Let’s start off by coming to an agreement that your Facebook feed probably looks like most people’s…vacation photos, social quizzes, kitten videos, weddings, parties, and babies. You might post a few thoughts about the latest political buzz, but you’re not writing to change anyone’s opinion or move them in a new direction. Facebook is a window to the social You, not the professional You. Am I right?
Now a question…where is your largest connected network? Is it at your workplace? Your gym? Through your family? Or is it through Facebook?
If you’re not in the business of influence, then this discussion is irrelevant. But if you are a leader, then its worthwhile to consider how you use your most expansive network. If you care about changing people in positive ways, then you need to rethink Facebook.
When it comes to Facebook, I’ve heard leaders cite a number of reasons for not using it for professional influence. Do any of these sound familiar?
- “I don’t want to ‘friend’ the people I work with.”
- “In the military, it’s fraternization to connect with subordinates on social media.”
- “I don’t want my work colleagues to see my personal posts.”
- “There’s no good professional content to share.”
- “I don’t have time to spend on Facebook.”
- “My friends and family don’t want to see professional posts in their feeds.”
- “My team will think I want to snoop on them if I ask to connect on Facebook.”
- “My unit already has a leader development program, so I don’t need any other methods.”
And if it’s not because of a specific reason like these, a lot of people have simply never viewed Facebook as a medium for anything other than family photos.
Weapon of Mass Influence
I can devote a paragraph to discrediting each of the claims above, but I’ll summarize by saying that they are minor obstacles standing in the way of an opportunity to have significant positive impact. It is outdated nonsense to believe that becoming Facebook friends with coworkers and subordinates is inappropriate. Facebook is a digital connection, not a date. And the privacy settings are so easily adjustable that leaders can tailor their feeds and posts to target specific groups, thus avoiding the concerns about personal information.
The other false assumption worth mentioning is that people don’t want to see personal or professional development content on Facebook. Again, people can use privacy settings as a filter, but since when do great leaders go silent because they think people don’t want to be led? I promise you that your network is just like you…they’ll be happy to gain inspiration, insight, and development whenever and wherever they can get it.
And if you’re concerned about crossing boundaries with your personal content, create a page affiliated with your organization where you can post content without worry. FORSCOM Leader Development and Ready First 6 on Twitter are great examples. The new app Slack is also a streamlined way to distribute content to a closed and tailorable audience.
Like and Share
If you are a leader, you have the responsibility to be a content producer, not just a content consumer. There is a massive amount of valuable professional content going out on Facebook and other social media platforms. You wouldn’t hesitate to pass on a good leadership lesson from your boss; similarly, don’t let good professional content stop with you, wherever its posted.
Make a difference through social media in just a few steps:
- Start intentionally building your influence network by ‘friending’ coworkers, teammates, and anyone else you think would benefit from content that matters.
- Adjust your privacy settings to tailor your own feed, as well as how you distribute content.
- Start following the sites that will grow you and your team (military blogs, official pages, defense commentary, etc.).
- Share the relevant content and add your own comments so your people know how it applies to them.
- Use the material as a primer for professional discussions at work.
Today, there is no more expansive digital network than Facebook. Leaders who care about developing people will use every possible avenue to make a difference, which means overcoming our fear of using it to develop our people and teams.
And as a final tip, I’ve found no better way to easily share good content than the Buffer App. I use it exclusively to distribute this site’s posts and for continuing social media engagement. The Safari extension allows two-click, simultaneously sharing across up to multiple social media outlets and provides the option to schedule your posts for a particular date/time. Be sure to check it out!
Questions for Leaders
- Is your desire to make a difference in people’s lives stronger than your bias against using Facebook?
- In what ways could your organization improve if it had a robust digital connection through which to communicate and grow?
- Through what mediums do your team members communicate? Are you plugged in and relevant?