The Role of Leadership in Social Media Communities

Twitter Smarter chat with Gene Petrov - June 6, 2019

Ever noticed the phrase “thought leader” being strewn across social media with no apparent reason or relevance? Us too. That’s why we decided to clarify some of our burning questions about leadership and leadership roles on social media.

And guess what—we had an excellent resource we could turn to, right in our Twitter Smarter community. Gene Petrov is a business consultant, leadership coach, and an active social media manager. When he’s not teaching marketers how to become efficient leaders that their team will choose to follow, Gene is on the Twitterverse sharing priceless marketing nuggets.

So here’s how our chat with Gene went.

Guest: Gene Petrov
Topic: The Role of Leadership in Social Media Communities
Format: 8 questions directed at the guest. Everyone’s welcome to share.

Q1: What do you mean by “community” on social media?

Oh, where to start, huh? Everyone’s got their own definition of what a it is and should be. But in its essence, a community is a group pf people who share common interests and continually strive to help each other out.

Physical communities are bound by location, but thanks to the internet, online communities can accommodate global audiences—look at our Twitter Smarter chat, for instance.

And of course, as Gene rightly points out, a community should be rooted on mutual respect and trust.

Kathryn sums it up in a nice way:

You can be yourself in a community, because they’ll always have your back.

Q2: How do you go about creating a community?

We all talk about finding a community, someplace we can feel at home. But what if you don’t find one, or in other words, you’re the first in a community?

Gene knows so much about this, folks. Just follow his advice:

  1. Know your why: Identify your (or your brand’s) purpose. It should be a common goal or cause that people can rally around.
  2. Find the right person: Building a community is a huge responsibility. Delegate the task to someone who’ll be around, who understands your purpose, and is socially-trained.
  3. Assure security: People need to know that your community is a safe space for them to voice their opinions. Make sure you’re transparent and let them know everyone matters.
  4. Establish ground rules: It isn’t school, and we’re not kids anymore. But a community is for sharing ideals without offending or hurting anyone. Don’t hesitate to set up regulations for members.
  5. Do your thing and be patient: We can’t insist enough on this. Overnight success is fantasy. Building a group of people committed to sharing their insights takes a lot of time and patience.

Ginny reminds us that Twitter chats are the easiest way get involved in online communities. You can start by engaging in other chats and then build your own.

Q3: Why is it important for a brand/business to have a community on social media?

Not all brands have active social media communities. But the benefits of being available to current and future customers far outweigh the efforts.

Besides, as Gene says, people reach out to people. That’s our instinct, and no amount of technological algorithms can prevent people from engaging with their chosen communities. That’s why it’s invaluable for a brand to have human representatives online—to have a source fans can rely on.

Your business will practically sell itself.

Because a community is proof of your credibility, as Tina says. And of course if you want to last, as Kathryn points out, you need your cheerleaders.

However, it’s interesting how many brands name themselves as leaders when they’re far from it. Is there a differentiating factor, we wondered. Which was our next question.

Q4: Are all brands/businesses leaders?

Oh, well. The short answer is that you can’t be a leader if you’re trying to be everything to everyone.

To be a successful leader, a brand has to put in effort and time to nurture their cause, and the community that supports them.

Our friends at The Karacher Group phrase it well:

“You lift others up, challenge their views and methods while also learning from them yourself.”


Q5: What does it mean to lead on social media?

Leading on social media isn’t too different from being a leader offline. However, online conversations are so brittle that you need to be extra sensible. Gene explains it brilliantly,

And our takeaway from that,

  • Serve your community—selfishness isn’t leadership
  • Share your voice but be aware of its responsibility of your role
  • Have self-control—don’t react impulsively. Learn to respond with dignity.
  • Show up consistently, and because you genuinely care
  • Think beyond that one sale

Q6: What does a leader bring to the community?

A leader brings many things to the community—a broad mind, a welcoming environment, a generous vision, intense compassion, inspiration, and so much more.

It’s such a deep responsibility that Tom has a list of 229 elements listed in his book. Check out his work here.

Q7: What makes a good leader on social media?

To put it simply, knowing what you’re doing makes for a competent leader. Ask yourself: What makes you wake up every morning, and is it driven by a pay check or a cause you deeply believe in?

Of course, we all make mistakes, but a good leader learns and adapts to changing environments.

Q8: Share some tips to being a successful leader on social media.

We really couldn’t get enough of Gene’s wisdom. So we asked for more tips. But that’s the nature of social media management—you learn something everyday.

There you go, people. Long term success has no shortcuts.

I hope this summary was helpful. Feel free to share your thoughts as comments or leave a follow-up question for Gene.

About me, Narmadhaa:

I’m a writer of all things—technical and marketing copy to fill the pocket; haiku and short stories to fill the soul. A social media enthusiast, I’m a member of the #TwitterSmarter chat crew, and always happy to take on writing gigs.

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