Far too many business leaders have the mistaken idea that social media isn’t worth their time. In fact, roughly 60 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs have no personal accounts on any of six major social networks. And no presence means no engagement, which is a huge missed opportunity for leaders and their businesses.
Social media isn’t just a time suck. With the right strategy, it’s a valuable tool that can build brands and cultivate credibility. And if you’re using content marketing in any way, social media is a must.
Leaders who are active on social media can broaden the reach of their company’s message and play a critical role in content distribution. A social media presence is also a two-way street, and it can help you keep a finger on the pulse of your industry while connecting with brand advocates and critics alike and humanizing your brand.
A productive social media account isn’t an accident — it takes a little bit of intuition and a lot of intention to use social media to its full potential. Take advantage of free social media tools and start with these five steps, and you’ll be well on your way.
1. Stick to a schedule.
One of the biggest reasons business leaders avoid social media is the difficulty in pinpointing a starting place. While there are tons of platforms out there, chances are that only a few make sense for your brand. For instance, if you’re a leader of a B2B company, then you might prioritize looking into LinkedIn over Instagram.
Once you’ve decided on the right platform (or two), work with your marketing team to create a posting schedule and stick to it. Start with a goal that’s easy to accomplish, such as one or two posts each week. A tool like Buffer or Hootsuite can help you plan out your posts in advance to ensure you don’t forget to post when you inevitably get busy in the future.
2. Cultivate a conversation.
So many people view social as just another channel for pushing out their message, but I’d challenge you to change your mindset. Much of social media’s potential comes from the ability to start a conversation with followers, including brand advocates and even critics.
Instead of looking at it as some sort of online billboard, look at social media as a tool for building meaningful relationships. If you’ve ever met another human being, you’ll know that forming a connection requires listening to people and responding authentically to their questions and comments. With social media, you can do this on an incredible scale.
3. Create your own content.
If you’re somewhat new to social media, then you’re probably more comfortable sharing other people’s content than creating and sharing your own. It’s an easy trap to fall into. It can be difficult to put yourself out there, but tapping into your voice and creating your own content to share can help you garner more engagement and make your efforts more valuable.
Try to publish original content at least once a month, and you’ll find you get better at recognizing a good post. Maybe a conversation with an employee or prospect will trigger an idea for a piece of content. Maybe during an evening in with family, your kid will say something that makes you feel proud and inspires an idea for a more personal post. Good content will begin to come more naturally over time, and creating and posting that content might even become something you look forward to.
4. Learn to love LinkedIn.
As a business leader, you’re probably already on LinkedIn, so it should be pretty easy to start maximizing it. Publish your own original writing on its publishing platform and share content you find interesting or informative. You can also participate in groups and conversations with experts and influencers in other fields and learn skills that are highly relevant when it comes to building your business.
LinkedIn features powerful tools such as the Sales Navigator and LinkedIn for Small Business, but I’d encourage you to learn to walk before you run. Start by getting used to connecting with potential contacts and maintaining an active presence in the community. Only then should you start utilizing paid tools.
5. Optimize and adjust.
Social media is an excellent way to build your brand and your business, but like any marketing effort, you need to pursue specific goals so you can define metrics that indicate success. Fortunately, digital marketing can offer transparent measurements of ROI.
Dive into the data and determine what behaviors are the most valuable to you. If you’re looking to generate awareness about your brand, you might be after social shares. Likes and clicks are sometimes labeled as vanity metrics, but they can help you measure engagement, and you can actually determine what those clicks are worth if your analytics are set up properly.
Compared to the countless calls and meetings that can clutter your calendar and consume your attention, social media might not seem like a priority. But the truth is, you as a leader need to play a role in your social media presence — for the sake of your brand and your business. Hopefully, these five steps give you a place to start.