My most recent book, Return on Impact – Leadership Strategies for the Age of Connected Relationships (ASAE, 2012) is getting some positive attention from clients, prospects, partners, and the media. I thought I’d share an excerpt each month to help you think differently about “social.”

“There are no shortcuts!”

An omnipresent sign at the gym where I train displays those words. Incremental neglect seldom highlights the greater impact; in other words, you don’t feel worse by skipping a workout or dramatically different after one. But should you skip exercising for a whole year, you are sure to feel accelerated breathing up a flight of stairs, loss of muscle mass, or a tighter fit around your waistline. Responding to the evolutionary digital land­scape isn’t a switch; it’s a dial. You have to lead differently! Leadership strategy for the age of connected relationships isn’t about putting up a Facebook fan page or the CEO’s tweeting three times a day! It’s about the unequivocal need to think and act differently as a leading organization because of social: to harness its power and promise while avoiding its inevitable pitfalls, to embrace it as an enabler of your value-add, not block access to it out of fear of malice.

This is perhaps an opportune time to clarify my use of social, particu­larly as a noun. In English, the use of social refers to an informal gathering, as in a “neighborhood social.” I’m taking liberty of using the same refer­ence to informal gatherings via digital interactions, within and external to an organization. As described in the forthcoming chapters, my reference to social is more than social networking such as LinkedIn, Twitter, or YouTube. My reference to social is more than social media such as forum, blogs, or discussion groups. As such, we need a new definition for social as a fundamental shift in mindset, toolset, and roadmap for an individual, a team, and the organization to:

  • •Put its customers/members at the center of its structure, suite of offerings, job descriptions, and value creation efforts;
  • Creatively collaborate in real time, while becoming more agile, responsive, streamlined, and direct;
  • More open in its communication and transparent in its governance, encouraging, authentic, and trusted;
  • More caring, accessible, agile, and innovative; and
  • Proactive, engaged, connected, and self-directed.

None of the above attributes happen overnight. It’s a work in progress led by a vision to think and act, and maybe even, lead differently. You see, leadership strategy isn’t about Twitter; it’s how microblogging 140 char­acters at a time empowers ambient-aware individuals and organizations, because the more information you glean about key individuals engaged online or offline, the more proactively you can manage those relationships.

If the power has shifted to the consumer and is compressing mar­gins and changing paradigms, it makes sense for every organization to understand and anticipate buyer behavior by listening to members and customers and turning insight into immediate action. It’s not just about reacting, but predicting and adapting your value-add based on member demands and then seamlessly orchestrating that value among your trading partners and suppliers. It’s about marketing to a much broader audience, selling and fulfilling the right product and service at the right price, right time, and right place. It’s about serving your customers flawlessly and learning from their behavior so you can predict and take action for the next interaction.

Social is more than a communication channel.

Learn more at an upcoming IMPACT Webinar, ROIBook Blog, or Twitter Account. You can also pick up a copy of the book or the audiobook from our website.

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