Why the Future Belongs to the Socially-Savvy Business Leader

Social Business Leaders

One thing that unites us in our love for social media is the perceived access it gives us to the good and the great. Forget six degrees of separation … All you need to do now is locate their profile and hit that tweet button.

The barriers and obstacles have fallen away, and we love it.

Of course, from a brand’s perspective this is can be a challenge, because you need to work really hard to ensure your content screams ‘p-e-r-s-o-n-a-l-i-t-y’ by way of compensation for the well-oiled slickness of your logo.

One realisation that companies do seem to be cottoning on to is that no amount of well-constructed content will outdo the musings of the digitally endearing executive.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at Sir Richard Branson’s Twitter account with over four million (yes, that’s 4,000,000) followers and compare it to that of his Virgin Twitter account with its 154,000 followers. That’s an extreme example, but hopefully it illustrates my point. Sir Richard is just more interesting, non?

The underlying message is and will continue to be … We prefer people over brands.

And if those people are charismatic, innovative and inspirational, we will follow them to the end of our battery life.

So what do these socially-fabulous movers and shakers have that makes them so endearing?

Here are my thoughts …

They’re authentic. Nobody tweets for them. Ever! They are the real deal, and it’s clear to see.

They’re likeable. It could be that your initial take was not a positive one, but to your utter astonishment and against all odds, you start to develop a sneaking regard for them. Mainly because they’re climbing down from their (perceived) ivory tower and getting in amongst it.

They’re passionate about what they do, and it’s infectious. We all need more of this, don’t we? On those sad dreary days when putting one foot in front of the other just seems like too much effort … A few brilliantly-crafted words in the form of 140 characters from a business super-icon will put fuel back in your motivation tank and get you motoring again.

They demonstrate why they’re leaders, consistently through their interaction. This is crucial. We see at first hand how they give bang for their buck, and why people listen to them.

They’re not online 24/7. On account of the fact they they’re business leaders. Some time ago I read a piece arguing the case for senior executives not needing to lower themselves to tweet. The main point of it was “they’ve got better things to do” but I doubt anyone is busier than Sir Richard Branson and Lord Sugar and they seem to do absolutely fine.

And, most importantly …

They’re social! They enjoy interaction, the exchange of ideas and debating new concepts. Whilst they may have strongly-held beliefs and convictions of their own, they happily consider and discuss alternatives. And they understand that social media is the perfect platform to do this.

People are more interesting than their organisation, company or brand, it’s as simple as that. No matter how hard the marketers work to try and shift our preferences on this, it isn’t going to change any time soon. Trust me.

And the socially-adept business leader knows this.


Redefining ‘Community’ – The Real Power of Social Media

Social Media Community

When social media landed a few years ago, many of us scratched our heads for a while before we set about sharing the details of our takeaway sushi lunch with the world. At the time it felt important, but a few weeks down the line we couldn’t help but think these platforms were designed for more than extolling the virtues of shredded ginger and wasabi.

It’s fairly typical to attempt to pigeon-hole alien concepts and ideas; we’re comfortable with labels. It’s even more typical to assume we’ve seen something very like it before so we already know how to utilise them. So the next step for many of us was to use social media as a broadcasting platform, because it was  just ‘a new name for marketing’, right? Hmmm. Not quite.

Today we’ve grasped the idea of mutually beneficial two-way communication, and social media is helping many businesses fairly and squarely get their name on the map, not because they’ve thrown loads of dosh at their marketing budget, but because they’ve tuned into what people want and what people value.

And whilst we’ve certainly made progress, we’re still a long way from having got this ‘social’ thing licked. The truth is we’ve barely even scratched the surface.

What’s proving to be the case is that people primarily want to be part of a community, because communities support, assist and, most importantly, they care. And from a marketing perspective, companies would do well to take onbaoard that we’ll take notice of our community long before we listen to a brand.

It’s the sense of belonging that people want, because that’s where they can speak freely and where they’re listened to. And it’s not about becoming weak and dependent, it’s about adding strength and resilience to the foundations of independence.

Have you seen the jocular images of herds of people staring down at their smartphones in restaurants, bars and other notably crowded public venues? We laugh at the absurdity of individuals who shun actual face-to-face contact in order to stare at their phone, but the truth is they are making contact. They’re communicating with people who have shared interests and values; they’re just not the people they’re sat next to.

Of course, there’s a line to be drawn when it comes to continually checking Facebook when you’re out to dinner with friends, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that we’re turning into passive automatons who have no contribution to make. If anything it’s the reverse that’s true.

Supported, strong communities result in prosperity for everyone, and prosperity as many of us are now realising is about far more than simply money in the bank.

And whether those communities exist on or offline really doesn’t matter.

What matters is that they exist, and that they thrive.

If social media continues to evolve as a conduit for care, compassion, kindness, support and understanding, then so be it. That’s a trend I’ll happily support.



Connect, Create, Change – Three Steps to Staying Social

Simplicity is a much underrated format. Sadly we all too often become bogged down in identifying a thousand and one ways to overcomplicate the most straightforward of topics. In actual fact ‘a thousand and one’ is probably far too low an estimate.

And in the quest to be the best, the biggest and the most popular social media user of all we can all too easily become wrapped up in analytics, data and metrics that in effect do little more than create a diversion from the simple facts … And the facts are remarkably simple.

You don’t need to pay anyone thousands of pounds to tell you what you need to do create a walking, talking social media success story.

It’s all about the three C’s …

social media communication

As soon as you and I have uttered our first ‘hello’ on social media, we have a connection. The ice is broken. We’re no longer ships that pass in the digital night.

It can be too easy to miss the opportunity to establish dialogue when we blindly make an assumption that the person in question isn’t someone we need to get to know. Don’t make assumptions that are based on nothing more than a hunch; build your connections.


Creativity plays a huge part in developing your social relationships. Purely presenting your content in the way you always have will never be enough to sustain the attention of your newfound audience because, to put it bluntly, they’ll dismiss it in favour of the next dynamic, compelling and alluring post on their timeline.

Continually producing interesting and compelling content that is genuinely useful* to the reader will ensure they come back, and maybe even pass it on to their network. The longer you do this, the more solid the foundations that bind you to your audience become.

(*Please don’t try and shoehorn your sales pitch into the term ‘useful’ here … Trust me, it won’t fit)


Have you heard talk of Twitter being over and of Facebook spiralling into a nosedive? Me too.

The truth is that both platforms are changing and will continue to do so in terms of functionality, but here’s the more important aspect to consider: users are getting bored with ‘same old, same old’ content.

If you’ve had an active presence for a couple of years on any social site and have noticed a drop-off in activity, it probably isn’t them … it’s you. Or your content to be more specific.

Social media is as busy as it ever was, but with ‘busy’ comes ‘noisy’. The savvy social animal knows they have to change how they present their content in order to get continue being noticed and heard (note that I’m not telling you to change your content … just how you present it)

Data and analytics are great to a point but never forget that social media is driven by people, not sophisticated software. When you learn to tap into what drives people, then you’re really onto something ;)


At-a-Glance Business Guide to the 2014 Social Landscape

Social media … it ain’t what it used to be.

As more platforms emerge, it’s good to reassess the sites in which we’re investing our time to ensure they’re likely to yield positive results for our business.

Here’s a useful infographic that helps define the strengths and weaknesses of the eight leading social networking sites … (click on the image to enlarge)


by johnmnelson.
Explore more visuals like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.


Accept it, You’re not Beyoncé – Social Media for Small Businesses

Social Media for Small Business

Big brands and even bigger personalities … they have it all, don’t they?

The slick, well-designed Facebook pages, the ultra cool ‘n’ creative Instagram posts, the brilliant short, sweet tweets that get shared around the world in a heartbeat.

They’ve got every conceivable base covered brilliantly on every platform, emerging or otherwise. And the public can’t get enough of them.

It’s easy to see why many a small business owner has looked at the activities of super social globals and inwardly sighed with downbeat resignation.

It’s the Beyoncé factor. We all want to walk in her shoes and have a little taste of everything we touch turning to a spangly shade of gold.

Or the Audi affect. Super-sexy, well-designed posts that purr with sublime style as they  cruise across your screen. It’s vorsprung durch deflating.

When we see how the big boys and girls do it, there’s no wonder that our zest and drive suddenly splurts to a splurty halt.

But you’re not comparing apples for apples, as my sales manager used to say.

When you make a conscious decision to celebrate, embrace and ignite all that is fabulous about being the whirlwind of a small business that is YOU, the social arena looks very different indeed.

Here’s a peak at how to get started.

Get Personal

Beyoncé, Coca Cola … They’re not going to form strong, unique and individual connections with their followers on a daily basis. And the truth is most small businesses won’t either … but you can. I call it the Ultra Social Factor (actually I just made that up, but I like it …) When anyone tweets me and includes my name, from that moment on we have context. The ice is broken for me, purely because they’ve used my name. It’s really that simple, so start right there.

Beware the Big O

I know all about ‘Overwhelm'; most of us do. It comes from pining for a dream so huge that you can’t see a practical route to achieving it, such is the shadow the dream casts over you. Try this simple daily step for starters: make one truly engaged connection every day, one where you take the time to learn just a little more about the other party. It’s about being interested and when it gathers momentum you’ll be amazed at where it will take you.

Loosen Up!

When I read about the need to always be ‘on message’ a little part of me falls asleep. I’m pretty sure I’d rather scoop my eyeballs out with a teaspoon than read a stream that was constantly ‘on message’. Even Beyoncé posts photos of herself first thing in the morning without a scrap of make-up, which tells me she’s not so much ‘on message’ as ‘a real person’. Boom.

Learn to Swap ‘Creative’ for ‘Supportive’

In my humble experience the one thing that is sure to kill any chance of me feeling creative is worrying about not feeling very creative. Just hand me the duvet, a packet of digestives and move along … there’s nothing to see here. But in all seriousness, on the days when I can’t summon up a masterpiece, or even a minorpiece for that matter, I’ll set about looking for ways to help others. That’s not me looking for plaudits and praise, I promise. It’s just a good use of my time and I know that it makes a difference.

Mix It Up

You know what I think is the hardest aspect of any longterm relationship, be it a marriage or the one we have with our customer? The need to keep it fresh and interesting. Consistency and repetition are important, but don’t let your posts or messages ever become reruns of what you said twelve months ago. Zing it up a bit. The chances are that as your confidence grows you’ll see new ways to say the same thing in a more compelling way … So think less “How to Clean Your Car in Thirty Minutes” and more “Give Your Car Some Sassy Showroom Sparkle This Weekend!”

In short, learn to concentrate on what you are, and less on what you’re not.

I’m never going to be Beyoncé. But then neither is she ever going to be the England Rugby Team’s most enthusiastic mummy fan.

Some you win, some you lose.

Sorry, Bey.