6 Communication Lessons for 21st-Century Leaders from Social Media (photo courtesy of Depositphotos - 8699839).I was not one of social media’s early adopters. I finally got on Facebook in 2009, roughly the same time as your grandmother.

Twitter? Not until 2011. All those hashtags and short URLs confused me. BTW, my first-ever tweet: http://bit.ly/15lCRZW

I quickly discovered that social media isn’t rising so quickly because the tech is sexy. It’s because it leverages core communication principles that work really well in the 21st century.

Six lessons stood out as fundamental – not only to social media, but to effective leadership communication in all media (face-to-face, print, etc.):

  • Brevity. Short sticks.
  • Humility. Constant self-promotion gets tuned out. Share and give credit for other people’s wisdom and ideas 6-12 times as often as you share your own gems.
  • Generosity. Spend sufficient time talking to higher-profile people who can teach you and promote you. But also generously share some of your time with a newer people you can teach and promote.
  • Feedback. People crave feedback. More than that: they suffocate without feedback. You know you do, too … when you post something you’re really proud of, do you check early and often to see how many “likes” or re-tweets you prompted?


    A 2012 study by ROI Research found that pictures are enjoyed the most on social media sites. http://slidesha.re/11WuQO5

  • Visual. The ability of pictures, graphics, and videos to grab attention cannot be overstated. Admit it, you even looked at the boring graph to the right before you read all six of my bullet points.
  • Learning. Don’t act like you know everything or are the smartest person in the room. Social media quickly proves there is always someone who knows more on a given subject, and that there isn’t enough time to read everything. Much of the best stuff I read has been suggested to me by smart people I follow. It’s rather like crowdsourcing my reading list – allowing the crowd to become a collective thought leader that suggests content and ideas for me to consider and even share with others.

You may or may not choose to use social media such as LinkedIN, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+. Regardless, as a leader, you will be much more effective if you apply these lessons in all your various types of communication.

Jesse Lahey, SPHR, is the host of the Engaging Leader podcast, host of the Game Changer podcast series, and managing principal of Aspendale Communications. Connect with him on TwitterFacebook, or LinkedIn.