6 social media skills every leader needs

The social media revolution—which is less than a decade old—has created a dilemma for senior executives. While its potential seems immense, the inherent risks create uncertainty and unease.

January 15, 2014 |
Steven Burns

The social media revolution—which is less than a decade old—has created a dilemma for senior executives. While its potential seems immense, the inherent risks create uncertainty and unease.

An article in the February 2013 issue of McKinsey Quarterly draws on the perspectives of executives at General Electric to outline six social media skills and organizational capabilities leaders must build to achieve competitive advantage:

1. Leader as producer: Creating compelling content. As video communication rises in importance, effective leadership will increasingly require an authentic voice, imagination, and the ability to craft compelling stories. To engage in real time on a personal level, executives will also need the technical skills to master the basics of digital-multimedia production, including how to shoot and, if necessary, edit videos.

2. Leader as distributor: Leveraging dissemination dynamics. Social communication invites company audiences to co-create and contextualize content to create new meaning. Messages are rebroadcast and repurposed at will by recipients who repost videos, retweet and comment on blogs, and use fragments of other people’s content to create their own mash-ups. 

Since executives aren’t able to govern or control a message once it enters the system, they must understand what might cause it to go viral and how it may be changed and annotated while spreading through the network.

3. Leader as recipient: Managing communication overflow. Leaders must become proficient at using the software tools and settings that help users filter the important stuff from the unimportant. They must decide when (and when not) to reply and what to share with their various communities. 

4. Leader as adviser and orchestrator: Driving strategic social-media utilization. Leaders must play a proactive role in raising the media literacy of their immediate reports and stakeholders. They must become tutors and strategic orchestrators of all social-media activities within their control.

5. Leader as architect: Creating an enabling organizational infrastructure. Leaders must strive to establish an organizational and technical infrastructure that encourages free exchange but also enforce controls that mitigate the risks of irresponsible use. 

6. Leader as analyst: Staying ahead of the curve. It’s imperative to keep abreast of emerging trends and innovations — not just their competitive and marketplace implications, but also what they mean for communications technologies, which are fundamental for creating an agile, responsive organization.

Read more from McKinsey Quarterly. 

Editor's Note: This is sponsored content. All text and images were provided by the sponsor company. 

Steven Burns | The Business Behind Design

Steven Burns, FAIA spent 14 years managing the firm Burns + Beyerl Architects, and during that time the firm’s earnings grew at an average rate of 24% per year. After founding his own software company, Steve took his management expertise to BQE Software, where he is refining their business strategy and product development for the company’s groundbreaking project accounting solution, BQE Core.

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