Are You A Leader Even Online?

Leadership online? What does that even look like anymore? Honestly, given our current political maelstrom, I’m not sure, but I have some ideas of how I think small business owners, nonprofit professionals, and people interested in showing value to the world might behave online.

Situation: A Bad Online Review

Now, you can review anything online - books, vacuums, ice cream, stores, and entire towns – you name it. If a person can experience a product, place or event in some way they can review it. Those online reviews can be killers for a small business, author, chef, musician, maker – just anyone who puts them out there. It’s hard to hear someone’s negative opinion on something that you put out in the world. I get it. I really do.

Do not, no matter what, respond immediately online with a defense. If you are at ALL angry at the review don’t respond for at least 24 hours. Seriously. It won’t matter. It won’t make it go away. It won’t change the bad review. Instead, call a trusted advisor, a friend, and your mom and talk about what happened and how you could have done better, how the review doesn’t match what happened, or how it’s complete crap. Tell someone who cares about what you put into the world and talk it through.

After 24 hours you can respond. You can only respond, though, with kindness. Tell them that you are sorry that their experience wasn’t what they were expecting and that; if possible, you would like to connect in person to go over the issue. If you can’t do that just tell them you appreciate their feedback and that you will work to incorporate their viewpoint into your work. Be nice.

Why are you being nice? Why are you pulling out ALL of your professionalism? Because everyone in the world can see what you write online and if you are rude, condescending, mean or defensive you just look like a jerk. Your leadership cred goes down the drain. Who’s looking? Potential investors, customers and potential customers, your family, your community, your peers, media outlets and every other person who can type your business into their phone.

Situation: Facebook – Seriously, anything on Facebook

Your personal profile isn’t private unless you have locked everything down. If you go on rants about people in your community, your work, your customers, or anything else that is in relation to your business you are jeopardizing your business.

If you comment on a media outlets thread about how stupid X, Y and Z is everyone that follows you can see it. Not only that it comes up first. They see you with the snarky mean comment.

If you can’t reel in your mouth/fingers on Facebook you need to get off for a while. Real leadership doesn’t comment crappy things on posts. They don’t rain on other people’s parades. Real leaders know that people do/believe/write stupid stuff all of the time and it isn’t their job to give their opinion 24/7.

If your job isn’t comedy please think long and hard before you comment on every given thing.

8 Steps To Being a Leader Online

  1. Understand your brand. If you are living your brand in the ultimate sense you will be able to share your message through every post you make either on your own pages and platforms or when you are responding and commenting.
  2. Say less. Spend your time doing real work instead of trolling the internet. You don’t need to respond or push out a message constantly. Consistently, yes, but not every moment.
  3. Step away. Most likely your work doesn’t just happen online. Get involved deeply in the work you actually have to do and you won’t get so caught up with the online drama.
  4. Don’t stir stuff up. Don’t post things just to get the biggest reaction. You will look like a shit stirrer, not a leader, if you are going for the biggest bang online that gets the most emotional posts. Instead, share meaningful messages and posts that reflect the work you care deepest about.
  5. Take 10 and 24. Take ten breaths before responding to something that makes you frustrated and 24 hours when you are really pissed off. It will help you think about the bigger picture instead of just jamming your anger out.
  6. Control the conversation. If you are posting and the conversation online goes in a direction that you aren’t loving you have a couple of choices – you can say thank you for all the feedback and let them know you are no longer responding to comments on that thread or you can just delete the whole thing if it started with you. It’s seriously ok to just wipe it out.
  7. Don’t respond. If people are ranting and chiming in there is no obligation for you to respond. Instead you can call someone directly, message them through the app, email them – however you can connect to talk directly about the problem. You don’t have to respond online because life and business are nuanced and many times a real conversation is going to be better. It takes a leader to pick up the phone. 
  8. Unfollow and unfriend. If someone is just driving you mad just unfollow or unfriend them. Who cares? Life is too short to see posts that distract you from the important work you need to be doing.

Situation: You have a terrible, no good, experience with a vendor/client/staff member

Social media is NOT the place to deal with a problem you are having with someone in real life. Sure, it is vogue to Tweet an airline that they are doing a crummy job and your luggage is lost. I get it. You think that’s what the cool kids are doing. Maybe they are, but leaders don’t handle their business in the open air.

Leaders understand the process for dealing with stuff that happens. Because, guess what, stuff happens every single day. If you are going to rant and complain onine about every bad experience that you have people are going to become wary of doing business with you.

In the last week I have seen several people hate on their insurance provider, social media manager, a beverage vendor and a print supplier. Not one of them found resolution through their online rants. Sure, people came out and gave their war stories, too, but that didn’t solve the problem. In fact, it didn’t help the situation at all. Each one had to go through the protocol of the company that they were working with to get some kind of resolution.  If they hadn’t ranted online they could also have shown that they can keep their cool. Instead, they all looked like hot heads.

Need more?

Leadership is developed. And online leadership is constantly a work in progress, but when we put the effort to share our strengths online and not get dragged through the virtual mud we are all better off. I speak about leadership on and offline and work with groups to develop better strategies. Email me if that's something of interest to you.