Billionaire entrepreneur and business storyteller, Richard Branson, recently posted a short video of himself on his Instagram profile that tells you all you need to know about being an authentic thought leader on social media. In the post, Branson is seen writing on a notepad--in long hand--the final words of his new autobiography to be published in the fall.
Branson is an authentic thought-leader because his 'voice' on social media is actually his own.
A few years ago, Virgin America invited me to spend the day with Richard Branson as the brand celebrated the opening of new destinations (Virgin America has since been acquired by Alaska Airlines). I accompanied Branson on planes, in airports, and at parties. As I watched Branson carefully, I was struck by the fact that he wrote his own social media posts, despite having a team of marketing and publicity folks around him.
While I was seated next to Branson on a plane, his assistant showed him a photo she had just taken. "I like that photo," Branson said. "Text it to me, I'll write something about it, and I'll post it."
All too often, I meet business professionals, franchise owners, and entrepreneurs who say they want to be considered thought-leaders in their industry, but who delegate their social media posts or they have others write their LinkedIn articles. Social media is the most direct and authentic voice they can own, and yet they hand it off as an after-thought.
I can easily tell when there isn't an authentic voice behind someone's social media posts. It happens when they can't engage in conversation. If I leave a comment on a person's Instagram or Facebook posts or I reach out on Twitter and get absolutely no response, then I know the platform is being used as a one-way broadcast tool instead of developing relationships with followers.
Now, truth be told, it's unlikely that you'll get a response from a high profile leader like Richard Branson who has millions of followers. They simply can't answer everyone. But if you follow Branson long enough you'll be surprised at just how many people he actually does respond to.
If you have a few hundred or a few thousand followers on any of your social media platforms, there's no excuse not to have frequent conversations. You should also post frequently to build your audience. Many people feel overwhelmed by the thought of posting social media because they wrongly believe that everything they write as 'thought-leaders' has to be lengthy, comprehensive and weighty.
That's not the case, at all. Many of Richard Branson's most popular posts are simply photos of himself along with a sentence or two.
For example, in this blog post, Branson posted a photo indulging in one of his favorite pastimes, kitesurfing."There's nothing better than starting your day feeling invigorated and alive," Branson writes. "Getting out on the waves keeps the blood flowing, keeps me fit and starts my morning with a bit of a buzz. It also means I'm so much more productive for the rest of the day. If you're not having fun then what's the point?"
Today it's simpler than ever to share your thoughts, ideas and life with the rest of us. Mobile tools have put Facebook, Instagram, Snap, Twitter, and LinkedIn at our fingerprints wherever we are and whatever we're doing. It's never been easier to be a thought-leader.
Take advantage of the tools at your fingertips and, as Branson says, have fun doing it. If you're having fun, there's a good chance your followers will enjoy being a part of your world.