Digital-First Leadership

Podcast

Interview with Gunnar Habitz

January 12, 2021
Richard Bliss

Richard sits down with Gunnar Habitz, a Social Selling Advocate at Hootsuite, his job mainly focuses on the advancement of social media as the highest performing customer engagement channel.

Gunnar is passionate about leadership and he’s been able to clearly identify the gap that executive and middle leaders have when it comes to social media.

Gunnar provides us with his 4-step approach to building a social media presence.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/gunnarhabitz/

Narrator:

Welcome to Digital-First Leadership. The podcast that focuses on helping leaders and teams understand how to master the language of social media in today's digital-first world. Now here's your host, Richard Bliss.

Richard Bliss:

Welcome to the show. In this episode, I speak with Gunnar Habits, who's a social selling advocate at Hootsuite, and whose job mainly focuses on the advancement of social media as the highest performing customer engagement channel. I invited him on the podcast because Gunnar is not only passionate about leadership, but he's been able to clearly identify the gap that executives and middle leaders have when it comes to social media. During our conversation, we talk about perfectionism and Gunnar's four steps to building a social media presence. He joins us from Australia. So let's dive into our conversation.

Richard Bliss:

Gunnar, thank you for joining me very much on the podcast today. I appreciate your time.

Gunnar Habits:

Thank you for inviting, Richard.

Richard Bliss:

Now for those who don't know, you have your background and experience, you come from the tech industry, but you currently work for Hootsuite as a social advocate and also in charge of their alliance partnerships in Asia Pacific. Tell me a little bit about the focus that you have in your role, and the importance of social media and social selling that comes from Hootsuite and from those relationships.

Gunnar Habits:

So my role here is to look after partnerships. There are different ways of partnerships that Hootsuite works for, because if you look at it as an ecosystem, we have social media management suite, what Hootsuite really is about. And some other function like social listening or the compliance piece or social media archiving is all delivered by partners together. So then we are promoting and selling the activities that our partners are doing, if you take the likes of Brandwatch or [Raleigh 00:01:50] here from Australia, our proof point, and to take it together with our solutions with our end customers, and also partners are reselling Hootsuite as part of their ecosystem.

Richard Bliss:

And Hootsuite has become a very well-known name in the social media space. But one of the things that you're very passionate about, and the reason that we're talking, is because of the involvement of senior leadership and the importance of leadership in today's digital world. This concept of leaders needing to transform themselves. Tell me a little bit about the passion that drives that and where you see that going.

Gunnar Habits:

So I got this passion from my studies on a leadership side. I led a team of 32 sales reps in Eastern Europe, from HP, for quite a while. And then when I came to Australia in 2016, I attended leadership classes and became also the speaker at Mastermind events here at the Australia Institute of Management. And that's where I came in contact, on one side to further develop my passion for social media and social selling, while at the same time being involved in also the publication of the Institute on the leadership side. And I saw that there is a gap that very often leaders in businesses, either at the top or also in middle leadership, that they do not really understand what they have in their hands in utilizing social media. Very often, they stay away from this and leave it totally to the marketing or PR teams.

Richard Bliss:

What do you think causes that gap? What do you think causes that hesitation for them to do that themselves?

Gunnar Habits:

On one side is insecurity, not knowing what they can actually, really do. And therefore also, as they do not step up, then they cannot encourage their people basically to follow. And they never understood how our eye on social media can actually work, how the brand can be perceived outside in the market. That means also from a talent point of view, to get further new, fresh employees into the organization who would be attracted, by the way, how today organization would work with social media. Social media is not longer part of marketing.

Richard Bliss:

Yeah. And that's one of the challenges I think I encounter because there's a lot of companies... I'm in Silicon Valley, you're in Sydney. We encounter companies that still believe that an employee's online social presence, especially an executive leadership, should be separate from the activities of the company. And in reality, that's just not the way the world works today with the importance of social presence that an executive has. Would you agree with that?

Gunnar Habits:

Absolutely. Absolutely. And very often, it is affected the leaders do not have the necessary training for doing so, to get into this impact, to understand this. And also, they do not see that there is some instrument that would be available to their hand, if they only knew about it, like using employee advocacy. The employees with their passion to work there, in particular, in these uncertain times, it is a gold mine, those colleagues working there can really step up and show how great it is to be and how they can contribute to their own workplace. And that is where leaders can encourage further and to make this available to the public, not by their PR department, but by the day-to-day stories. So then that's important.

Richard Bliss:

Yeah. That's an excellent point because employee advocacy tools for those might... For example, Dynamic Signal is one of the leaders in employee advocacy, Bamboo, there's all kinds of these that allow your employees to become part of the conversation of your corporate brand. But you've brought up an interesting point because oftentimes, that's seen as being necessary to hand that off to the social team. Oh, it's the social team's responsibility or the marketing's team, but you said it's no longer the marketing team's sole responsibility. Whose responsibility is it, then, if it's not the marketing team?

Gunnar Habits:

[inaudible 00:05:34] social media has a seat at the board table.

Richard Bliss:

Okay. And so the [crosstalk 00:05:41]

Gunnar Habits:

It needs to be vocal over there because of the whole perception outside is there. We don't talk about facts in the world. We talk about perception, and social media is here to change that.

Richard Bliss:

Interesting. And so, one of the challenges that I continue to see is executives feel that social media, particularly LinkedIn, you and I both spend a lot of time on LinkedIn, that LinkedIn is only for finding a job, finding employment. How do you change that perception of particularly leaders, who are seeing that as not necessary? They're in their role, they're not looking for a job. Why should they be on LinkedIn?

Gunnar Habits:

The interesting thing is leaders would often like to be perceived as dynamic managers and leaders, dynamic person who are changing their organization. In reality, and you might agree on this one, for many of them, the profiles that they have are extremely static, and they maybe change it, or somebody is changing it for them, only when they move up. So they believe very often that it's just some kind of a job search tool, which goes down to most of employees. LinkedIn is not a job search tool. It's a side effect. And even as a candidate, it's not about pressing on the button to apply, but it is a showcase. It is the professional stage, how people can stand out, and to demonstrate for me as a potential job seeker. Before when I went to Hootsuite, I saw what are people actually doing in the organization?

Gunnar Habits:

And it was so good to see, in particular on [inaudible 00:07:07] side, that many of employees that have been also sharing a lot of content. I could see how it is to work there. So the whole workplace can become extremely magnetic in using LinkedIn as a personal branding tool. Not necessarily as a bragging tool to say, that's me, I've done this and this and this, but more from a point of contribution to the greater good and how things can be developed in a different way. Like a bit many startup companies have, you can put it on social media. It can live there.

Richard Bliss:

What kind of, when you talk about... I like that. I like that it's not a bragging site. It's more of about the general branding of your own personal brand, of the company's brand. What advice, what techniques have you discovered and recognize that work, whether it's an executive or a mid-level manager, to be able to start to become comfortable and put their brand out there and to use social, basically become part of the conversation out there? Do you have some ideas of how to make that successful?

Gunnar Habits:

You just mentioned a good point, to be part of the conversation. This is completely there. So for me, it's basically four steps. First of all, and for many people in the organization up to top level, their LinkedIn presence, it's not really looking complete, but many people are seeking perfection. And this doesn't exist anyway. So completely that the LinkedIn profile represents the person, obviously, to have in the about section where they're talking about themselves, in the fine balance of not being too shy, but showing what is there. So not bragging, as I mentioned before. When this is completed, then of course, it's about how to find the right level of people to be connected with. So then the whole connect topic comes into play. I'm strongly against connecting with everyone, but rather, I'm to move from being a collector in becoming a connector. That's a big shift of few letters only.

Richard Bliss:

It is. [crosstalk 00:08:58] Go ahead.

Gunnar Habits:

When that is done, it's the question about content. And then at the end, how you can convert this. And convert means for a job seeker, of course, to become more employable, to apply for jobs or be found for that. And convert for others means lead generation. But these four steps complete the connect and content and convert. These are the things that can be done. And in my view, how I found my professional voice here, when I came to Australia four and a half years ago, nobody knew me. I started with commenting on many leaders in the [inaudible 00:09:36] profession. And that gave me my personal bent over here.

Richard Bliss:

I think people misunderstand that the power of LinkedIn, particularly commenting on LinkedIn. Because on Twitter, on Instagram, on Facebook, if you comment or post, it just simply goes back to the individual. But on LinkedIn, as you've pointed out, it goes to your network. It goes to their network. LinkedIn uses that comment in such a more powerful way than the other social media platforms do. And if you have an executive, and you're talking to them, and they express concern about the time it takes to generate content. Because that was one of your things, right? What answer do you give to them? How do they find the time to create and post that content? They're already so busy. And I know that my clients look and say, "I don't have the time to be on social media." What answer do you give to them at that point?

Gunnar Habits:

Of course, it's just the question of not justifying the time that is needed. Everybody might have some 10 minutes in between to write something. But many also executive, they might have a certain barrier towards writing. Because if you write a LinkedIn post around 200 words, 1300 characters, it's not that much. For you and me, it's maybe 10 minutes, 15 minutes to write something, to put your statement out there. But particularly, in the corporate sector, it's not necessarily about writing pieces completely from scratch, but sharing something that exists somewhere else.

Gunnar Habits:

So that's where platforms like Hootsuite come into play quite nicely because on one side, there are those who are operating the platform, like the social media managers in marketing, or a line of business management, who have content. And then this content can be shared further with the employee advocacy tools. And then leaders can also see this type of content which is around, but then put their thought, their twist on it, maybe just two sentences, post it and make it available. And that's why also attracting this. Then there's a follow-up loop with the certain peers in the organization to get it further. Then that would work.

Richard Bliss:

I like what you said there, because oftentimes, I have to instruct that being a channel of news, a news channel for your company, is not what I connect with you for. I am not connected to you or to anyone because I want you to send me more news. I'm connected to you because I'm interested in what you have to say about the news that you're going to share.

Richard Bliss:

And so when an executive, as you just said, gets ready to share a piece of content, I see so many who simply hit the share button, and then they forget about it, as if that very act, look, I'm sharing this interesting article from Forbes. Yes. But why are you sharing it? What is inside your head that caused you to feel that that was important for me? That's what I want to know. And it's probably one of the key things to help leaders understand how to be more influential is to share their thoughts and ideas. But even then, they're still hesitant to do that because you talked about it, the PR team, the social team, they've been conditioned to hide behind that apparatus that prevents them from having the opportunity of engaging with their customers and their partners in a live setting.

Gunnar Habits:

Yeah. In my view, this is often seem a bit like their own legal team or the police, so to say, that you need to sign this and the social media rules, and you cannot do this or that. Instead of seeing this as an enabler. So then when I mentioned earlier, social media should have a seat at the boardroom, so then to make sure, have, of course, rules in place, it's obvious, but take it more as a chance. Because as you mentioned, what is the take of a leader on certain things that happened in industry? Nobody's interested that the leader of a tech organization says here's the newest release, and these are the benefits of it. So what? You find it somewhere. But what makes it so interesting?

Gunnar Habits:

So for me, the relevant is so important. To get a statement out where the word is getting to and what does it lead to? So that's why we want to have leaders at the top of organizations also show this. And that is also when they do this, it's a signal for the employees below, to take the same approach and step out of this and put some context for me is one of the most important things. So when many people say content is king, in general, I disagree. Content is prince. Context is king. Only then it matters.

Richard Bliss:

I like that. Whether you're commenting, and I tell people don't comment with, I agree. Well done. Thank you. No, no, no. There's no context there. Why do you agree? What do you agree with,? give me in your comment there. And I like what you've said there, context really is king, and you provide that. We only have a minute or two, Gunner. As we wrap up, what piece of advice would you pass on to? Because you see this next generation of leaders coming in, and a lot of them have grown up with, and entered the workplace with, a strong comfort level with social media. But social media in your personal life, and then moving into the work environment, there's some differences there. What piece of advice would you give to young, new leaders that are moving in, who think they have a grasp of social media?

Gunnar Habits:

Let's take the learning of 2020. So the gold is now in our living rooms more. It is normal to be surrounded by seeing what we have around us. So then the personal approach is much stronger than it has been before. There is no need for perfectionism. It's all, rather, about how can we humanize these? How can we put the personal brand out there to show more what we as humans can do against all of the other trends? And how can we also encourage our organizations to move forward and utilizing social media as at the centerpiece, because that is where, particularly when you look into topics like user generated content, 96% of this is unbranded. So that's a huge place where discussions are ongoing, but organizations are not necessarily part of that.

Gunnar Habits:

So utilizing tools like social listening, that's where our partners come in from Hootsuite, to use this as a part of creating your whole social media management strategy and take this further with employee advocacy. Then it becomes much more attractive, and the brand can completely change in a radical way in maybe six to 12 months, so that it can attract different types of talent. And that is something that needs to start from the leadership, they need to see this, need to feel this be active and out there. And then these passion will be an addiction that drives.

Richard Bliss:

Excellent. Gunnar, thank you very much for your time. And I appreciate you joining me here on the show.

Gunnar Habits:

Thanks, Richard.

Narrator:

You've been listening to Digital-First Leadership, the podcast where you learn to leverage and build your expertise on digital platforms. For more valuable tips on mastering the language of social media, subscribe to our newsletter at blisspointconsult.com. If you'd like to stay in touch, feel free to add Richard on LinkedIn and join the conversation.