To understand how leaders can use the latest technology to connect with their followers, a brief review of the history of technology is in order. One of the biggest misconceptions about technology is the notion that it is new. Contrary to popular opinion, technology predates the Internet. Technology predates the industrial revolution. Technology predates our even keeping records of history. Technology has existed for as long as civilization itself—perhaps even longer. As long as there have been ways of doing things, there have been people searching for ways to do those things better. That, at its very core, is what technology is—improvement upon existing conditions.
Throughout history, technology has been used for many purposes: Industry, war, travel, and so on. What I would like to deal with in this article is one particular breed of technology: Communication technology. The first known form of human communication was oral. People told each other stories and relied on communal memory and shared culture to keep them alive. Soon, writing systems were developed, and the oral traditions became more permanent. In 1450, Johannes Guttenberg was credited with bringing us the printing press. Then, written communication was able to be mass-produced. In the late 1800s, radio became a means of mass-producing oral communication. Then, in the early 1900s, television made it possible to scale audio/visual communication. Finally, our latest iteration of the evolution in communication technology, the Internet has magnified communication in ways we would have never thought possible.
There are two critical factors that separate the Internet from the communication technologies that precede it. First, the Internet is interactive. In real-time, the message sender and receiver can communicate back-and-forth. This can be done via text, audio, and video—all communication platforms of the past. Perhaps more importantly, though, the Internet has an unbelievably low barrier to entry. The cost of using the Internet to communicate with audiences is next to nothing. Tools that were only available in the past to departments with hefty budgets are now available to pretty much everyone. Nothing is free, of course, but the Internet is just about as free as it gets.
Leaders in the 21st century who are not using the communication technologies of the Internet to connect with their followers are sorely missing out. Those of us who still think that social media, for example, is a fad of youth culture need to start seeing it for what it is—the next step in the evolution of human communication. We can’t dig our heels in the dirt and refuse to move forward while the rest of the world embraces these new technologies. If we’re to be effective communicators going into the future, we must be willing to learn.
I have found a tremendous amount of success in using Internet radio as a method of reaching my audience. For several years now, I have conducted the weekly “Lykken on Lending” broadcast for mortgage bankers. People have been tuning in to the broadcast from all over the world, and I’ve been getting twenty-five to thirty thousand downloads per week. We live in an unprecedented time in history for a business leader to have the kind of reach at his disposal. Yet the Internet has made it possible for me to connect with thousands of people who want to hear what I have to say. I would have to have been out of my mind to turn down such an opportunity.
I have had amazing opportunities to develop my leadership qualities through “Lykken on Lending.” I have had conversations with listeners before and after the show. I have been featured on national television. I have connected with other professionals with whom I’ve had amazing opportunities to do great work. And it’s all because I decided to tap into the existing communication technology to reach greater audiences.
What communication technologies on the Internet have you used to connect with your audience? And, by audience, I mean your employees, your customers, and your colleagues. Your employees need to hear from you in order to be inspired to do the work that brings in customers. Your customers need to hear from you in order to be convinced that yours is the appropriate company with whom they should be doing business. Your colleagues need to hear from you in order to get ideas on how they themselves can grow professionally. You have an infinite amount of platforms at your disposal to put your leadership into action and inspire those around you. Are you using any of them?
Are you using “Podcasts?” A podcast, without getting too technical, is really just another word for an Internet radio program like I’ve just subscribed. People can subscribe to podcasts so that, when you publish a new one, they receive it in their libraries. There are no rules as far as content or length. You can make a podcast about changes in the housing market for your customers or a podcast about customer service or sales for your employees. You can feature guests and have an hour-long dialogue, or you can give a ten minute soliloquy containing your own advice. The key benefit of using a podcast to connect with your followers is that, unlike any other platform, its content can be consumed while they’re engaging in other activities. Your followers can listen to a podcast while they’re driving, writing, researching, or mowing grass. Now, that’s accessibility!
Are you using “Blogs?” A blog is the most low-maintenance piece of Internet technology that you could possibly use to communicate with your audience. Essentially, a blog is simply an online journal to which people can subscribe. You can use a blog to convey your professional expertise to your customers or to provoke your employees to take action for your customers. A blog can generate interaction, and you can dialogue with your audience in the “comments” section. You can also use a blog to generate content that you will use to feed other platforms. And, due to the fresh textual content it provides, there is nothing better for generating search engine traffic to your Web site than a blog.
Are you using “E-Newsletters?” A blog is public. Anyone can find it. An e-mail newsletter, like a traditional newsletter, only goes out to the people you send it to. The advantage of the e-newsletter is that you have control over who receives it. Your e-mail lists, whether they are customers, prospects, or employees, represent the most direct influence you can have on your audience. A person’s e-mail inbox is private and they don’t grant access to it to just anyone. When you send out e-newsletters, always have something valuable to say. Nobody likes spam. But if you aren’t using e-mail to reach your audience, you’re missing out. Most people aren’t going to check your blog every day. But everyone is going to check their e-mail.
Are you using “Social Media?” On social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, you can both create original content and use content from other platforms like your blog and your podcast. But the more important way of using social media is to interact with the content other people are sharing. Like, share and comment on their Facebook status updates. Participate in groups on LinkedIn. Reply to their tweets on Twitter. Want to know how people who aren’t celebrities get so many followers on Twitter? They talk to them. Don’t use social media just to broadcast your content. It’s called “social” media for a reason. Be social!
Are you using “Webinars?” Selling to consumers, you probably won’t have much use of Webinars for your customers. However, they can be great tools for motivating and educating your employees. A Webinar is a more visual, interactive conference call. You can show a presentation to your team and allow them to interact with you virtually while you’re showing it. You can also have video chats if you want the conference call to be more interactive. Google has a really neat feature called “Hangouts” that allows up to ten people to video conference with one another for free.
By definition, leaders should be among the first ones to embrace new technologies. If they aren’t first, then they aren’t really leaders, are they? Today more than ever, leaders have the opportunity to inspire their followers and maintain constant communication with their audiences. Technology isn’t going away. The only question is, will you be laggard or an early adopter? Leaders are always on the cutting-edge. Leaders get there first.
Who knows what’s next? The Internet has been a truly revolutionary leap for leaders using technology to communicate. We can only imagine what will surpass it in the future. But, for the time being, we must take advantage of the resources available to us. Podcasting. Blogging. Sending newsletters. Interacting on social media. Participating in Webinars. All of these are things we could be doing. Our followers are listening. The question is, “when are we going to pick up the platforms and start talking?”
David Lykken is president of mortgage strategies and managing partner with Mortgage Banking Solutions. He has more than 35 years of industry experience and has garnered a national reputation, and has become a frequent guest on FOX Business News with Neil Cavuto, Stuart Varney, Liz Claman and Dave Asman with additional guest appearances on the CBS Evening News, Bloomberg TV and radio. He may be reached by phone at (512) 977-9900, ext. 10, or e-mail [email protected]
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