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The Overwhelming Advantages Of Being A Social Media-Savvy Board Member
By: Christina Hager
Over the last year, the most frequent event at which I was asked to present was a board retreat. What I found is that the most forward-thinking of the individuals who make up boards of directors know more than a little bit about social media, while others could use some education.
It’s not hard to understand why many board members aren’t their own social media gurus. Many have spent years working at the executive level, building and running businesses, crafting strategy, managing teams, and networking face to face. They may see social media as something for personal rather than professional use, or as something that someone else in their organization will manage. Even LinkedIn, the most professional of the social media channels, is often viewed as only necessary if you are job seeking.
However, board members can’t afford to miss out on the opportunity to be an integral part of their organization’s public relations strategy and efforts to increase visibility. To participate in conversations about branding and marketing efforts, as a board member, you need to understand the ins and outs of social media and how it can elevate your organization’s profile.
Why A Board Member Needs To Understand Social Media
There are two reasons a board member needs to understand how to use social media, and they are equally important.
1. A director needs to know and understand the company’s social media strategy and treat it like any other business initiative.
When a marketing department, social media team or digital point person comes to you and asks for marketing dollars or the go-ahead for a social media campaign, you must know their language. In truth, you must learn to “speak social” in order to effectively weigh the opportunity. This means having an understanding of the strategy, tactics, expected return on investment (ROI) and metrics used to evaluate the social media plan’s success.
For instance, if a team is asking to spend thousands of dollars on Facebook or Instagram ads, you need to understand how they will use the platforms, why they chose those particular ones and how their efforts link up with your business goals. You must ask not only about the strategy, but about the metrics to know if the strategy and tactics have been effective. I’ve found that, all too often, board members don’t give such campaigns the attention they need because they either lack knowledge on how social media works or don’t push for the kinds of marketing efforts and information that will enhance their brand and business.
2. A board member makes a commitment to give of their time, talent and treasure, and that includes social media.
Part of your treasure is not just your dollars (I know, I know — I truly hope no board presidents come after me on this one), but your network. This means who you know, who you are connected with, and how you can use your influence among these groups. You are engaging in a bit of “influencer marketing” every time you share social media posts about your organization, and you want to maximize that impact.
Depending on the type of board you are on and the goals for the organization, there are several ways you can help out your organization across social media. If you are on a for-profit or corporate board, you can add your board position to your work experience on LinkedIn or include the work you do in your LinkedIn summary. When you attend a networking event or an event for your organization, write a post about it, and tag your organization. If you don’t know how to tag your organization, learn as soon as possible. Additionally, if you have an “ask” from your organization, such as inviting attendees to an event or fundraising efforts, you can post that on your social media accounts.
Bonus: How Learning About Social Media Could Land You A Board Seat
Last, and this is a big point to pay attention to: If you’re trying to attain another board seat, your social media skills will make a difference. Maybe you want to go from a nonpaid position to a paid board? You’d better believe that besides your experience, your collateral and what contributions you can make to the board, they’ll be interested in your network, including your influence and social media network.
An executive-level colleague and board member once said that if all other things were equal and he had a potential board member with 50 LinkedIn connections versus one with 5,000 LinkedIn connections, he would take the one with more connections in a heartbeat, both for his board and for his internal team. He realized that part of the worth of that potential board member was their ability to spread the organization’s messaging faster and with more influence.
In fact, people looking at you for board seats want to see that you are actively engaging with your community and in your area of expertise. I’ve found that headhunters for board seats even recommend you have a micro-site or blog or are posting your own articles on a medium like LinkedIn in order to build your thought leadership. Being active (strategically) across social media is a great way to do this. Not sure what to write about or how to create content? You can read my previous article on how thought leaders should be thinking about content creation.
Board members can no longer turn a blind eye to social media, knowing that social media is an increasingly valuable asset everyone needs. It will serve you well on your board and on future boards.