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Chapter 15: Why Leaders Should Embrace Social Media: The Six Reasons You Should Be More Engaged

Already, 1 billion people use social media. By 2020, it is believed that there will be 5 billion users of social media. And yet, only a small number of top leaders engage. Can you really afford to ignore it?

There are many leaders who will read this chapter and ask themselves why I’m bothering to write about something that is now second nature to them. The answer is that – if you are one of those people – you are in the minority… by some margin!

Recent reports have suggested that just 7 per cent of the leaders in the top 350 companies on the London Stock Exchange have a digital presence. While I cannot vouch for that statistic, I do know that many of the leaders I work with either do not actively engage in social media or have a very limited presence. Of those that do, many have other people scripting their words for them.

My own attitude to social media dramatically changed on hearing a story from one of my clients. Until that moment I had very much believed the digital revolution was something every leader needed to understand, in order to ensure that our organizations were engaged with social media to the benefit of the brand, but I also believed that young people were natives to this and I never could be. I saw it as a way of communicating, not as a way of working.

My client told me of an occasion when, one afternoon, he was dramatically summoned to see one of his clients. The call had come from the CEO and there was no room to negotiate on timing. His presence was required immediately. As the senior partner of a global professional service firm, he was being held to account for a failure by his team.

This client was worth a seven-figure annual fee. The account was now under threat of instant termination. His team had let this client down badly, attempting to do a job for which they were not qualified. Their botched efforts were now in need of unusual skills to solve the problem. They had just one chance and just a few days to fix it… or else!

On his way back to the office, my client was distressed. Although he had 2,000 members of staff, he knew no one with the skills that could help solve this particular problem. How could he find such specialist skills in such a short time? In the taxi, on the way back to his office, he tweeted a 140-character plea.

‘Before I had got back to the office I already had a dozen replies. With those people I was able to be more expansive so I e-mailed a full brief to them. In effect, I socialized my problem. By the time I got to my desk, I already had five CVs in my inbox from people who knew what to do. Four of them were my own employees and one was a freelancer who worked with us. That afternoon we gathered to talk about the problem.

Through the rest of the afternoon and late into the night, using wikis to enable virtual collaboration, texting and e-mailing each other, we worked on the problem. By the next morning, I was able to go back to my client with an outline solution. Ultimately, we managed to save the client – but only because I was able to act with such speed.’

Through the power of social networking, my client had saved several million pounds worth of income. He is definitely a fan.

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