How Do Busy Leaders Find Time for Social Media?

On Wednesday, I made a presentation at Catalyst West on the subject of “Platform: What It Is, Why You Need It, and How to Build It.” When I finished, I opened my presentation for Q&A. Finally, after about 20 minutes of lively discussion, I indicated that we had time for one more question. Someone asked, “How does a busy CEO—someone like you—find time for social media?”

A Very Busy Man Attempting to Multi-Task To Get It All Done - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/tzara, Image #250015

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/tzara

Great question. Frankly, I get this a lot.

On Tuesday, I spoke to a group of CEOs at the Christian Leadership Alliance on “Social Media and Your Ministry.” Different audience, similar presentation. However, because it was an audience of CEOs, the question about finding time was the first question out of the gate.

It is an important question. Why? Because increasingly CEOs, pastors, and other leaders are being asked by their staff, constituents, and even boards about their “social media involvement.” Most leaders I have spoken with, still don’t see the value or, if they do, know how to work it into their workflow. They already feel overwhelmed with their current responsibilities; they aren’t looking for one more thing to do.

Here’s how I answered the question on both days.

First of all, if you see engaging in social media as simply one more thing you must add to an already overwhelming list of responsibilities, it won’t happen. Blogging, Twitter, or Facebook, can’t simply be another add-on activity. You and I both know that you don’t have time for one more thing. (In fact, if you are honest, you are struggling to keep up with what you have on your plate now.)

Instead, you have to see the use of social media as an integral part of your job. It has to be a tool that enables you to accomplish your work—your real work—more effectively and more efficiently. But what is your real work as a leader?

It probably includes a dozen things. It will be a little different for everyone. But here are five that probably should be on every leader’s list:

  1. Raise your organization’s visibility. You can do this the expensive way by employing traditional, interruption-based marketing. Unfortunately, fewer and fewer people are paying attention. They are very selective about who they give permission to speak into their lives. This is why the use of social media is so effective. The only people listening are people who choose to follow you and become part of your tribe.
  2. Articulate your organization’s vision. As a leader, you can’t do this too much. Vision is to your organization what blood is to your body: it gives it life. The problem is that it is difficult to be constantly articulating the vision to everyone. Besides, it’s not just your own people that need to know it. Your constituents need to understand it as well. Social media, particularly blogging, provides a perfect delivery vehicle for this.
  3. Network with people who can help you. One of reasons you are probably in your position is that over the years you have acquired a network of invaluable contacts. This is one of the secrets of your success—you’ve been able to tap into this network when you need to accomplish more than you could do on your own. Social media take this to next level. I have dozens and dozens of people that I now know, work with, and count on that I first met via social media. My network is larger and richer than ever.
  4. Be alert to what your constituents are saying. Again, you can do this the expensive way by employing traditional market research. I still think there is a place for that. But there is nothing like understanding first-hand what your customers and constituents are saying. HootSuite, Google Alerts, and other tools give you that opportunity for free—in real-time. Like it or not, there is a conversation happening right now about you, your brand, and our company online. Social media provide an opportunity for you to participate in that conversation, learn from it, and even influence it.
  5. Mentor the next generation of leaders. This is why I originally started blogging. I found that I kept dispensing the same stories and advice over and over again. Blogging gives me the opportunity to curate my best ideas, archive them, and share them with those I am charged with leading. Twitter is similar. I use it to direct my followers to links and other resources I believe they will find helpful. Best of all, these tools have extended my leadership and my circle of influence.

So, how do you find time for social media in your already busy life? By beginning to see them as tools that help you achieve your objectives as a leader. If you grasp the potential and connect it with your vision, making time for social media will be much easier.

Question: How do you find time for social media? What does your typical social media day look like?

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