Corporate Eye

5 Hats of a Social Leader

hats social leaderLeading in a world where social media touches every part of people’s lives is challenging, and marketing leaders need to develop social leadership skills in addition to traditional leadership skills in order to effectively manage their teams and champion their brands.

The days of just leading a creative and/or analytical team of marketers is over. Today, marketing touches every part of an organization because social media makes everyone a catalyst for word-of-mouth marketing. Harnessing the power of that reach to effectively build the value of your brand is a challenge, but the potential rewards make it worth fighting to get those extra budget dollars for social media and content marketing initiatives.

To help you start thinking like a social leader, following are five hats that successful social leaders wear every day. Add these hats to the six hats of a chief brand officer, and you’ll be on your way to leading a strong brand marketing team for your company.

1. Strategist

As a social leader, not only do you have to define the strategies for your brand marketing team, but you also have to talk about them. You need to share your vision and make sure your team, other members of the company, consumers, and the broader online audience understand that vision, too.

2. Collaborator

In addition to communicating your strategy, as a social leader, you’ll need to understand the interests and priorities of all stakeholders, including employees, consumers, business partners, shareholders, and so on. Social leaders seek out like-minded people who share their vision and build relationships with those individuals which can lead to organic word-of-mouth marketing. They also know how to interact and collaborate with people who don’t share their vision. Balancing these relationships and navigating disparate opinions is an art and a science, and social leaders have mastered both.

3. Adviser and Educator

A social leader isn’t a talking head. As a social leader, you must truly be invested in providing knowledge internally and externally. That means you need to create content, share content, discuss content, join conversations, and be active, vocal, and visible. After all, if you’re not social, you can’t be a social leader.

4. Communicator

Building brand trust through honesty and transparency is a business imperative today, so a social leader must set an example for employees to follow by openly and honestly communicating internally, externally, and via social media. These activities and behaviors should be closely aligned with the company’s code of ethics and core values (discussed in more detail in #5 below).

5. Decision-Maker

There will be problems, and their will be social media and public relations fires to put out. The result of open communication (and there is no fighting against open communication today) is the potential for people to publish and share damaging and/or false information about your brand that can spread to large audiences around the world in seconds. It’s critical to have a social media policy that aligns closely with your company’s core values and code of ethics, so you have a decision-making process to guide you and your team to make the right decisions. Social media training should become a core component of employee ethics training, so they feel comfortable advocating the brand across the social web but understand they are expected to do so within a set of guidelines.

Image: Luke Renner

The following two tabs change content below.
Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for and, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as,,, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.