7 Keys to Becoming a Leader People Like and Want to Hear From On Social Media

Here’s a theory.

Everytime someone sees your name online or via social media, they have a reaction.

An emotional reaction.

Come on, you do.

When you see someone’s name, picture or status roll across your phone, you feel something and think something, don’t you?

While you might never say it out loud or think it consciously, on the inside:

You smile, or wince.

You think ‘awesome’ or ‘oh no’.

You say “I wonder what’s wrong this time?” or “they always post such great stuff”.

It’s true, isn’t it?

I think that’s just the reality in which we live these days.

So now a question: Any idea what other people think of you when they see you online?

I promise you, they have a reaction. They really do.

And most of us have no idea what it is.

The good news is if you think about your presence online, you can leverage it the same way you would if you were in the room with someone.

In my last post, I outlined 6 subtle ways leaders undermine their influence online.

Today, I want to flip it and outline 7 keys to building a great online presence as a leader.


Your Platform Online Is Only as Strong As Your Presence Online

If you want to grow your online presence out there, there are some really smart people out there who can help you build your online presence.

A couple of my favourites these days include Justin Wise, Chris Lema (Chris writes some technical posts, but he’s a must read because of the general advice he gives about life online as well) and people like Michael Hyatt, Pat Flynn and Amy Porterfield. All of these people have great advice on how to grow an online platform. If growth is your goal, start clicking those links.

But your platform will only ever be as strong as your presence.

In the end, it’s as much about who you are as it is about what you’re trying to accomplish.

In fact, who you are could sabotage your strategy.

And–here’s the reality–many of us leaders will never have big platforms.  And many won’t want them.

But you should still be on social media.

But even though you may not want to grow your platform or find 10,000 followers on Twitter or have 2000 friends  and a fan page on Facebook, who you are online still impacts everything you do.

And it impacts your ministry.


7 Keys to Building a Great Social Media Presence as a Leader

So how do you engage social media and build a great presence, even if it’s for 100 people who track with you, or if its 10,000?

Sure, it’s about what you say and what you do.

But it’s also about how you do it.

In my experience, here are 7 keys to building a great online presence:


1. Ask yourself: Would I want to hang out with me?

This is a slight restatement of the Golden Rule, but a needed one. Sometimes those of us who spend time in the church hear things so often we forget how revolutionary the scriptures are.

Take a look at yourself online and ask “Would I want to hang out with me?”

It’s such a great question, and sadly, sometimes for almost all of us, the answer is no.

We don’t want to hang out with angry, passive-aggressive, cynical, negative or constantly sarcastic people, do we?

Well if that’s who I am online, why would anyone want to hang out with me?

Everything that follows below hangs off this rule.


2. Ask yourself: When people see my name, how do they feel?

We talked about this already, but it’s huge.

People do have an emotional reaction to you.








If you weren’t you, how would you react to you?


3. Be helpful.

I honestly think that when it comes to having a great online presence, helpful wins.

People often ask me “What’s the key to writing a blog people read?”

I always go back to this: “Just be helpful.”

Are you sharing links or writing content that helps people? Really helps them?

Are they better off for having hung out with you for 10 seconds or 10 minutes online?

If they are, you’ll be well on your way to building a great online presence.


4. Be kind.

Okay, maybe this is a bit kindergartner-ish, but it’s amazing how many unkind, angry, despondent people show up on social media.

So be kind.

Really. Always.

And if you’re a ‘truth’ person, just remember Jesus came full of grace and truth.

He never the truth void of grace. And he never extended grace without speaking the truth.

Be the same.


5. Only say what you’d say if you were in the same room looking them in the eye.

Sometimes it’s easy to think that you can say things online that you would never say in person.

Bad bad bad idea.

First of all, the people who read what you post are people.

Second, the people who read what you post online often know the person.

Third, Mr. Passive-Aggressive, the person you’re referring to is likely reading what you wrote unless you unfriended or blocked them and is probably wondering “Is he talking about me?”

Only say what you’d say online if you were in the same room looking them in the eye.

And then if it’s negative, turn your phone off, forget the status update and get into the same room with the person you’re mad at, look them in the eye, and tell them.


6. Don’t send a private message you wouldn’t want seen in public.

Your private profile online matters as much as your public profile.

You know that handful of people you message regularly?

What’s your tone on your DMs like? Is it radically different than your public persona? If so, why?

In the early days of Twitter, people would sometimes tweet something that was supposed to be a direct message visible only the recipient.

In the next tweet you’d see “That last tweet was supposed to be a DM.”

Often, it included things that you normally wouldn’t say publicly.

What if every message you sent online—including all private messages—were such that if they became public it would be cool?

I mean, sure, some are personal. But there’s a big difference between personal and inappropriate.

Live in a way that if your wife, an elder, your kids or anyone got a hold of any inbox belonging to you, they wouldn’t find anything surprising or inappropriate.


7. Encourage

 When was the last time you’ve encouraged someone and had them tell you “Stop, I’ve had far too much encouragement lately?”


I’ve never met anyone suffering from over-encouragement.

So encourage people. It costs you nothing but can mean everything to someone else.

Like other people’s statuses. Favourite a few tweets of people you care about.

Never be ‘too big’ to reply to someone’s message, even if you don’t have time to meet.

Randomly celebrate what someone else is doing.

Shine a spotlight on someone else’s work.

Reach out to people with less social media influence than you have and always have the time to encourage them.

Just be encouraging.

If you do this, you will always have an audience.

Those are 7 rules I try to live by. And they’re a great way to cultivate a positive influence online.

Practice them, and people will be glad to see you show up in their stream. This goes for churches and organizations as well as for people.

What do you see as some best practices of a great social media presence?

Leave a comment!


  1. […] shared a few guidelines to a developing a leader’s online presence here. Bottom line? Let people connect with you, see your heart, see your family. Be playful, be honest, […]

  2. […] shared a few guidlines to a deveoping a leader’s online presence here. Bottom line? Let people connect with you, see your heart, see your family. Be playful, be honest, […]

  3. Brent Dumler on August 4, 2014 at 8:57 am

    Carey, I love all 7 of your keys in this post. The two that resonate with me most are to be encouraging & to evaluate the emotional reaction others have to me online. After reading this post, I immediately looked over my last 20 tweets. I looked at the content, topic variety, frequency, and tone. This will be a useful practice on a regular basis to do the same with each social media platform I am present on…including my blog.

  4. […] 7 Keys To Becoming A Leader People Like And Want To Hear From On Social Media  “Any idea what other people think of you when they see you online? I promise you, they have a reaction. They really do. And most of us have no idea what it is.” Carey Nieuwhof gives us some great insight on how to think about our online presence as a leader. […]

  5. […] 7 Keys to Becoming a Leader People Like and Want to Hear From On Social Media. […]

  6. […] 7 Keys To Becoming A Leader People Like And Want To Hear From On Social Media by Carey Nieuwhof […]

  7. […] Source: Careynieuwhof […]

  8. Kelly on August 1, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    This was great piggyback advise from your last post. I really didn’t consider myself a leader in the normal definition as I am only a lay worker at my church but I have come to the realization that if I am speaking into the lives of others around me, I am. I appreciate the advise as these last two blogs will help me create better guidelines for myself and make my social media more intentional.

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