To Be a Leader In Social Media… “Tell me where you participate.” (BTW: LinkedIN is not enough!)

You Unfollow Me on Twitter?You don’t have to actually tweet more than a couple times a month. You don’t need to worry about your Klout score, or reach, or number of followers. If you’re applying for a position with a gaming company you don’t necessarily have to have a top score on the leader boards, or even an active profile on their system. To lead Facebook marketing campaigns, you don’t really need to participate in Facebook groups, causes, or games. And you want to be hired as a community manager you don’t really need to be active participant in an online community. Right?

Oh, wait a minute. Scratch that. I’ve got it backwards.

Social media is not an academic pursuit. You cannot lead and explore what you don’t yourself understand. And the only way to grok it is to jump in, feet and fingers first and be social.

It was a while back, at a large corporation, when I was part of a social media programs team, where my manager wrote in an email, “I don’t know how I overlooked following you on Twitter. I have fixed that.” This was after I had been working on their team for about three months. Twitter was part of the strategic initiatives we managed as a group.

To this manager it was a moment, “Snap, I need to follow my team on Twitter.” To me it was an ah-ha moment.

If you want to lead in social media, get social. If you want to become a thought leader, then share what you’ve learned in the process of doing rather than thinking about doing. A mentor once told me, “Thought leadership is really about how you present your information. If you are helping people learn something, that’s leadership. Often, people are just promoting themselves and not giving anything away.”

One of my favorite interview questions for social media applicants is, “Where do you participate in social media?”

You’d better have a pretty compelling answer. And if you draw a blank, maybe you had better get started. (And no, LinkedIN is not enough.)

John McElhenney


UPDATE: And you’d probably best get started on your blog. Because if you’re not sharing your thoughts about social media, nobody will know you are having them.

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