 adults and I would rank myself as the power user, 1 user who dabbles more to keep up with where it is at, two with a footprint but not really active and two with no footprint at all. The real shocker is we are all independent small business owners. What was evident was that it was not just a time constraint but also a fear of trying something where you have no concept of what it is and where to start. I do think that the time bankruptcy problem is a reality, but also wonder what the cost of not making the time available is? I have seen the benefits of Social Media (and I consider myself a newbie still as I got on board November 2009) so it is never too late to hop on and learn.
As for your “jab” comment, your direct style works for your followers Dan so Rock On! Enjoy the Holiday weekend.
Thanks for adding the fear factor. I think it’s very real. Thats one reason for suggesting the “real life” rule for social media. Don’t do anything online you wouldn’t do face to face.
I kept thinking about the 8 track. It’s irrelevant. Some might have clung to it complaining that cassettes didn’t have the quality… never the less, 8 tracks are gone. (heck some of my readers may not know what an 8 track is)
Social media reduce distance, It is very true. IT does not question what you think, it does not challenge your esteem. And I think this is the reason, why people love social media more. I like the idea of prioritising. Leaders check relevancy. If things are relevant they engage otherwise they avoid.
Other concept of being irrelevant is when you do not follow hear of masses, people think you are different. And this thinking of mass makes you irrelevant for them. If they are doing irrelevant, and you just follow them, then you become relevant for them. So, it is the acceptability of people that decides whether you are becoming relevant or irrelevant.
The interesting thing is that leaders are usually irrelevant when they challenge, question, break boundary and think differently. And becomes relevant when their efforts pay for people. IT means people perceive leaders irrelevant when they think different, act different and do different but their accomplishement and achievement make people to change their perception from irrelevant to relevant.
People salute rising sun. They criticise struggling phase. Therefore, leaders are irrelevant for many and relevant for few, but few are emerging leaders.
I posted something like this before, so I apologize if it is in one of Dan’s other threads, LOL.
Once I was addressing the IT leadership of a major insurance company, and one of the VPs in the group asked what the leadership could do to help with the unfolding of a new early leadership program. My answer? Show up. This brought a chuckle, but then the came a pretty darn good discussion of what “showing up” meant, and how it really did make a difference to folks on the line.
Of course, it’s not just that you show up, but how you show up.
Showing up with sincere interest and a good word; with questions and genuine curiosity, is more powerful than just walking the floor, but even just walking the floor is a good step.
I believe social media is another positive opportunity for leaders to show up, and it is a great way to show up with value if we take some time to humbly learn how, and practice.
Show up consistently…a one time, drive-by leadership presence is not leadership.
“Show up” – I love it and I think that will be my new battle cry as I try to draw non-profit organizations to social media. Many organizations that I talk to are genuinely confused as they try to figure out why they can’t draw more people to their cause. No matter how important their mission is, they become irrelevant when they do not “show up” in the right places at the right time. In 2011 there is no excuse for any organization or leader not to have an online presence. NONE
How do you SHOW UP? “…[W]ith sincere interest and a good word; with questions and genuine curiosity, is more powerful than just walking the floor, but even just walking the floor is a good step.” Absolutely! As @Doc noted, this has to be a consistent effort. I would also add that it has to be a genuine effort. You cannot outsource your relationship with your team, your customer or your supporters. They need to know that YOU care, YOU are there and YOU hear them. Your “representative” just won’t do.
Thank you for your reply. I love that you brought some focus to the proxy issue.
Since obviously every leader will face some limitation in how often they can show up physically, a sincere approach to SM can multiply their presence and message.
On the other hand, SM brings an even greater temptation to use proxy. Who can tell if it is really me Tweeting?
The answer to the last question is, “Sooner or later, everyone”. I look at leaders like Richard Branson and Chip Conley as examples of CEOs “doing it right.”
Whether physical or virtual, fewer, sincere appearances that send that message of interest, and that folks matter, and that allow employees to get to know their leader, are better than many more by proxy, IMHO.
As an aside that is worth mentioning here, I once worked for a company that made a video of leadership giving the new company message on culture, strategic direction, etc.. I was walking down the company’s main corridor, and the video was in a loop on large video monitor.
As I was approaching the monitor, I noticed something: I didn’t know more than half of the people speaking, and the planners/producers had forgotten to put the names underneath the leaders featured! I realized two things at the moment. First, although I knew the names of the leaders on paper, I couldn’t put them to the faces I was seeing. I didn’t know these faces of these important T1 and T2 leaders! The second thing, was that the leaders must of thought they were better known than they were, and/or the people around them were delusional in this respect.
Thanks again for your reply.
Mark – to your point on “Who can tell”, I’m sure there are thoughts of delegating the social media as something easy and trivial that someone else in the organization can just take care of. It’s a teen thing anyway, right??
What they miss is that while it’s great to have those other people online and your company represented, the leader should be on separately as well. The leader is the one with the vision and the strategy – that is extremely attractive from a followers perspective. Sure, it’s going to attract a different audience beyond your brand followers, but it’s an expanded audience none-the-less and very valuable to making you a well-rounded company.
Mark, I work with insurance agencies and there are many brokers who are pretty set on continuing to do things the way they always have – which is not online. However, the problem with that is that at this point, it’s the minimum expectation to have a LinkedIn profile. Without that, you’re not even starting the race at the starting line in the eyes of the prospect. I hear, “I’m too old” and “I’m retiring in 5 years” as excuses for not getting online. Well, those are going to be 5 pretty slow & dismal years continuing as-is because the prospective clients are just going to continue moving ahead, putting them further behind.
I agree with your premise of at least walking the floor. Get out of your office and at the very least, let people know you exist – because people want to find you. For their own justification in taking a meeting with someone, they need to legitimize that person in some way.
My message is whether you like it or agree with it or not, it’s just the new way of doing business. You can choose relevancy or not.
Accessibility and Relevance.
Why would you NOT prioritize for these?
You are spot on about the importance of leaders participating on the Web. Today, business has evolved to fundamentally need a web presence. This is the same for a leader, even if it’s simply a LinkedIn profile. Time for those who have been ignoring the past 10 years to adapt to remain relevant.
Accessibility and relevance, perceived or actual, is essential for engagement. So leaders should be early adopters, they don’t have to be first but should be ahead of the general population, of any technology that helps them engage their people, customers, etc. So definitely reprioritize as needed.
Excellent article Dan and one more way to convince my professional business clients that they need to be in the social media space.
I think some leaders who hesitate regarding social media don’t do so out of a sense of lack of priority, but more out of fear that things will get “out of control” or that they won’t be able to monitor social media activity. What they don’t realize is that the street works both ways – although negative perceptions of customers may come to the fore more rapidly with social media, in the same way great word of mouth can spread more quickly as well.
Hi Paula, I hope that you are well. There was an article supporting your point in WSJ in Monday’s issue. I thought I’d post it here for everyone’s consideration:
Leadership is first and foremost defined by whether anyone is following you. (Interesting that this is the designation from Twitter, isn’t it?) I have a friend, Hugh Halter, who wrote that he puts pressure on himself to live in a way that’s attractive to others. It seems like I could be someone worth following but absent enough from those who would follow that I forfeit influence. On the other hand if I show up consistently in their world (refer to some sweet earlier posts in this thread) then the only question is whether I’ve got something valuable to contribute. Bottom line for me? The people I want to lead live in a social media world. I’m in.
On target, great feedback. Leaders must be relevant to attract followers and the best venue is social media. One must make time to engage and interact with meaningful content or risk becoming irrelevant.
You are right. There are so many benefits for leaders to use SM. The only caution I would share is that there are some cases where executives should stay as far away from social media as possible. If they have loose lips or if they have a reactive temper being in front of the entire web might not be the best thing. I’ve seen instances of both and it cost the respective companies many opportunities.
Spot on, good point. These folks could maybe hire an EQ advisor who checks off on tweets and status updates. 🙂