I don’t like to see myself as a megalomaniac, but when it comes to community building, I have been one. It’s not for selfish reasons. Often, when building communities, you need to act as the judge, jury and executioner. Social media programs don’t differ too much from communities because they both involve rallying people around a central topic.
Recently, I came to terms with this type of megalomania and accepted that being a leader does not mean carrying all the keys to the social program like a jail warden. For social media practitioners, they have been doing this for years. Recently I realized the flaw of being the only one in control of a brand’s social media program.
This post is a part of my Social Business Explained blog series for social media professionals and community managers so they can create sustainable social businesses.
Giving up control is one of the most important concepts in becoming a social business leader so you can transform your organization into a social business. If you fail to give up control, you will become stressed and will have limited success.
To be a social business leader, you need not to be in control; instead, it’s your role to empower others to be in self-control. Your success in creating a social business is measured by the sustainability of the organization in your absence. In the top-down, centralized model of most organizations, maintaining control is key. But a successful social organization involves reciprocal trust, education and empowerment. Trust is essential in order to progress from non-social, somewhat-social to natively-social because the experiences and territories will be uncharted for most. To establish trust, you need to be charismatic, open, non-judgmental and inherently curious. Conversely, you have to trust that others genuinely want to do good, are doing the best they can in their current roles and are accept constructive feedback.
For me, I excelled with being inherently curious, charismatic and open. But I couldn’t achieve “bliss” because I was judgmental of others (and myself), when I faced resistance. This is why I believe that these four qualities are what comprise a social business leader. Note that I stated qualities, not requirements or skills.
Another aspect of control that you need to give up is the narrative that you’re the lone mercenary hired to oversee anything pertaining to social media. Okay, this might take a bit to unpack. I’ll explain.
In the early days of social media taking off, especially in the case of smaller organizations, it may have been you who stood out from the crowd and spoke up and took a stand for social media interactions. You defected from the rest to do the unexpected. It was courageous of you to challenge the status-quo, which is why I think you are a hero. Heroes like you did a great job at taking business’ marketing and customer service further. However, you may have inadvertently pigeonholed yourself as an expert so others depend on you perpetually. The real damage is felt when others resign from their own sense of judgement, creativity, risk-taking and desire to use social media to accomplish their business objectives because they have you.
Yes, I’m suggesting that one-man social media ‘teams’ are dangerous to your organization. This is because they give a false sense of security to the organization, while failing to drive a shared vision for the company’s social program.
When you leave the organization (or get promoted, change roles, etc.), what will happen? Will the company continue its exploration, experimentation and growth in social programs? If the answer is anything but resounding “yes!”, then you need to become a social business leader who forgoes control. As I said, success will be measured by the sustainability of the company’s social media program in your absence.
The endgame is not to push you out; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. When you release control of the brand’s social program, you can be focused at solving the million-dollar opportunities knocking on the business’ door. And trust me, there will always be plenty of SEAL Team Six-like situations to be involved in, too. Trusted social business leaders who give up control actually gain control through carrying out unconventional initiatives, overseeing budget and having a strong voice in business decisions. Funny how that works, right?
A frequent complaint among social media professionals — maybe even you — is the need for more resources to succeed in your role. Trust me, I’ve felt that way for a while, too. If you want resources, you need to first prove that you can manage your own resource — you. Whomever you report to needs to equip you with context, cross-organizational knowledge and eternal support so you can indeed release control while feeling a sense of confidence about the social needs of the organization. I’ll get more into this later, but if you want to take your game up to the next level and transform your company into a natively social one, you will need to come to terms that not all social media matters go through you. Some, but far from all.
[Sidenote: I’ve had zero resources and a modest budget for most of my career and I accomplished many of my objectives. It’s not an issue with headcount. It’s about you. Your efficiency, your effectiveness and your willingness to enlist the help of others.]
The last aspect of giving up control is to accept that social media and community management is a continual, infinite education in working with people. There are countless of different uses of social media that I’ll share next — but to get there, you have to be willing to challenge your premonitions and “rules” you’ve acquired along the way and create your own new understanding that is proprietary to your organization.
Here are three questions to ask yourself to see if you’ve given up control:
- Is there an executive confidant who fully accepts and champions my vision for the company’s social media program?
- Are other people carrying out day-to-day tasks in social media on my behalf for the company?
- In my absence, do I have 100% confidence that the company will run successfully?
If you don’t a solid answer for all of these, that’s okay. These are the questions that you must solve immediately in order for your organization to grow its social program from the inside-out. Please sense my urgency in this — I am serious that giving up control is core to progressing on into the other tenets of social business leadership. Without empowerment, you will never get the traction that you need to build out your program and accomplish your vision.
Photo Credit: Todd Ehlers; Connor Tarter