Forbes has published an interesting article you can read HERE about leadership under increasing attack on social media. The author correctly points out that with the whole world empowered to publish their opinions – ill-informed or otherwise – on the web, leaders can sometimes feel thoroughly embattled. Worse than that, they turn to alleged communications advisers who tell them the storm will pass or that engagement will only give these opinions more credibility. That may be true in some circumstances – but certainly not all.
Because the worrying factor is that in the realm of Twitter – fact and rumour can have equal validity for a period of time and the considered tweets of top experts sit alongside the rants of the angry and dispossessed. You can’t automatically assume that your target audience will make the distinction. It’s a strange post-modern world out there where every opinion carries equal weight and reputation can be damaged by malicious individuals who may lack logic or intelligence but make up for that with persistence and venom.
Anger and a lack of trust are prevalent everywhere – as well as a disconnect between leaders and employees/citizens. Journalists and mainstream media now treat social media as an entirely legitimate news source and use it to source grievances, evidence stories and crowd source information. Leaders ignore this at their peril.
Add to all this, as Forbes does, that whistleblowers are now heroes and anonymous tweeters are not viewed as discreditable but as almost romantic figures concealed behind Guy Fawkes masks. So how does one respond? Well, the first thing to say is – increasingly, you DO have to respond. But trading blow for blow on Twitter isn’t enough. The whole social media phenomenon requires companies, countries and organisations to think long and hard about their core values – what exactly do they stand for?
Only with a core philosophy and mission statement underpinning everything can leaders react with confidence and authenticity. Social media sniffs out the phony with ease – it spits contempt at traditional PR. What leaders must be prepared to engage in is conversation backed up with shareable content that evidences their arguments and values. Concerted attacks on social media should be embraced as an opportunity to by-pass the recalcitrant detractors and win over target audiences. It’s about a smart new approach – are you ready for it?
- Social Media Statistics (visual.ly)
- Practicing Principals – The Power of Social Media (crossroadspr.com)
- 8 Real Disasters that Stress the Importance of Social Media as PR (mydigitalbrand.wordpress.com)
- Firms lacking social media skills – survey (nzherald.co.nz)
- How Social Media is Changing Leadership (business2community.com)