Leadership and Social Media

The frequency, use, and depth of engagement on social media will increase the popularity of social media increases. Thus it is important to be able to define what it is (Wollan, Smith, & Zhou, 2010).  However, the definition of social media would change with time because social media is dependent on the technology and platforms that enable and facilitates a social connection (Cohen, 2011; Solis, 2010). The social connection from social media shifts content creation and delivery from a “one-to-many” model to a “many-to-many” model (Solis, 2010; Wollan et al., 2010). This social connection exists between content hosted online versus the consumers of the content (Cohen, 2011). Wollan et al. (2010) defined that social media is highly assessable and scalable.  Thus, social media allows for democratizing content/information and influence (Solis, 2010; Wollan et al., 2010). In the end, social media allows for swift content creation and dissemination by the content creators, whether it is from organization or a single/group people (Wollan et al., 2010).

From a business perspective, social media has become a customer relationship management tool between the business and its customers (Wollan et al., 2010). There is a different type of leadership style needed for companies that use social media to deliver products and services. Li (2010), explains a case study where the Red Cross wanted to control social media right after it saw the negative impacts from the Hurricane Katrina response.  However, over time (not over-night) the Red Cross realized it was better to engage in an open dialog with its participants over social media, which paid off because they were able to raise $10M for Haiti earthquake relief in three days in 2010.  This could only be done when the social media strategy handbook was published online to allow for not only the corporate but the local Red Cross chapters to begin their usage of social media (Li, 2010; American Red Cross, 2012). They had to let go of controlling their image, word for word, but allow their chapters to do so.

This “Let it go” style is the main type of leadership style that Li (2010) proposes in Open Leadership for businesses to succeed in their use of Social Media for its future success. Social media is driving a leadership style that is more democratic (Stupid stuff for dummies, 2011), due to social media’s democratizing properties.  This is because in this world, people vote with how they spend their dollars, social media allows for a company to engage with its customers through exhibiting (not all but) greater transparency and authenticity (Li, 2010). Open Leadership is not about controlling technology but establishing a plan or relationship that is wanted with the social media platform, to maintain a democratic leadership style that grows a corporation successfully.

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