Digital leadership tips from Lightful

We asked the wonderful sponsors of the 2019 Social CEOs awards to share their wisdom on digital leadership. In our second post,Vinay Nair, CEO and Co-Founder of Lightful, answers our three burning questions.

What one thing do you think every charity leader should know about social media?

Get involved! Whether it’s on LinkedIn with interesting people you are meeting or profile-raising you can do for your charity, or on Twitter to engage on topics that matter to you (and your charity), you should try to get involved. There is a real need for leaders in our sector to amplify the good of what their charities are doing, and help these positive messages to reach more and more people. There are a lot of great people to learn from, tools to help, and colleagues who will love to show you around, so get involved and let the work teach you.

Social CEOs co-founders Matt and Zoe, with judge Sarah Hughes and overall winner Polly Neate
Social CEOs co-founders Matt and Zoe, with judge Sarah Hughes and overall winner Polly Neate

Please give us one insight, observation or thought you have about digital leadership 

I’d land on “experience” as the key word. Think about what experience you want to give to your stakeholders (beneficiaries, donors, staff, trustees, volunteers) when they engage with your charity. And then think through how digital could play a role to make these experiences wonderful and delightful. This can help to inform priorities, how you see digital cutting across the work that you do, and help you provide the leadership (the digital leadership) on how to make this happen.

What one prediction would you make about the future of the sector

People are craving authenticity and purpose and seeing who they can trust. I am an optimist and I believe in the sector; I believe we must (and will) step into this to help bridge these gaps, and tackle fundamental issues of poverty, inequality and environmental impact in an even more profound way than we have done to date. If we think back to the ‘experiences’ we want our stakeholders to have, digital can help create these more personalise relationships at scale. We can do it… I told you I’m an optimist!


Digital leadership tips from Trillium

We asked the wonderful sponsors of the 2019 Social CEOs awards to share their wisdom on digital leadership. In our first post, David Spector, Head of Strategy at Trillium, answers our three burning questions.

What one thing do you think every charity leader should know about social media?

Charity leaders need to know that on its own, social media is not a silver bullet for increased engagement, new supporter acquisition and existing supporter retention. As with any other channel, it relies on quality content that is appropriate to the use of the channels being exploited. It also depends on a good understanding of the audiences that use these channels and what their motivations are.

In many respects, social media is simply another channel of engagement. However, it is already the dominant channel for many charities and will only continue to grow in this vein for future generations.

Social media provides many opportunities for engaging storytelling, especially in visual form. However, these stories need to be curated and presented in the relevant formats that are optimised for whichever channel they are distributed. 

For example, what works well on Facebook will not necessarily work well on Instagram. Therefore, posting the same content on multiple channels is not an effective approach to success.

Charity leaders must be prepared to accept that effective use of social media has a cost and requires significant resource and a well-defined, insights-based strategy, including content, to get the best results. Long gone are the days where it was enough to simply have a presence on social media. 

Aika presenting Kristiana Wrixon with her award
Trillium’s Head of Marketing Aika Peto presenting Kristiana Wrixon with her award for Best Leader on Social Media

Social media users have become accustomed to well produced content by frequent publishers, which has become a baseline for continual engagement. Frequency and consistency are therefore of paramount importance.

Content requirements don’t just stop at social platforms. Where social media is used as a traffic driver to other channels, such as a charity’s website for example, the landing destination needs to continue the story, and not just be a generic landing page with little context to the content that encouraged the clickthrough. 

Meaningful and clear calls to action at the end of the user journey are also critical components, and this all needs to be measured to provide the necessary insights for ongoing refinement and continual improvement.

It is also worth considering engaging with influencers who have a connection to the cause of a charity. Their followers will have an affinity to such causes, especially if they were something that helped the influencer deal with a life-changing/saving situation, either related to themselves or their family or close friends. Support from such influencers in the world of social engagement is worth its weight in gold.

Please give us one insight, observation or thought you have about digital leadership

Digital leadership is about people, not products. Transformation is cultural. It hinges on the ability to embrace, enthuse and manage change. Great digital leaders are great leaders. They demonstrate the qualities associated with any successful leadership, regardless of sector.

Attributes of great leadership include:

  • Vision
  • Direction
  • Focus
  • Communication
  • Integrity
  • Courage 
  • Passion
  • Compassion

Great leaders take people on a journey with them. They recognise that each person is an individual with their own desires and motivations. They understand humans and the power of relationships. They listen and challenge, where appropriate, but not for the sake of their own ego.

Whilst subject matter expertise is indeed important, it should be in context of objectives and desires. It shouldn’t be specific to one product or approach, but instead the tasks that are trying to be accomplished and the people whose desire it is to accomplish them.

Consider any great leader in history, whether in politics, times of conflict, technology, sport or anything else. They all shared these attributes. Digital leaders should be no different.

What one prediction would you make about future of the sector?

Understanding what matters to people and the ability to target audiences appropriately, based on such knowledge, will differentiate the charities that are successful from those that continue to struggle in the future. Personalised content and campaigning will therefore be the main contributor to success in the future. 

The charity sector is in constant competition with other channels of disposable income spend. These appear in a variety of guises, be they holidays, subscription services e.g. for entertainment, gym, etc., to name but a few. In all cases, when there is money left to spend beyond the essentials of living, people tend to spend it on things that matter to them. 

Using data to provide such insight and focussing on contextually relevant user experiences, regardless of technology platforms or channels, will ensure that charities not only gain new supporters, but retain and encourage greater engagement from existing ones.

Kate Collins, in conversation, laughing

Q&A with Kate Collins – 2019’s Best Social CEO

I was lucky enough to grab a few minutes of Kate’s time recently to chat about all things social, winning the coveted Best Social CEO trophy last year, and being your authentic self. Grab a cuppa and enjoy.

Congratulations on your Social CEOs victory last year! You looked delighted on the night. What did winning Best Social CEO mean to you?

Thank you! I was thrilled – and really surprised – which I think was indicated by my garbled speech where I just said how chuffed I was and how proud my mum would be (she was!).  Quite simply it hadn’t occurred to me that I would win, I’ve followed the awards since they started – and used ‘The List’ as my ‘people to follow and learn from who clearly get social’. Kate Collins smiling holding her award

So to not only make ‘The List’ but to win felt very leftfield, especially in my first year as a Chief Executive when I felt I was finding my feet Chief Exec-ing. To get such positive feedback in an unprompted way from people who’d found value in something I was doing instinctively – my tweets are very much me – was a lovely thing. 

I have to say though that I got total tweet-fear about my first tweet after winning…suddenly it felt like pressure…until I just got on with thanking people for their lovely nominations and messages of congrats!

Why do you think you were nominated?

Having read the write up it seemed to be that people liked how I was sharing my enthusiasm and passion for not only the work of Teenage Cancer Trust but for the sector more broadly, especially the children & young people’s cancer charity sector where historically things haven’t been as collaborative as they are now. 

My approach is that there should be no difference between the Twitter-me (which is the channel I use, I’m not yet an Insta-adopter and am not a lover of LinkedIn… yuck!) and the in-person-me.  I’m wholehearted & energetic, I like people, I’m proud of my team, Teenage Cancer Trust supporters amaze me, the young people we support need us to do so much more and my family rock my world (and don’t take me too seriously) and that’s the stuff that inspires me to say things – whether in 280 characters or in person – and that seemed to be what people mentioned in their nominations.

You are judging this year – what will you be looking for in the nominations to help you make your decisions?

Well I am glad I am not the only judge as I think it will be tough to decide this year – I see a lot of people using social in a really smart and engaging way now.

Kate Collins, in conversation, laughingPersonally a big stand out for me will be people who are using social as a listening tool. Tuning in to the views of others as well as championing their views/voice. There are some bold leaders out there, using social to speak truth to power as well as share positivity and I am looking forward to learning from the nominations – what a luxury to get to see them all!  

I do suspect that some teams in bigger organisations get really organised now, trying to get their boss listed with lots of coordinated nominations so I won’t be looking for volume of nominations – for me it will be about content.  If one person has one nomination for doing something really engaging, really authentic and totally grounded in purpose and pushing boundaries then that is worth way more than a high volume of nominations where an organisation with the resources to have a comms team has got organised. 

Can you remember when and why you joined Twitter?

I can – and it was because I had to rather than because I was an early adopter!  The work of Teenage Cancer Trust – and more importantly the needs of young people with cancer – had been put into the national spotlight because of the phenomenal fundraising efforts of Stephen Sutton through his campaign ‘Stephen’s Story’ which inspired a huge wave of donations for our work back in 2014.  

Once the peak of Stephen’s Story had passed and we moved into sharing where the funds would help our work we became aware that there were some accounts on Twitter that seemed to be purporting to be me and were randomly sharing bits of erroneous information about cancer in young people and the charity.  Those accounts don’t exist now but they were the prompt for me to realise that you need to own your space, even if it doesn’t feel the most natural when you start. I simply decided I’d sign up and start to learn – and I haven’t looked back, it rapidly became a core element of how I lead and, most importantly, listen and learn.

What does being on social media add to your life – professionally and personally?

It does what it says on the tin – it’s a network.  It adds depth, connection and insight – and saves me time tussling with things when there will be generous, experienced people out there already sharing their knowledge and perspective but most importantly I try to use it to keep me connected to voices I don’t typically hear in other ways on a daily basis, whether that is our frontline teams in the NHS, young people, their parents or our supporters – the value is immense. 

On a personal note it never fails to top up my motivation and creativity when I see individuals and organisations doing such impactful work and sharing it every day… I do also love a dog video so those make me chuckle too!

Do you ever take a digital detox? (I have tried but usually fail miserably!)

I think the key is balance – Twitter can feel like you ‘have’ to be on it all the time but I tweet when the rhythm of my day gives me the space to do it.  I do check it at weekends and in the evenings because those are times when some of the people I need to connect with and listen to are likely to be active but it’s also important to remember that people really won’t notice if you take a break for a bit!  I always delete Twitter from my personal phone when I go on holiday with my family but that’s as far as I’ve got with switching off or detoxing….

Who are your must-follow accounts on Twitter?

There’s too many to pick just one – especially as it depends what it is you need to use Twitter to tune in to and listen to. Kate with Matt, Zoe and Simon BlakeI’d say start with the Top 25/Top 30 lists from previous Social CEO Awards and follow those – as well as the winners in all the categories – they are all doing things in the way that works for them. 

The approaches differ across people’s personalities and areas of work so some will resonate with you and some won’t – that’s fine.  Listen and tune in – retweet things you like or that have made you think (ideally say why!) and just get going… you’ll find your voice and how it works for you the more you do.

What would your advice be to any charity leader considering making the leap onto social media for the first time?

If someone told you there was a place you could go – for free – where you could become better connected to the voices you need to hear in real-time as well as able to learn from and deepen your network AND be a brilliant advocate for the work of your organisation then I bet you’d go there… that’s what social media can do so my advice would be just join in, listen, find your voice and crack on!

Nominations for the 2019 awards are open until midnight on 27th September so get nominating your social and digital superstars now!

Fairy cakes with Social CEOs toppers

More than social, more than CEOs… (part 2)

In part 1 of this blog post we told you about how we expanded the social categories to be much broader than just CEOs. 

On top of this we recognised the correlation between social and digital leadership – whilst they are emphatically not the same thing, there is a positive relationship between the two – and we also knew that improving the digital landscape within the charity sector would be fundamental to the continued success of organisations operating in the space. So in 2017 we began adding digital categories to the roster of awards too.

Read on to see what was so great about last year’s digital winners – and tell us about your 2019 nominees!

In the digital awards we’d love to have nominations from charity leaders who are blazing a trail in an any area of digital. For example: they could have led a digital transformation project, or helped their organisation increase its digital fundraising, or been a trustee who helped champion digital, getting the rest of their board and the charity to use it more effectively. They’ll have had a clear vision for how their charity could progress in digital and led the way to make it happen. We would be interested to hear about any stats and examples which illustrate this. If possible, we would also be interested to hear where charities may have followed best practice (e.g. frameworks, guidelines, or other resources) although this is not essential. Ideally nominees in the digital categories will have good social media presences as well, but it’s not required as with the social media categories.

Best Digital Trustee

Helen Stokes-Lampard

“Helen is an enthusiastic supporter of new ideas, innovation, new learning and discovery of new ways to do things better to improve our services for our membership and the profession in general. She is the leading figure and at the forefront of the College’s digital transformation programme, playing a central role in helping the College use technology to its full potential for the benefit of our membership and the profession worldwide.”

Nominate a digital trustee today

Best Digital Leader

Julie Dodd

“ [the study that she wrote in 2015] was groundbreaking and still stands as a reference point when trying to explain the difference between digital transformation as core to service delivery and digital as just a channel or set of tools.”

Nominate a digital leader 

Best Digital Champion

Liz Green

“Great at bringing together a range of partners on projects, always being enthusiastic, finding examples of best practice from across Scotland and showcasing them and keen to use new types of technology in her own work. She’s also been working with other colleagues on improving staff knowledge on a range of digital tools like Basecamp and on cyber security internally. [She] is an advocate for STEM in Scotland, as well as being involved in the 5Rights programme in Scotland. She sits on a range of groups to help progress digital in youth work.“

In the ‘best digital champion’ category, we are looking for people in any role who not only champion digital within their organisation but across the broader sector too. Nominate a digital champion 

Best Digital CEO

This category was not awarded in 2018 – but check out our 2017 Winner Steve Ford’s twitter account. We want to hear about CEOs who are really driving the digital agenda within their organisation – championing change, and encouraging an environment of digital growth and development. Nominate a Digital CEO for this year’s awards.

Social CEOs badges in a white bowl

More than social, more than CEOs… (part 1)

When the Social CEO Awards were started, way back in 2013, we wanted to recognise the strengths that having a social CEO brought to a charity – and celebrate those who were doing it well. But over the years the awards have evolved. We recognised that influence can come from everywhere, and good practice radiates in all direction. Social media has made the world more open, and everyone more connected, and so in 2015 we broadened the categories to recognise how valuable a strong social presence can be at any level. We now have 4 categories of social awards.

We kept the name “Social CEOs”, because “Social CEOs (and other people)” didn’t have the same ring to it.

So while we might be best known for the initial award that gave us our moniker, the other categories are equally as important to us – and we can only award if you bring brilliant people to our attention.

Not sure what sort of thing might qualify someone for a category? No problem: read on for snippets of the winning 2018 social nominations and check out the winners’ accounts for inspiration! And look out for our upcoming part 2 where we’ll tell you all about the digital categories.

For the social media awards we’re looking for people who have a great social media presence. They use social platforms to drive change; to move the conversation on; to amplify the voice of their cause.

Best Trustee on Social Media

Helen Stokes-Lampard

“Helen’s online presence across all social media channels continues to grow in size and scope which makes her one of the notable social influencers in health care. She continues to establish thought leadership through generating debates and discussions, sharing ideas, experiences, expertise and a lot more on health care and policies through the RCGP’s twitter and her weekly online blog which goes out to over 52,000 GP members.”

Nominate someone for best trustee on social media.

Best Rising Star on Social Media

Nikki Bell

“Her social media approach has changed how we approach digital community fundraising at the BHF and she’s progressed rapidly within the sector by using social media as a strong relationship building tool, connecting and engaging with supporters, BHF staff and sector colleagues.”

As a guide, we generally expect nominees to be around manager level. Nominate your rising star.

Best Leader on Social Media

Caroline Price

“Engaging with followers she harnesses social media audience to co-create and develop our services and training incorporating their views and ideas. Caroline has introduced social media for the services team at Beat as a way of beneficiaries engaging with the services team directly and seeking support through a direct messaging on Twitter & Instagram. This innovation has lead to more young people (under 25’s) accessing our services.”

For the “leader” categories nominees should be around Director / Head Of level. Nominate for this category.

Part 2 – which looks at the digital categories – is coming soon!

Shining a light on trolling

While Social CEOs was created to celebrate what’s great about social media, we are also only too aware that it has its dark sides too. Trolling – “the act of leaving an insulting message on the internet in order to annoy someone” – is rife. Social media offers direct channels to contact people in a way that simply wasn’t possible just a few years ago, and as Twitter in particular becomes more polarised, the problem of trolling continues to grow.

We are working with ACEVO this year to do some research into this. Initially we are focussing on female charity CEOs’ experiences – not because it doesn’t happen to others too, but because our initial research suggested that this group has experienced particularly distressing trolling.

Already we have heard troubling stories – like the charity chief whose charity was on the receiving end of a vicious bout of trolling, and became suicidal.

This is a serious issue and can do so much harm. By seeking the experiences of female leaders, we will be able to shine a light on these experiences, understand how participants would like things to change – and, ultimately, start looking at what could be done in the sector to support people who are experiencing these problems.

We think this is really important research – and the more people who contribute, the better equipped we will be to take this forward into something meaningful. So if you are a charity CEO who identifies as female and has any experience of this – please do fill out the survey. And if not, then please share with your networks so we can reach the broadest group possible.

The survey will be open until midnight on Tuesday 17th September.

Honorary #SocialCEOs

There’s no better way to explain what makes a good social CEO than by real-life demonstration. But of course we wouldn’t want to sway your nominations. So we took a look outside of the sector to see who is out there behaving like dream #SocialCEOs.

David Lammy MP

The Labour MP for Tottenham is, as backbench MPs go, a prominent voice on Twitter. He’s passionate, and he’s not afraid to say what he really thinks – even if that means being critical of his own party. His personal commitment to his role and the people he serves shines through. He speaks from his heart, about issues that matter to him and his constituents, and doesn’t hide behind rehearsed, press-friendly soundbites.  

Jameela Jamil

Jameela is now a successful American TV star but she hasn’t lost the groundedness that she exuded as a fledgling star on T4 back in the day. She’s been open about her struggles with anxiety as a younger woman, and has this year launched a campaign (and Instagram channel) called “I Weigh”, calling out the press for fixating on women’s weights and encouraging women to value themselves as a whole person.

Sathnam Sanghera

Sathnam brings his whole self to Twitter. An author and journalist, he discovered while writing a memoir that his father had been living with schizophrenia. He has since used his platform to talk about this often misunderstood illness, along with other mental health conditions. His Twitter feed is a wonderful mixture of politics, current affairs, football chat and RTd nonsense. Definitely worth a follow.

Kris Hallenga

Ok, this one’s not outside the sector at all – but as Kris has stepped away from her CEO role at Coppafeel, she’s technically not eligible for selection this year. Kris founded Coppafeel after her own diagnosis of incurable, stage 4, breast cancer at 23. In the 9 years since then she has continued to defy the odds, and use her platform to promote the early detection message and encourage young people to be proactive about their health. While her official role with the charity has drawn to a close she remains close to them, and a fierce advocate for their work. Her positivity and determination to live well are inspirational. Tweets may also contain cats, because, Twitter.

James Timpson

Not just a great social CEO but an all round excellent leader of Timpsons. James shows through his tweets his dedication to and passion for being the very best leader he can. He regularly uses his account to celebrate and thank his colleagues, and shares the extra lengths his company goes to for them (this year all parents with a child going in to reception year got an extra day off to help the settling in process). He also has a fantastic social responsibility ethos. You can tell that he’s an extremely present CEO – visiting stores around the country all the time, and sharing pictures and stories from them. A shining star in corporate world.

All of these Twitter folk bring a sense of openness to their feeds. They talk about challenging topics, using their platform to raise awareness of important issues and connect with people. We think they are all worthy of honorary #SocialCEOs awards – but we need you to nominate for this year’s awards! Tell us which charity CEOs, leaders, trustees and rising stars are doing great things with social media. And while you’re at it, check out the digital categories too! Nominate by midnight on 28th September 2018.

A mobile phone screen with social media apps in focus

4 rules for #SocialCEOs from last year’s nominators

We love reading the nominations for #SocialCEOs every year. Zoe recently wrote a great article with tips from past winners – but in this post we’d like to share some quotes from last year’s nominations, to show you what past nominators had to say about their chosen social superstars.

Authenticity is crucial

So many of the nominations highlighted the blending of personal and professional as a big positive, and we completely agree that to have a really successful presence on social media, it’s important to show a bit of yourself. Here are some examples:

“He mixes his personal views with his professional life in a way that strikes a great balance.”

“Because he’s tweeting from the heart he has far more impact on the issues that are close to the charity. His tweets can be both amusing and deeply sad.”

“She is also smart and funny and blends personal tweets – about running, for example, in with the rest. She’s not afraid to use her own voice.”

“She helps present a very human face of the charity.”

“When you look at her profile, you know there’s been zero input from a social media strategist.”

Demystify your role

Twitter, used well, can be a great way to demonstrate more about what a CEO actually does all day. We all know they are busy and important people, but if asked to describe what they do, how many of us could do a reasonable job? Thanks to Twitter, we can see this much more clearly, and our nominators think this is a real benefit.

“Brings to life her day-to-day role.”

“Following her on social media gives a real insight into the varied role of a CEO.”

“She shows her human side, displays leadership, and provides a fascinating insight into the life of a charity Chief Exec.”

Be brave

Social media can be a minefield; many people are lurking just waiting to take offence or twist what someone says. So even having a presence and putting themselves on the map can be a brave decision. We saw bravery highlighted in quite a few of last year’s nominations:

“(He) uses social media to ask difficult questions.”

“(She) is not afraid to be brave and bold. She will share her opinion, challenge others and put herself out there.”

“He displays leadership in our field by not being shy of issues which can be tough to deal with.”

Let digital shape your work and culture

5 hands fist bumping above a desk covered with laptopsOur nominees were praised for how their overall approach to social and digital represent the broader ways they work, and how they bring digital into the day-to-day.

“(She) is a champion for empowering colleagues, other CEOs and leaders in the public and third sector to embrace social media to become closer to the people they serve.”

“(She) has worked hard to build genuine, long-term relationships with a broad range of people through daily interactions. She uses these conversations to inform the work of the charity.”

“(She) is a staunch champion of social media as an effective dissemination tool for our work.”

“Her enthusiasm, passion and commitment to (the organisation’s) mission is infectious.”

“Since (she) started, the culture has changed. Everything we planned or wanted to do has now been sped up.”

“She sees social not as an add on to work but an important space to engage and exist as a leader in the third sector.”

“(He) is incredibly enthusiastic about the power of social media and digital, at both an organisational level and more broadly in terms of the influence it’s having on society.”

And finally…

Here are a few of the random bits that made us smile:

“I’m not quite sure how (he) has the time to juggle a demanding job, a young family, an unruly dog, a football habit as well as his constant Twitter feed but he does it. We can only imagine that he tweets in his sleep.”

“All in all she’s a wonderful person that embodies what it means to be a social leader inside and outside the limit of 140* characters. *She’ll be pimp at 280 as well” (This was just ahead of this crucial change to Twitter character limits!)

“He really should change his Twitter handle. It’s weird.”

“(His) tweets may also contain dogs”

And very lastly – in the “anything else you’d like to tell us” box, we had this lovely polite closing remark: “Thank you.”

Nominations are open until 28th September for this year’s #SocialCEOs – so tell us today who you think deserves recognition!