I remember the days when MySpace first came out. Since I was out of the target market age for this new invention, I had never heard of it before a 21 year old college student showed it to me. I, like many others in my demographic, did not buy in right away. I remember thinking it was neat, but that it really held no value for me.
But, I signed up for an account anyway. And that's pretty much where it stopped. I had a username, a password, and a short bio about myself. I didn't take it any further. I rarely logged in and I certainly never used it to connect with others or to build a social presence online.
Then, there was Facebook. I got a little more on-board with Facebook than I did MySpace. I'm pretty sure that's why MySpace went under - my lack of buy in. But at the end of the day, I never really viewed Facebook as a way to be a better leader.
Today, I have a Facebook profile and page, a Twitter account (I currently manage 6 accounts actually), a Pinterest account, Google+, Instagram, and LinkedIn. And, yes, I use them all.
Now, before I go any further, let me be clear that you should not have as many social media accounts as I have. Especially if you're just starting out. One is sufficient.
In the past several years, I've begun to see social media in a different light. Sure it's a way to stay connected with friends and family. That's it's primary purpose. However, I believe that there are some surprising reasons that leaders should be on and should actively use social media. Here are four of those reasons:
1. It makes you human. Believe it or not, many leaders are viewed through the lens of the 8, 10, 12 hours that they are "on the clock." In other words, those that you lead form opinions about who you are based on the few hours that they see you at work. And this can often lead to some pretty skewed perceptions about you as a person. It's important that they realize that you are human. You have family and friends. You have hobbies. You experience life in a similar way to them. The more "human" you become to those that you lead, the more relatable you are and the better able you are to lead them well.
Example: Share a photo of you and your kids, post an update about how great your wife is, or mention something about a tv show or movie that you saw.
2. It's another communication medium. Leaders have a lot to communicate. It's pretty difficult to not only communicate everything that needs to be, but it's also hard to ensure that everyone on the team has heard you. Add to that the different biases that people can put on what they hear or read, that makes communication one of the most difficult parts of a leader's job. Social media allows you to communicate things differently, more often, and in a way that reaches people when they may be the most receptive.
Example: After a big win on your team, post something about how proud you are of the team. Or, post a picture of an employee of the month and write something nice about them. You can also write about an "exciting change" that's being announced the next day to get the team excited about what's coming.
3. You get to see into others' lives. This is probably one of the greatest benefits to me as a leader. The reality that people post way too much on social media couldn't be truer. It's amazing the level of detail that folks will put out there for everyone to see. And, although I think it's unfortunate, it does benefit me greatly. I've been able to pull people aside and ask them about a sick child or the like - and it's helped me lead them better.
Example: When you see a big moment in someone's life (birthday, graduation, etc.), you can send them a card in the mail congratulating them. Or, you can offer extra help to someone that may be going through a crisis (divorce, financial woes, etc.).
4. You can connect with industry leaders and learn from them for free. Most of the "big time" folks in your industry are on social media. They're sharing ideas and posting updates that could help you improve as a leader. There have been countless times that I have found (and stolen) ideas that have improved the team I lead in some way. And, when you connect with them on social media, it can also open doors to conversations with them that wouldn't be possible otherwise. I've talked to a lot of big names in my industry because of a connection in social media.
Example: When you see a good idea, you can then share that with your team via their social media accounts. Or, you can ask a question of an influential leader in your industry by "tagging" them in your post.
Where are you at on the Social Media spectrum? Do have an account? If not, sign up for one today - they're free! Do you have an account but you never use it. Begin doing so today. Allocate some time each day (15 minutes) to go through and see what's happening - and post an update yourself!
This article originally appeared on timparsons.me.