For directors, the benefits can outweigh the risks of embracing social media — provided you follow a few ground rules.
Social media has become an important means of communication that gives customers, employees and organisations a voice. Most companies closely monitor their brand’s social media these days and it’s a great way of staying informed about the sentiment towards your organisation. It can also improve conversations with executives, management and other stakeholders.
But as a director or senior executive, what does the shifting social media landscape mean for your personal online presence? While the constant flux of social media can be unsettling for some, there are directors out there showing us how it can be done — and done well. That includes following and posting regularly on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.
To be successful on social media, you have to remember it’s about what your audience wants from you.
Diane Smith-Gander FAICD (@DianeSmithG), a non-executive director of Wesfarmers and AGL Energy and the chair of Safe Work Australia has found social media an effective way to share her interests, showcase strengths and build real-world relationships. “My social media profile is an important part of people seeing me as open to new ideas.”
Effective networking is vital for people in high-level leadership roles. The better that people get to know what you stand for, the more opportunities become available to you as a leader. Smith-Gander says people feel more comfortable engaging her in business settings about subjects they know she is passionate about because they follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn. She has also been offered board positions and speaking engagements, thanks in part to her social profile.
Smith-Gander recommends adding your personality, opinions and thoughts to shared articles. “When I post on LinkedIn, I share on my areas of interest as well as conferences and events. I get the most engagement when I explain why it’s important and what it means for my community.”
She also checks her LinkedIn and Twitter analytics. Both platforms have free analytics for users to track what people have clicked on and how they have engaged with that share. It can help you refine what you share with your audience and better understand what resonates. To be successful on social media, you have to remember it’s about what your audience wants from you.
Why be there
Ming Long GAICD (@MingYLong), a non-executive director of AMP Capital Funds Management and the Diversity Council Australia, says there are three reasons for executives and directors to be on social media.
“First, it’s like an insurance policy for your career. Whenever you transition or change your role, people still know who you are outside any one position you might hold.
“Second, it’s information.” She joined Twitter in 2014 just to check it out. Over time, Long found she was diversifying her sources of information and being referred articles by people she respected on subjects that interested her. She could see what other directors and consumers cared about.
The third reason? “To be active on issues I really care about. I’m there to talk about climate change, equality and diversity. Being part of that conversation is important.”
Dr Kirstin Ferguson FAICD (@kirstinferguson), a non-executive director of the ABC, Hyne Timber and SCA Property Group, says it is necessary to have a presence on social media and you can do so without detracting from your corporate responsibilities. “Just as you wouldn’t give a speech to a group of people where you deliberately say things that could be misconstrued or misrepresent the brand or position of your company, you don’t tweet or write posts that do the same. It requires the same level of common sense you use in every interaction you have outside the boardroom,” she says.
“Social media is a great way to present yourself authentically through topics you follow, people you connect with and articles you share.”
Finding the platform that works for you and producing original content is critical.
Don't be afraid
Jamie Wilkinson GAICD, director of design and digital at PR agency Cannings Purple, warns that scepticism or fear of social media is one of three common social media mistakes. “Business leaders who refuse to engage on social media demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of its importance and the potential it has to be a serious risk to any business.”
Directors need to think about how social media might work as an extension of their personal or professional brand. Finding the platform that works for you and producing original content is critical. Some directors outsource the management of their personal accounts, but higher engagement comes when directors use the platforms themselves.
Social media tips
• Be authentic. Your social media should be a true reflection of who you are. Engage with others as a real person and keep language simple and clear.
• Share and engage on topics you have a genuine interest in.
• Use the block or mute button when necessary.
• Stick to the facts wherever possible.
• Connect in real life with people you click with online and build those real-world connections.
• Engage with trolls (make liberal use of the mute or block button).
• Use abusive language.
• Plagiarise other social users.
• Let mistakes linger. Delete them quickly and/or acknowledge the mistake and move on.
In its resource Want a Seat at the Board Table? Insights on starting your director career, the AICD recommends picking social media platforms you are most comfortable with.
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