Building Leadership Through Social Media

Social media represents both risk and opportunity, but no business or leader can afford to be offline. Here are some tips to get started.

Do you really need to be on social media to be a good leader?

Yes! Social media no longer is limited to high school and college students. It has great influence on the way people of all ages receive and share information, and the effect on business and your image is significant. With or without you, conversations are happening online about you and your company—whether it’s media reporters, employees, peers, or competitors. These conversations can affect perceptions and trust in you and your organization. Social media is the modern-day way to achieve transparency and, ultimately, trust.

If you’re in business and you’re not posting on LinkedIn, tweeting, or sharing videos on YouTube, then it’s time to step up. Not being online is a faux pas tantamount to not bringing your business card to a conference. If you’re not online and you’re looking for a new job, don’t bother sending in your resume.

Pressure to post comes from any industry today. And there may be others in your circle who say you should, too. Maybe it’s your manager who wants you to promote the company and its products. Or your mentor tells you it’s good for your career. Maybe it’s your team members who are social media-savvy Millennials making the effort and they expect you to, as well.


Getting started with an online presence can be daunting and time consuming. You don’t want to be a business social media goof or be too self-promoting. I know people who block certain posters because they find their presence overly frequent and invasive.

Good news? It’s not that hard to get started. Here are some basic training tips to build your leadership platform online:

Determine what you want your online presence to achieve. Do you want to establish your expertise? Build a network you can turn to for issues consulting? Promote your company initiatives and its products or services? What already is being discussed online? What are you passionate about and have a unique point of view on? Be clear what you want your presence to say and use that guideline to select your media channels and share or create content.

Set goals. Determine what a reasonable amount of activity is and what is realistic to achieve within your daily schedule. It’s a good idea to spend the first 20 to 30 minutes of your day checking in, seeing what is trending on social media or new through your avenues of choice, and then posting or sharing. Listen to the online conversations that are happening and find ways to engage and connect with other thought leaders in that space.

Start slow and establish your expertise. Spend time understanding what you like about what you see, the kinds of articles people share, and the thoughts or concepts they post.

Find someone with expertise. If you still feel uncertain about how to get started, check with your company’s marketing department to participate in training courses about social media or find more savvy colleagues to teach you. For instance, one of the most common social media errors is people trashing their boss on Facebook, completely forgetting that their boss is one of their “friends.” And now…former employer. I once worked with a senior executive who decided to try Twitter on his own. He inadvertently invited all of his contacts to follow him, but couldn’t understand why he immediately had all of these followers. From that point on, he jokingly called himself a “twidiot.”

Consider a blog. We are all specialists in something. And that information we have may be of interest and helpful to others. One of my favorite blogs is written by Lillian Cloud of Bluefeet, a personal branding specialist for executives. Her writing is concise and creative and always includes a fact I can use. It’s a good idea to amplify your blog posts on other social channels, as well.

Share your company news. Find out what your company is publicizing and use those materials in your posts. Results of surveys and articles about new trends, new products, and their uses will be of interest to people in your professional network. However, be sure to balance company news with your regular content to prevent readers from getting tired or bored.

Keep career and personal separate. I view LinkedIn as professional and Facebook as a personal channel. This helps ensure you don’t share things that are meant more for family and friends than work colleagues.

Seek the medium that suits your personality. At my office, we’ve started a group that gets together periodically to talk about what we are doing in social media such as creating a blog on writing or agency management, whatever the topic. One of the younger specialists doesn’t feel comfortable with LinkedIn. She believes users are too serious and prefers channels such as Twitter and Google+. You need to find what medium works best for you.

Build equity via connections. Monitor peers, thought leaders, and influencer communities in your area of choice and connect/follow them on social media. Listen to the conversations they are sparking and engage and share with your network.

Be consistently active on all your chosen social channels. You don’t have to post every day to maintain visibility; it’s all about quality over quantity. To maintain presence and not lose followers, post or share content at least once or twice a week.

Remember, it’s a two-way conversation. Make it a priority to reply to everyone who messages or tweets you. A simple “hi” and “thanks for sharing” or “that’s great advice” will suffice. And sharing other peers’ or influencers’ posts with your network shows you are listening and engaging.

Have fun. The tracking results can be a lot of fun to view and analyze. Why did one post do better than others? How many eyes did you get on the post, as well as how many people shared or commented? Social media is a great way to do what it purports to be—a way to be social, make new connections, and, ultimately, learn from others.

Social media represents both risk and opportunity, but no business or leader can afford to be offline. Being a social leader shows that you are listening and open to engaging in a two-way conversation with any and all stakeholders. How and what you communicate on social media will position you as a trusted resource in your industry.

Catherine Wolfe, senior director of corporate and strategic communications, Toshiba America Medical Systems, Inc., is responsible for communications and research. Toshiba America Medical Systems is a provider of diagnostic medical imaging systems and comprehensive medical solutions. Wolfe posts regularly on leadership in communications and research on LinkedIn (