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Posted by on Mar 21, 2012 in Business, Future of Leadership, Inspirational, Leadership, Social Media | 12 comments

8 Ways to Improve Your Social Standing by Vala Afshar

“Sometimes we spend more time than we should defending the old thing, instead of working to take advantage of the new thing.” Seth Godin

Today, customers and employees are leveraging social media to improve their trusted network. And yet the majority of businesses are failing to recognize the importance of social collaboration and the opportunity to ‘humanize their enterprise’. For some businesses today, there are employees that have a larger, more amplified voice than the organizations that they are a part of. These employees have actively used social media to build their own personal brand. How were they able to do this? These individuals decided to be social. What does it mean to be social?

The acronym S.O.C.I.A.L succinctly describes their approach: sincere, open, collaborative, interested, authentic and likable.

Twenty-first century leaders must recognize that customers and employees have a choice and a voice that can scale and amplify their message with greater reach and velocity than ever before. .As the Chief Customer Officer for Enterasys, I have been able to use social media as a way to engage more closely with employees, customers and industry thought leaders than I ever thought possible. Today, customers and employees are looking for transparency, authenticity, and values-driven leadership. Companies need to become more human and they are looking for social leaders. This does not mean leaders need to be less demanding, but rather, fair, collaborative, and open-minded. Social leaders are not about value extraction but rather value exchange.

How to do you transform your organization and leaders to adopt a more social mindset? What I have found most useful in my approach is to listen, engage and add value.

  • Stop thinking about collaboration and start collaborating.

    Tom Peters said the 4 most important words in a leader’s vocabulary: what do you think? Social leaders communicate with the purpose of involvement. An involved employee is a committed employee and commitment means productive and growth.

  • Be interested.

    When you find something interesting, share. Help grow your network by sharing valuable content.

  • Collaboration is the fuel for your empowerment engine.

    An empowered employee is a committed employee. Adoption of social collaboration can help motivate employees to rally around a common purpose, driving productivity be leveraging the group’s momentum.

  • Listen first, sell second.

    Stop trying to sell – yourself, your company, your products and services. Promote accomplishments and sell if asked, but social leaders are sharers, not sellers.

  • Be who you are, not what your network expects you to be.

    It is hard work to maintain a dual personality. Authentic leadership is an important characteristic of building social influence.

  • Social networks appreciate supportive truth tellers.

    There is however a line that should not be publicly crossed. Publicly praise and acknowledge valuable content. If you disagree with someone, be respectful and perhaps consider a one-to-one engagement rather than a public debate.

  • Be likable.

    Likability should not be confused with inability to make tough decisions. Leaders determinately know where they are going and why. Social leaders ensure that all team members also understand the direction and destination with a strong sense of purpose.

  • Practice and demonstrate humility.

    Yes, practice humility. Learn to dial it back instead of trying so hard to show how right you are or how smart you are.

Leadership is example. Business leaders must embrace and leverage technology to achieve their company’s full potential. That said, I believe that the most important success factors in order of priority are: culture, people, process and technology. Map out your journey with the purpose of helping employees and customers reach their full potential. It not about doing social, it’s about being social.


Graphic by Shawn Murphy

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Vala Afshar

Vala Afshar is the CMO and the Chief Customer Officer for Enterasys Networks, responsible for global marketing and customer service and support operations. An award-winning inventor of social technologies and customer services operations, Afshar is considered a pioneer in cloud computing, social collaboration, business intelligence and customer relationship management (CRM). Afshar is also the author of The Pursuit of Social Business Excellence, a new book that was published in September 2012.

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  • Shawn Murphy

    The point that resonates with me is “it’s about being social.” In the business world when new technology or fads surface and take root, most will pursue the shiny new thing with little understanding of the underlying principals. And by principals I mean the methods, ideas, ideals that make that shiny new thing become relevant. You give us strong principals to make social part of a movement and not a fad.

  • http://Website Vala Afshar


    I appreciate your kind words. The purpose of social collaboration is less about connecting the dots and more about connecting people – building relationships based on mutual trust and values. The best use of technology is to enable us deliver value to our employees, customers and business partners. People are inherently social and for this reason alone we can confidently view this as a movement and not a fad. Thanks again for your comments.

  • http://Website Dwight Griesman

    Vala, well played & spoken from the heart. Wait a minute – authenticity is one of the characteristics isn’t it. Nice job living the credo. Thanks for the short and direct summary,

  • http://Website Vala Afshar

    Shawn, I appreciate your comments. The purpose of technology is help improve our ability to better service and deliver value to our employees, customers and business partners. I am in full agreement with your commentary. People are inherently social and for this reason we are looking at a movement and not a fad.

  •!/Natasha_D_G Natasha Gabriel

    “An empowered employee is a committed employee” I believe this 110% . WOM takes on a whole new face when all employees are sharing company vision and mission. Can you imagine the amplification?

    Another thought that speaks to me is “practice humility.” Funny but #HBRChat yesterday we debated humility as a core leadership quality. I look across at the athletes that we love to hate and they are leaders, but cocky. Then the players that we love and cheer for whether winning or losing are the humble leaders, always giving deference to their team. On the social playing field every RT, Like, +1 is a team mate we need to give deference to. Love the dial back factor Vala. Though you can lead without humility or be social without it, it certainly gives it a better flavor.

    Great post!

    • http://Website Vala Afshar

      Natasha, excellent comments. Clearly you not only get what it means to be social, you also practice it everyday. You are a social media rock star!

  • http://www.brucesallan. Bruce Sallan

    What was that about listening? That sounds just like my wife…JUST KIDDING. It is so true to listen before you sell…a good reminder!

    • http://Website Vala Afshar

      Appreciate your comments Bruce. Thank you for reading and good luck with the listening at home

  • Julia

    I agree with your point about listening! I hate people who start to sell their products without even understanding my needs. I rather buy from someone who is not too pushy and listen to what I want to say, my opinion, my needs etc.

    • http://Website Vala Afshar

      Thank you Julia. As John Wooden famously said: Listen, if you want to be heard. Thank you for your comments.

  • danielle hatfield (@dhatfield)


    Great post. I appreciate your point of “Listen first, sell second.”

    All too often we see people who join Linkedin Groups, comment on Facebook pages and use Twitter to sell, sell, sell. Personally it turns me off to not only the person but the brand they represent.

    Another point that resonated with me is being who you are vs. who your network expects you to be. It is a dangerous thing to allow ourselves to be put into a box both online and off. We are forever changing and growing and it is vital for us to have the freedom to evolve our own brand of Authentic Leadership.

    Thank you again for such an insightful post!

  • Dr Daisy Johnson

    This is excellent… I totally agree. Doc

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