That social media is a powerful resource is no surprise. We need only watch the movie The Social Network, which now seems like a dated story about the cultural conflict between nerds and jocks (albeit highly intelligent jocks) at Harvard, to uncover the obvious: That social media – namely, Facebook – is more than a billionaire's plaything; it is, along with so many other sites (for, respectively, tweets, videos and photographs), a fixed part of the digital landscape.
All this, and much more, is true. And yet, despite the social change wrought by social media, notwithstanding the political upheaval and the transformation of a symbol, the hashtag (#), into an everyday part of our online vocabulary, too many companies say too much about things of too little importance. They understand the medium, but they do not respect the value of the message.
They need, in other words, a mentor.
They need to know the value of substance – news people can use – and style, the voice (never an echo) that is distinctly, and proudly, one's own.
One man who searches for that combination of poetry and prose, so to speak, is Bob Fine, Founder of The Social Media Monthly.
I cite his name, and I celebrate his efforts, because he is a fellow CEO. He is an entrepreneur, and a reader of this site, who knows the difference between speaking and shouting, and good business protocol versus blatant corporate propaganda.
I encourage readers to speak or correspond with Bob, as I advise those same readers to do likewise with the publisher of this column, for a simple reason: If you cannot engage people – if you do not have a story to tell, and the talent to tell it with passion and the modulated pitch of your voice – then everything else is a waste of time, because the last thing social media needs more of is the “digital debris” of disjointed comments, juvenile taunts, self-promotional stunts and complete chaos.
To guide this conversation without policing it, to set a tone among writers that is civil but spirited, is a model that should apply to communications in general and social media in particular.
Bob's contributions infuse this virtual world with examples aplenty of professionalism. And therein lies the transparent “secret” of how to influence friends, colleagues, customers and acquaintances through social media: Be a professional.
Act with dignity, and write with authority, period.
The Takeaway Theme: A CEO Communicates
The takeaway theme to this discussion, as the above title implies is straightforward.
A CEO communicates with clarity and conviction. He (or she) is a leader because his deeds match his words.
Those words, delivered with the pomp and circumstance of an official occasion or posted within the less formal environment of Facebook or Twitter, do not lose their potency because of the setting or the audience.
Do not confuse the convenience of the keyboard as an excuse to ignore the terms and conditions not of social media, but of polite society.
A visceral reaction is, on social media, too frequently a ruinous response from a CEO.
The comment, post or tweet circulates instantaneously, reducing a person to a caricature of villainy or buffoonery or stupidity. The multiplier effect – the repeated sharing of that individual's error, compounded by news coverage and mash-ups of that mistake – make it very difficult, if not impossible, for that CEO to repair his or her reputation.
Restraint must be a CEO’s companion.
Reticence must be a part of his or her style.
Bob Fine is a master of these traits because he is a leader of composure.