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Rise of the Social Executive: How Social Media Builds Brands and Causes

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Every executive needs to understand the power of social media to help drive awareness for his company and his own personal brand. The dynamics of the digital world dictate that any business leader who doesn't stay on top of the ever-changing landscape is destined to see their business erode or be deemed irrelevant.

Whether you run an Internet-based business, a non-profit, or a more "traditional" enterprise, it is undoubtedly true that the demands of our 24/7 existence are greater than ever and only the most nimble and forward-thinking executives will thrive.

Being a social executive obviously means utilizing all of one's talents and energies to communicate and facilitate conversations across all social media platforms. In 2014 this is absolutely essential. Frankly, there cannot be any excuses for not making your presence felt online to build brand awareness and equity.

So what should you do to develop social media skills and build your own brand? Here are some lessons that I have learned since I first became fascinated with online marketing as a 16-year-old and now that I have built three successful Internet companies and founded the non-profit BeProud.org to promote social tolerance.

GET VISIBLE: Every man and his dog these days seems to have a Facebook page and a Twitter account. It goes without saying that these are 'must-haves.' Facebook has over a billion monthly users. Google+ is gaining some traction. But, depending on the audience you need to reach, you should also consider LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, and others that will soon emerge.

GET REGULAR: It's all too easy to get the ball rolling and, in a rush of enthusiasm, start posting on numerous sites. What's more important is having the discipline to persistently maintain that presence with regular updates. It's harder than you think. Develop a long-term strategy, planning your content months in advance. You can't do it all by yourself so get ideas from members of your team on topics that are meaningful that you want to share.

GET TO BE MEANINGFUL: You can generate all the friends and followers in the world but they're not going to keep liking you and following you if you have nothing of interest to say. Content is king. You need to constantly strive to come up with good content: pertinent advice, interesting and intriguing information, solid facts and figures, personal anecdotes, and much more, if you want to keep them coming back for more.

GET REAL: You need to be authentic. Speak honestly to your audience. As I mentioned you need to engage in a conversation with your audience. This is not the place to over-hype and over-sell. That can be a real turn-off.

GET FEEDBACK: Social media gives your customers the opportunity to share their feelings with you--and the rest of the world at the same time. Just look at sites that carry reviews of restaurants and hotels. If you get a negative, make sure that you answer it with constructive feedback. If you get a positive, nurture that relationship. It's advertising that you can't pay for.

GET TO BE LIKE A ROCK STAR: Celebrities, especially those in the music industry, have been exceptionally adept at adopting all elements of social media. They've brought their creative magic and passion to interacting with their fans in imaginative ways. Katy Perry, for instance, asked fans to create videos nominating the special "Firework" in their life when she released her single of that name. Blink-182 took a most "uncorporate" approach to the issue of fans illegally using their music on YouTube videos. Instead of suing them, they embraced them and created a video of their own composed of clips from the fan videos--and thanked and acknowledged the fans.

Another example is Amanda Perry who staged a secret show for fans who posted a comment on GetGlue (now known as tvtag) talking about their favorite moment at a concert. (In 2012, by the way, she started a Kickstarter campaign seeking to raise $100,000 for an album and book tour and raised ten times that amount). Lady Gaga, of course, is one of the greatest social media proponents of all, engaging online with her "little monsters" running contests and getting them to design emoticons and even outfits. What can you learn from these celebrities to apply to your business?

GET VISUAL: The written word is powerful, as is the spoken word. But combine them into an animated visual and you can develop an even more significant engagement with your audience. Create your own video and they get to see you and garner a better sense of you as a unique individual. Upload to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Vimeo and the many other video-sharing sites. Micro video apps such as Twitter's Vine and Instagram's video sharing tool are becoming increasingly popular. At exactly six seconds (Vine) and 3-15 seconds (Instagram) you can see that appealing to the younger demographic gives new meaning to the term "short attention span."

GET TIMELY: Timing is everything. If you can respond in real time you can turn negatives into major positives. Virgin America is a great case in point. The airline is heavily focused on social media, knowing that more than half of its passengers carry a laptop on board. The company sees anywhere from 300 to 500 in-flight tweets every day--and flight attendants monitor them. They've been known to read a passenger complaint about a meal and immediately replace it with another offering.

Consumers are getting more social media savvy by the day. A research survey for 2013 revealed that 73 percent of online adults use a social networking site of some kind. The one certainty as 2014 continues to unfold is that there will be more innovations in social media and even more opportunities for savvy executives to make their mark.

I encourage you to be at the front of the pack and start the conversation.

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