5 Digital Leadership Tips From Best-Selling Author Erik Qualman

Grace Gittinger

#1 best-selling author and keynote speaker Erik Qualman has performed in more than fifty countries and reached thirty million people this decade. His Socialnomics work has been on sixty Minutes and the Wall Street Journal and used by the National Guard and NASA. His book Digital Leader propelled him to be voted the 2nd-Most Likeable Author in the World behind Harry Potter's J.K. Rowling.

Erik’s deep understanding of how to foster human connection both online and offline makes him not only relatable, but also inspiring. We feel lucky to have had him grace our stage at Khoros Engage Sept. 9 - 11, 2019. He’s shared five key tips to help you stay ahead in the digital landscape.

Tip #1: Practice habits that lead to innovation

Grace: In your book, you talk about five habits of digital leadership. What are a few teasers you could give us around these, and why are they important?

Erik: Digital leaders are made, not born. Most folks will land somewhere in the middle. As a leader, you want to be a year ahead of your competition, but not ahead of the market. There have been many great ideas and innovations that simply came before the buyers were ready, i.e. early-on direct to consumer delivery services. Being a leader means knowing how to balance not only your personal and work life, but also when and how to innovate.

Being a leader means you are a year ahead of your competition, but not ahead of the market.

The five daily habits I discuss in my book are not “Eureka!” moments, but they do lead to innovation. The best way to predict the future is to design and innovate which comes through process and habits. We wanted to figure out how many habits a person needed to see results, and five seemed like the most effective number, based on the research.

It’s not about adding things to become a digital leader. It’s about simplification and removing items from your to-do list. The hope is that folks who read my book about digital leadership will take away practices that will help simplify their crazy digital lives and get back to core principals.

Becoming a digital leader is not about adding more things to your to-do list — it's about simplifying.

Tip #2: Treat your customers as brand ambassadors

Grace: What do you think are the biggest mistakes brands are making around digital customer engagement?

Erik: The biggest opportunity for companies boils down to thinking about how you treat the relationship with your audience — you must be sure they will have a cohesive, positive experience no matter which internal department they interact with. Think about your customer as an extended ambassador of the company. Do you treat and interact with them as if it’s just a transaction, or do you treat them as a partner? You have to think less “selfie” and more “unselfie.”

Tip #3: Focus on what your brand contributes to the world

Grace: You stress the importance of what we give to the world and asking ourselves if we’re leaving it in a better place than it was before. Why should folks who are striving to be digital leaders care about, and strive, for this?

Erik: It will make you better at your job, no matter your role. And no matter what you’re selling, it sounds cliché, but you are producing smiles. If you aren’t, you won’t be in business very long. Relationships and how you treat people are at the core of all successful leaders.

Strong relationship skills are at the core of successful leadership.

Tip #4: Provide value at every touchpoint

Grace: In a recent podcast interview you did with Mike Walsh, the CEO of Tomorrow, you asked him what the future of technology holds. Walsh said the biggest change we’ll see will be around customer service.

Walsh says all industries—including retail, finance, and transportation—will be driven by AI and algorithms with a sole purpose to study the consumer continuously and to look for ways to delight them. He gave the example that bank loans will be organized for you, even before you’ve started looking for a house.

The whole world will start to orchestrate promotions and offers all for you individually, without you asking. The future will be service-driven. That is something key to most of our audience. But the world is also tackling the issue of privacy.

  1. What advice can you give to brands to prepare themselves for the next leaps in technology, customer engagement, and customer service?
  2. What are your thoughts around customizing service for your customers without making it feel invasive?

Erik: The best way to prepare yourself is to be aware of what you and your friends are using to make your life better and then find a parallel within your business model.

If you are in a B2B company, you should take notice of whether something is helpful on a personal level, and then see if you can make a link to how it could also be helpful on business level. Pay attention to your behavior. Instead of zoning out at the airport, watch what people are doing and their behavior on their phones.

As for respecting your audience’s boundaries, ask yourself: “Am I providing value?” Send things and post as many times as it’s valuable! Also, I recommend a three-second rule — if you have to think about it longer than three seconds, don’t send/post it.

Use the three-second rule: ask yourself if your message will provide value to its intended audience. If it takes three seconds or more to answer yourself, avoid sending it so you don't annoy your audience.

History repeats itself: We’re in the same movie with different actors. Look back at leaders you’ve admired in the past, no matter their industry. What did they do that worked and how can you apply it to your strategy?

And if you feel like you messed up, remember… you’re “flawsome.” It’s okay to apologize, and when you do, it could turn that person into a super fan!

Tip #5: Empower others through your work

Grace: You inspire others to leave behind a legacy they are proud of. What is the legacy you hope to leave behind?

Erik: My whole goal is to entertain and engage. If I’m having fun and helping people, I’m doing things right. Also, my family is always first, everything else extends from there. I want to empower everyone around me to live their best life.

Want to learn more secrets to become a digital leader? Register now for Khoros Engage Digital on October 14.

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