I have a confession to make – I came to social media kicking and screaming.
At the time I was the CEO of an industry association, typically worked a 12 hour day with breakfast meetings, after hours dinners and overseas conferences to attend. I was a full-time working (single) Mum with two young kids, trying to finish a Masters degree, caring for aging parents.
When was I ever going to find time to look at Facebook or Twitter? It took extraordinary planning to make the time to wash my hair properly, heaven forbid going to the hairdresser to touch up the foils and a blow dry.
Why should I care about social media? I was in a big, fabulous all consuming job that didn’t need social media. At the time, I might have been running at full throttle, but I was aware enough to spot an opportunity.
The first revelation was that I was different – very different to the people around me in life sciences. I had a couple of unique skills and experiences that almost no one else that I worked with had.
The second realisation came when my then 8 year old son introduced me to Instagram and he and I both absolutely loved it. Jump forward five years and I saw social media as a ‘king-maker’ skill. I started to invest in growing my understanding of all of the social platforms – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube, Yammer, Snapchat, you name it – I tried them all.
Then the Australian Stock Exchange declared in 2013 that all listed companies were now advised to monitor social media and to actively manage their profiles and communications on all media. Cha-ching! I came home that night and I knew exactly what to do next. I started my business, The Social Science, the very next day.
Social media is a game changer – not just for me, but for the field of life sciences. I now spend most of my day on social media channels, listening, collaborating, sharing, creating, researching, conversing, managing and monitoring. My network is global across a vast assortment of sectors – medtech, biotech, communication technology, government, research, academia, media, science education, hospitals and health care delivery and the start up community.
On a daily basis I interact with journalists, Ministers and government departments on social media. I talk to investors, scientists and start up entrepreneurs and my personal network of contacts has grown astonishingly. Some may say: ‘but contacts on Twitter and Facebook are not real contacts.’ Some are, some aren’t. Some of my closest collaborators I met for the first time on Twitter just over a year ago. I have picked up customers for my business via social media, even though I have an unusually large network of contacts having been the head of a peak body.
My social media profile has delivered to me an opportunity to do a TEDx talk, it has helped in getting me board roles, Government advisory roles, clients, media coverage, speaking invitations to conferences, helped me to raise money, make money and get the odd free ticket to an event. Social media has enabled me to be an opinion leader, to influence others and to effect change in ways I couldn’t have imagined I’d be able to do two or three years ago.
People are thirsty for alternative opinion and analysis and social media can deliver that in spades. And one more thing…as a woman in life sciences many of us are at a disadvantage by way of the ‘drop out rate’, the old-boy network, pay inequity, career breaks being seen as a bad thing, and an enduring lack of support from senior managers. Social media doesn’t respect the hierarchical structure of leadership. Leadership can now come from anywhere, from anyone. Opinion leadership is the currency of social media not tenure, titles or insular networks.