How can the British PM and other leaders use social media to their advantage?
Senior executives and other important folks have a peculiar relationship with social media. A study earlier this year found that 80% of people thought executives who use social media are better equipped to lead their organisations. Yet other studies found that just 30% of senior executives have any social media presence, and just 10% of CIOs use social media.
So news this week that UK prime minister David Cameron has joined Twitter should be a good thing, right? Perhaps.
Substance over style
Any social media presence should have a clearly defined purpose. This is especially true for senior people with incredibly busy lives. When every minute of the day has to be accounted for, you need to make sure your time is achieving results.
So what is the purpose behind David Cameron’s Twitter account? It's hard to know for certain, but it needs to be more than just the desire to be ‘cool’.
Tip #1: Figure out what it is you want to achieve, and then measure how often you achieve that.
Measure the right things
Ok, measurement. It's a hot topic on social media as many people get it so wrong. Nowhere more so than in politics. It seems that politicians see their number of Twitter followers as an indicator of their popularity with voters. Sort of like the ultimate social proof.
One problem is that this encourages shady behaviour. After all, it's much easier to acquire Twitter followers than it is voters. You only have to ask a certain high ranking US politician, who magically gained a few hundred thousand earlier this year!
Tip #2: Don’t get bogged down with chasing followers. Use Twitter for something more meaningful than faux popularity.
A bit of authenticity would do no harm in reclaiming some credibility for the political classes.
Here’s the problem with over-screening: if people expect the tweets to be anodyne rubbish then it defeats the point of the account. For sure, exhibit good judgement with what you share, but you have to be authentic to succeed on social media.
Tip #3: Be honest and authentic with your account
Talk a little, listen a lot
The popular line is that politicians are public servants, here to serve us. Social media should make this come true because it allows ordinary people to interact directly with those in power.
Will this happen with the Cameron account? I’m not so sure. So far he's only following a handful of fellow politicians. Time will tell whether he replies to messages or engages in conversation with his followers.
Social media isn't a broadcast medium, it's a relational medium. You win when you use it to engage with your audience, soliciting their thoughts and ideas. Sadly, too many still use it to push out messages in the same way they've always done via television and other outbound media.
Tip #4: Talk a little, listen a lot. Use the account to engage with your audience and set an example of interactivity.
Of course it's early days. Let’s hope David Cameron (and leaders in general) clock onto the truly interactive potential of social media, for the sake of the British population and the world.
Recap: 4 tips for Twitter success:
- Have a clear purpose
- Don't chase followers
- Be authentic and run the account yourself
- Talk a little, listen a lot
Our guest blogger Adi Gaskell is a blogger and community manager. He specialises in community cultivation and using social media to create organisations. He has written on this topic for publications such as HRMToday, Professional Manager, Business Works and the Chartered Management Institute. He is also a regular on the UK speaker circuit, talking about the power of social media. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook.