I just finished a Google Hangout with the students in a course called Leadership in Digital Contexts that my friend Kaia Shivers teaches at Rutgers University. I shared these points:
I work as a digital leader by speaking and writing about technology and the need to expand diversity in the sector. I am passionate about making the technology industry truly inclusive so that we can maximize innovation on a global scale.
I was, many years ago, where you are now. Well, there were no classes like this because Facebook and Twitter didn't exist. In fact, Google didn't exist! So, I structured this to share four points that I would wanted someone to share with me about the digital space when I was your age. So, here are four tips for being a digital leader:
1. Choose Your Tools. Don't try every social network. You'll spread yourself too thin if you try. Pick three or four key sites, and focus on using those. I focus on Facebook and Twitter and occasionally use Instagram.
2. Create Great Content. It's cliche, but content is king. Great content creators consume great content. Know current hot topics, but don't just copy and paste headlines. For example, Facebook recently purchased the Oculus Rift. A lot of people wrote about the purchase, but the next level is to analyze what it means. How does the Rift purchase fit into the context of Facebook's previous purchases of Instagram and WhatsApp? What types of companies might Facebook purchase in the future?
3. Connect Offline. Attend conferences in your area of expertise. Submit proposals to speak at conferences. SXSW just ended a couple of weeks ago, and I've spoken four times at that conference. One reason I wrote Minority Tech was to have a physical product that people could use offline. Online influence is made stronger by connecting offline.
4. Guard Your Brand. We all have personal brands. It's what people say about us when we're not around. Avoid online arguments, Twitter beef, etc., as much as possible. In the past two weeks, I've had two friends have to apologize for getting into Twitter arguments with major members of the media. They both realized that they lost out on opportunities and hurt their personal brands. Don't repeat their mistake.
Following these guidelines will help you become an effective digital leader. Anything is possible, but the first person you have to convince is yourself.