I know, I know; “Accountweetable” is a bit cutesy. However the art of being “accountweetable” may not be as silly as it sounds.
I define being “accountweetable” as “being accountable for your social media postings; not only for the things you say, but also to whom you say them."
More and more, we see our community leaders – be they thought, organizational or political leaders – joining the ranks of those utilizing social media outlets such as Twitter to amplify their visions of a better world.
With this new form and ever-emergent leadership practice, even the highest profile leaders may not see that their presence in such social spaces extends their leadership responsibilities – in ways they may not be prepared for.
One of our team members here at Global Learning is an avid tweeter on their own time, and uses the space not to build a brand, but to actually be social.
Recently, they experienced an interesting occurrence that solidified my understanding of the importance in remaining accountable – or accountweetable – if you are a public leader engaging in social media.
To spare the long details of a short story:
While walking their dog, our self-tweeting staffer came across a community safety concern. Without thinking twice, they tweeted their local representative about the issue, thinking it to be a conveniently casual way to let the representative and their office know what was happening within their district. This representative is also quite active on Twitter and they had actually exchanged positive tweets with our staff member regarding another subject in the past. Through a social media platform, the representative is clearly listening and responding when they feel appropriate.
Our team member didn’t fully expect a response. While not the most proactive act of leadership from the representative, a lack of response in this situation could easily be overlooked.
Here’s where this situation goes awry and is blatant proof that there are more people listening than you think.
Instead of getting a response from the representative, our team member was shockingly inundated with discriminatory tweets from a group of local cyber-bully tweeters, who apparently disagree with our staffer’s safety concerns. In each of these discriminatory messages, the representative’s handle - @<insertnamehere> - was also included.
Our staffer chose not to respond, as many of us in the social media arena have learned never to engage with bullies. But sadly the vile minutiae continued throughout the day and into the evening, with a sporadic classless quip or two thrown in during the middle of the night.
Upon checking their email in the morning, not only was there no response from the representative, but they had also been ‘unfollowed’ by the representative.
Coming into work and filling us all in, our staffer expressed an existent malaise regarding the situation. For some reason they were having a hard time letting go of the fact that the representative never reached out and “unfollowed” them.
Although not quite sure as to what the representative might say, they felt as though they had just been bullied in a schoolyard while the teacher just stood there and then walked away.
So I ask: Does this social media behaviour represent accountable leadership?
Our staffer is a tax-paying, community-driven, social changer with a pleasant disposition. They represent any number of team members in a wide variety of situations. They are the exact type of person that any leader would want on their side and helping to promote their leadership goals. Yet here they are left feeling abandoned to some extent.
Knowing this person well, I can safely say, they will not be sitting at home at night, crying because they have been “unfollowed” by a local politician. Which isn’t to say that they’re actually aren’t people out there who would have a more emotional reaction to such a situation. In fact, it’s the existence of these people and their use of social media for connectivity that we must consider most when engaging in social media as a leader.
Bottom line: If you are going to put yourself out there, stamp yourself with the word “leader”, and offer an open line of communication, then you must think thoroughly. And you must be “accountweetable”.
If you are going to be there, then be there.
“Responsibility's like a string we can only see the middle of. Both ends are out of sight.” ~William McFee, Casuals of the Sea, 1916