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01 Aug

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Becoming a Social Leader

August 1, 2014 | By |

I’m often asked how I built a 200,000-follower Twitter account from scratch. Corporate communications types, television producers, others ask what’s the secret, and how can I (or my company) do it? 

First, let’s take a step back. It’s important to remember that social media – once an afterthought for many a company – should now be an integrated part of your overall communications and marketing strategy. People today are busier than ever, over scheduled and pressed for time. The speed and directness of a tweet or Facebook post can serve as an effective supplement to the more traditional press release. This integrated approach enhances your overall communications strategy and is highly recommended.

Social media is also effective when one considers how more and more people consume information today: increasingly it’s on a small screen – an iPhone or iPad, for example.

That’s where Twitter comes in. I started @WestWingReport in the White House pressroom many years ago because I saw it as disruptive, lightning fast and targeted. The only people who follow it are those with an interest in knowing what’s going on in the White House, and they have to go out of their way to opt in. By the way, I prefer to call my followers customers, because I serve them every day, and there are many other places they can go to consume information. 

Of course, anyone can have a Twitter account. But to build – and keep – a big audience, you have to deliver the goods, day in and day out. You must convey intelligence, authority, credibility and transparency. Stay on the high road. Stay on message. Consistency is the key here. Adhere to these high standards every day – and I mean every day – and you’ll soon find yourself gaining followers, and re-tweets. Re-tweets are terrific. They’re the equivalent of free advertising, when others spread your message at no cost to you. Is there anything better? 

But there are even greater advantages. A thoughtful, pro-active social media strategy can help companies protect their hard-earned brand reputation during a crisis; ideally, it can prevent the crisis from occurring at all. Today, when every company and every government agency is under the constant threat of cyber attack, it’s essential to be prepared at all times to communicate immediately and effectively. Employees, customers, investors and other key stakeholders are counting on you.

That’s why I think a good person running your Twitter (and Facebook) accounts are worth their weight in gold – if done right. 

Paul Brandus is a veteran Washington journalist and accredited member of the White House press corps. The founder of West Wing Reports ® in 2009 and CyberSecurity Insider in 2013, he provides reports for television and radio outlets around the United States and overseas. He is also a Washington columnist for The Week and moderates panels for the magazine in Washington and around the U.S. on topics such as cyber security and data protection, energy and infrastructure. A longtime network television producer, and public speaker, Mr. Brandus is also an innovator in social media. Built from scratch, his White House Twitter account @WestWingReport is the second biggest among all members of the entire White House press corps. He is the author of the forthcoming book Under This Roof: A History of the Presidency, which will be published in the Fall of 2015.