Social Media and Leaders: Show, Don’t Tell


January 31, 2011

I was a guest on the DriveThru HR radio show a couple weeks ago and one caller asked a great question that we only partially addressed due to time.  John Jorgerson asked, “How do you convince an organization to use social media or be accepting and how do you then use it?”

It’s a big question and in my opinion, there are a whole host of answers that work.  In my experience, when many people begin using social media platforms, like other “new” things, there is a kind of excitement that comes with it.  And, almost everyone who is a regular user that I’ve talked to says they go through some similar phases in the social media process:

  • “I don’t get it” phase–  You think everyone is just being narcissistic by talking about what type of coffee they’ve just had.
  • “Oh really?” phase- This is when you meet someone who uses the tools and they share an example or two with you that piques your curiosity.
  • Wow! This is fun!” phase–  At this point you’re using the sites, you’re networking, you’re getting exposure to new information that you may not have found elsewhere.  You begin making time to use social media every day and you look forward to it.
  • “I’m going to share it with the world” phase–  People who “get” it typically move to this phase quickly and want to share this great forum with everyone who will listen.  The only problem is that by the time you get to this phase, you realize the value and you also realize that most people are back at the first phase.  They just don’t get it, they don’t want to, and they are full of excuses of why they will never get it.
  • “Fine, they don’t know what they’re missing” phase- After using social media for several years, many people land here.  I am here.  While I love to share information with the curious, I’ve come to the realization that I don’t have to share it with the world.  Especially when it comes to my own industry of human resources, I’m fine with HR pros who don’t ever want to use it.  Why?  More job security for me and the people who are staying up with technology and networking and less for the people who are going to make themselves extinct in a few years.

It may sound harsh but not everyone wants to learn these things.  Which brings me to the answer to the question that John asked.  My personal stance is that I am not ever going to convince an organization’s leadership to use social media.  My approach is one where I use the tools myself in my daily work and demonstrate the value. This demonstration usually gets the leader quickly to the “Oh really?” phase and then there is no need to convince them because I’m already showing them how it benefits them.  In summary, SHOW don’t TELL is my answer and my approach.  I’ll address the second half of his question in a future post where I’ll explain how I use social media in my day-to-day job.

How about you?  What strategies do you use to convince leaders to use social media?  Or, do you even try?


  • Terrific post Trish! Your categories are right on target (I am currently straddling “I’m going to share…and.. Fine, they don’t know…). Despite working in an organization that aggressively uses social media tools, and has been recognized nationally for doing so, many of my colleagues simply are afraid (my view, not anything they would ever dare admit) to give sm a try. For those that make it to “Wow”, it’s a great experience. I look forward to part 2.

    • @Jay- Thanks Jay. I use you quite often as an example of someone in HR, and specifically healthcare, that “gets” it. By showing people others who use the tools successfully, they are less fearful and those excuses just melt away. It’s all about NO EXCUSES HR, right?? 🙂

  • i agree. let the results show for themselves, guide them along the way rather than driving them.

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About Trish

A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.


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