Facilitator Roger Christie, founder and managing director of Propel, and panellist Lisa Chung AM FAICD, chair at Australian Unity, offer their experience and guidance in this edited summary from the AICD webinar, How boards can benefit from social media. 

    Silence and avoidance are not risk management strategies when it comes to social media. Clarity, confidence and competence using social media present new opportunities for individual directors and their organisations.

    First impressions can be key, because people are searching social media for your profile and using the information they find to make decisions before they actually meet you, says Roger Christie, founder and managing director of digital reputation advisory firm Propel.

    This is why you should invest your time to get involved and make it work for you. You must aim for symmetry with who you are both online and offline, because people will quickly realise if there is incongruence and inconsistency, and that can create credibility erosion. “I certainly never advise any leader to be anything other than themselves online,” he says.

    You can only influence a conversation that you are a part of, adds Christie, so “if there’s a conversation you’re keen to drive, having a presence online and participating in those conversations is an effective way to capture the audience that matters most to you”.

    You may not directly be responsible for attracting people to the organisation, however, talent is another component, because the board “absolutely sets the tone”, says Christie.

    “There's an opportunity for board members to both set an example that encourages executives and others to be more active themselves and also, the reality is that candidates, particularly senior candidates, will be looking to see how active and engaged board members are online before making the decisions themselves.”

    Growth opportunities

    Social media is also a way of finding out what growth opportunities might be available for you. “You won't even know what opportunities you're missing if you're not active online,” says Christie. “Social media is a way to ensure your name is in the mix, to ensure you are visible and being considered for opportunities, whatever that growth opportunity looks like for you in your role today.”

    Propel’s research finds that reposting and sharing posts can diminish your impact, and generating original content is a more effective means of driving engagement.

    “There are plenty of channels out there for directors as well as executives and organisations — your website, media releases, media engagement — where you can talk to more official party lines and those major announcements,” says Christie. “LinkedIn presents this rare opportunity to actually connect at a deeper, more personal level, to present the warmth side of any leader as opposed to just the competence side of things. It's important we harness that opportunity and don't simply treat LinkedIn as a way to regurgitate corporate messages. It's a way to actually build a really strong connection and affinity, and through affinity, trust, and through trust, access to some of these opportunities we’re discussing.”

    Authenticity matters

    Leaders need to deliver a message in a way that is authentic — posts with a strong personal element can truly resonate with your audience, says Lisa Chung FAICD, chair and non-executive director at Australian Unity. Successful social media posts are about seeing it from that angle of authenticity, “rather than trying to target people”.

    LinkedIn has developed from a place where you would simply upload your CV to nowadays being one of the first places people look for information about you. “I would say it’s almost rude if you haven’t gone to the trouble of viewing someone’s profile if you are about to meet,” says Chung.

    It’s also a way to introduce yourself, with opportunities to present your ideas to people you might not otherwise gain access to or even be aware of.

    “I've also gained the ability to remain in contact with a wide variety of colleagues, in numbers you just couldn’t do face-to-face,” says Chung. “It's still meaningful, particularly as a way to maintain already existing relationships, for example, where they don't live in the same geography as you. Spend time observing what others are doing and saying and how they engage. Note how people behave then decide what style you’re comfortable with. Remember the perennial rule, which has been around much longer than social media: don't be on record saying or writing anything that you wouldn't want to see on the front page of a newspaper.”

    What’s your purpose?

    It is important to think about why you want to engage on social media. Keeping your feed relevant, deleting content that no longer interests you or serves your purpose are checks you should do regularly. It is a way of finding any gaps in your network so you’re listening to the people you need to be hearing from online.

    “Ask yourself, what’s my purpose?” says Chung. “That should inform what you do and how you engage. Make sure you personalise your messages and maintain authenticity at all times. Don’t be afraid if people accuse you of virtue signalling. That’s just a hollow insult, in my view. We all know many people don’t agree with us, so we just accept that.”

    LinkedIn is “tried and tested and continues to evolve,” says Chung, adding that “great leaders are required to be great communicators. This is another important channel to master.”

    “How can we reach our audience of various stakeholders in an efficient and effective way? How do we demonstrate our authenticity as leaders and reinforce our profile as ambassadors, representatives of our organisations and the various purpose, culture and values of those organisations? It’s not about repeating what the corporates might be posting or what the organisation is posting. It’s about you as a leader within that organisation and how you demonstrate, personally, those purposes and cultures.”

    Tips to tackle social media

    Board members who are clear, confident and competent on social media can be valuable assets for organisations. 

    1. Control your narrative: Silence — and even lip service, as in just regurgitating corporate messages — is actually more risky than participating online. Fill that void rather than let someone else fill it for you. 
    2. Have a clear purpose: Focus on the audience who matters the most to you.

      Learn from others: Gain confidence and feel comfortable using social media to find a safe way to engage and access the benefits.

    Recording available until 14 December 2024.

    Find other AICD webinars here.

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