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Why leaders won’t use social media

However, he is still in the minority among the many leaders I deal with. While nearly all of them recognize the importance of social media to their organizations, they still resist the use of social media themselves. They either don’t know how to use it or they fear that they will lose control if they try.

They talk about how their tweets can be taken out of context and misquoted or abused in the media. They tell me it’s too risky, that they can see no return on their investment of time, especially when it comes to blogging. They say that social media is really only for young people. They say that it exposes them to reputational damage or that it could allow privileged information into the public domain. Sometimes leaders do try twitter, then pull back from it after seeing their comments being criticized and shared on a mass scale online and in the media. They talk about how difficult it is to communicate complex issues in just 140 characters.

While I accept that these are the difficulties and dangers, I believe that these leaders are denying themselves powerful ways to collaborate, share knowledge and tap into employee skills that can be used for competitive advantage.

Leadership today is a product of our times and we have to embrace digital communications. Leaders who do that can communicate directly with their front-line employees, they can engage in conversations with customers, and they can tap into communities of interest, knowledge and news that will give them real benefits.

What is your attitude to social media? At one end of the scale, you get many leaders who see social media as a threat. They limit the amount of time employees can spend on social media, they don’t believe that it provides a useful channel to communicate with customers, and suspect it directly challenges their hierarchical command and control structures. There is a massive tension built in to this view – how do they maintain control in what appears to them to be such an uncontrolled environment? Their impulse is to build walls and protections that keep this unruly world well and truly out.

Those who are a little more adventurous tend to limit the use of social media to listening to customers and other stakeholders. It is a useful alternative to more expensive market research.

At the other end of the scale you get leaders who are actively encouraging the organization to link employees to customers in all sorts of ways that improve customer loyalty, make the organization more efficient and drive up employee engagement. At this end of the scale, my experience is that these leaders are themselves active users of social media. They really ‘get’ the benefits.

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