On being a social leader, the anti-humblebrag and showing up

“Leadership’s not a title. It’s a behaviour. Live it.”
–  Robin Sharma

And then we were in March. How’ve you been this last month? I originally wrote this piece in the aftermath of Caroline Flack’s death. A story that despite the current tumult we’re facing now, is still very much with us.

While I’m not a Love Island fan, I’d always admired her spirit and moxie. A podcast with her and Dawn O’Porter a couple of years back stayed with me: the palpable depth of their friendship, sheer sense of fun alongside a deep appreciation for each other’s talents. She was imperfect and honest. I connected with that.

So, naturally, with the clickbait media economy and toxicity of misused social media up for debate again – alongside misinformation- I questioned this month’s topic of being a social leader.

Reflecting on it, a true social leader isn’t out there to judge, rather connect and inspire in how you show up. Ultimately, times like this call for us to use our platforms as a force for good, make a difference and lead with kindness. So with that, let’s go in, together.

Why being a social leader matters
Being a social leader means being an industry voice, building thought leadership and letting your personal brand shine through.

Modern leaders need to proactively position themselves to manage their business’ – they’re essential to it. BP’s new CEO, Bernard Looney made the Today programme when he announced his appointment on Instagram. He hasn’t quite done a Jennifer Aniston breaking the internet, but in the “spirit of honesty”, is championing issues he cares about – diversity and inclusion, social mobility and mental health – bringing a more human face to a hard-to-know business. Watching that one with interest.

And for busy CEOs, founders, board members without a huge corporate team behind you, here’s some pointers:

Five steps to showing up as a social leader

1.Find your platform
Find your platform – and stick to it. Be where your people are. For you, as part of this newsletter community, I’d say LinkedIn, with its 8.2 million C suite decision-makers and friendly algorithm, will serve you well.

Twitter also has its place for time-poor founders. My client Vivi Friedgut, CEO and founder of Blackbullion, has carved out a niche as an edtech leader, trailblazing and joining key conversations, building her partner community with her signature brand of humour.

And show up consistently: you don’t have to be on LinkedIn every waking minute. But you need a rhythm, a cadence so that your audience knows what to expect, and what you stand for.

2.Engage, engage and then engage more
A sticky one for so many. I see people hop onto LinkedIn for the first time in forever, make a big announcement, be met with tumbleweed then limp away injured, declaring social media doesn’t work.

Engagement is such an effective way to grow your social brand, adding insights and comments to peers’ updates, article recommendations and industry news.

Ask yourself:

  • Are you liking and commenting on other people’s posts constructively?
  • Are you sharing selectively and genuinely?
  • Are you engaging in dialogue within your community?

This isn’t token reciprocity.  It’s genuine contribution. And a way of sharing your expertise and building authority when you’re short on time.

3.You have to give value
Social media is a crowded, shout-y place. Your competitors are clamouring for attention with klaxon-style, attention-grabbing tactics. We’re about the anti-humblebrag here.

Paul Sutton, Founder of the Digital Download podcast

Paul Sutton, is a social media and digital marketing consultant and founder of the Digital Download podcast (and my friend and ex-colleague). Come to him for tough love.

“Being active on social media doesn’t make you a good leader, but it can build relationships that are valuable to you personally and to your business. What an active social media presence does is give you visibility and, when done well, gain you recognition for your knowledge and experience.”

“But there is a balance. I see plenty of leaders churning out volumes of impersonal dross that’s little more than tweeting for the sake of tweeting. Being truly social means having intelligent conversations with peers and adding value. You’re better contributing less often and starting or joining a dialogue than posting mindless updates with no opinion or insight. Put simply: no value, no point.”

By doing better, you’ll stand out immediately.

4.Have a clear purpose
Have a clear business objective as a social leader, whether it’s building your community or supporting a new product launch.

Fleur Emery pivoted her business from F&B founder to startup expert, columnist and The Wing salon host by growing a thriving Instagram following: ‘I’m working hard to build an online community and really enjoying it. I curate my audience, blocking followers if they look like robots or not real followers. I want to know my followers and give great value so it feels worth it to do this. I have a strategic purpose in mind, a reason I want to build a following and that keeps me focused.’

This purpose is what will keep you showing up too.

Paul Macbeth, MD at Macbeth Insurance

5.Be the leader you want to be
Being a social CEO means being yourself. Show you care. Paul Macbeth, MD at Macbeth Insurance, engages with social to strengthen his employer brand, celebrating team success, sharing colleague’s thought-led posts, mixing in the business’ sponsorship and charity events. With local talent and retention a cornerstone of the business’ success, Paul’s genuine commitment to culture shines through.

Thank you for staying with me on this one. I hope this has given you the confidence to step into your social leadership role.  This article originally feature in my monthly newsletter so if it resonated, please do hear over to my website and sign up.

Until next month, keep showing up.

Antonia x