In Conversation with...

#techmums Founder Dr Sue Black's rules for elevating your personal social media presence

#techmums Founder Dr Sue Black's rules for elevating your personal social media presence

Thursday, 27 February 2020

The flood of CEOs taking to social media to share their business insights and day-to-day lives with the world, has given rise of the term ‘The Social CEO’.
Dr Sue Black, Founder of Savvify #techmums - empowering mums to get excited about technology - and winner of the Inspiration of the Year award at the FDM everywoman in Technology Awards in March 2014, embodies the traits of the modern leader – engaged with her audience, transparent, open and authentic (traits which employees perceive in CEOs partaking in social media as much as 17% more than they do their digitally inactive counterparts*). 
We caught up with Dr Sue Black to find out how she made her first tentative steps into the social media landscape, and get her advice for the digital newbie looking to elevate her online profile.

# Social media is great for organising like-minded people around an event or cause

My prominence on Twitter was significantly boosted when I launched a campaign to save from closure Bletchley Park (the birthplace of the computer and the work station of World War Two decoders of Hitler’s messages to German high command).

It’s easy to discover people who are interested in history and technology via a quick search, and reach out to them to rally support. It really took off when Stephen Fry (British author and presenter) started Tweeting about my campaign.

I’d noticed on Twitter that he was stuck in a lift in London’s Centre Point (nobody was answering the emergency phone, so he Tweeted for help!), so I sent him a message asking for support, knowing he was a fan of Bletchley. The next day he shared the campaign with his multi-million followers and my blog impressions went from 50 to 8,000 in a day.

Find out more about Sue’s campaign and how social media was involved in her book on the subject Saving Bletchley Park.


“Be nice, be friendly, have a sense of humour, be self-deprecating, be entertaining – be your best possible self.”

Dr Sue Black on how to approach Twitter


# Everyone starts from a grand total of zero followers, but it’s easier now to grow your following than it used to be

It can be daunting to start out when everyone else seems to have thousands of connections. Like any new environment you step into, you have to feel your way.

If you go to a conference you’ve never attended before, you watch others to learn what’s happening and how you should behave. It’s exactly the same on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Set up your account, find a few people you know, respect or admire, and sit back and watch to see what they do. Then you just keep growing it a little bit at a time as you increase in confidence.

Remember that it’s easier now than it used to be, simply because there are more people in that space – if you join LinkedIn today, you can be connected to hundreds of colleagues in a few minutes.


# Connecting through social media opens up huge business opportunities

Most of my daily activity and the people around it are people I first connected with on social media; I’m invited to give keynote speeches because of Twitter and my blog.

I see social media as a way to let people know what interests me, so that when they’re searching for those things, they hopefully discover me and we make a connection.


# Approach social media as an opportunity to show the world who you are and what you’re doing

I’ve spoken to many old school CEOs who really don’t want to engage on social networks because they don’t want everyone to know what they’re doing.

For me, that raises a big question: what are you doing that you don’t want people to know about? If you’re a CEO, you need to be out there banging the drum for your company, making the right kind of noise and interacting with your customers. Social media is perfect for that and if you’re not on it, you’re missing a trick.


“You don’t have to share everything! If you’re having a bad day, broadcasting that isn’t going to enable anyone. Whatever you put out needs to be interesting to someone in your circles.”

Dr Sue Black


# If the group you want to join doesn’t exist… start it yourself!

Long before Twitter and Facebook came along, I set up an online community on eGroups (now called Yahoo! Groups) to connect women in technology.

When I’d started my Ph.D., my supervisor encouraged me to network. So off I went to a technology conference where I promised myself I’d approach and talk to someone (back then I was very shy). I had a nice chat with one of the event speakers, but I got the distinct impression he thought I was chatting him up, and I felt quite uncomfortable. I came away wishing that there were more women at these events.

When I went to the European Commission’s Women In Science conference in Brussels, it was completely different; someone had started chatting to me and asking questions before I even got in the hall.

It was there I met Aliza Sherman, the founder of Cybergrrl and Webgrrls. She told me about a woman’s network she founded in the States and I determined to start my own. BCSWomen was London-based, at first but quickly grew.


# If you’re chairing a group, ask the community what they need

After BCSWomen’s first event, I wasn’t sure what the next step would be. So I asked the community what they needed from the group.

At that time, one of the things everyone wanted to do was create their own website, but many of them lacked the skills. So I arranged for free training. As a result of that, I was featured in a tabloid article about women in technology.

The group is still running today; the current chair, Gillian Arnold, was recently in Korea, picking up a United Nations Award for our services to tech women! That early experience gave me a lot of confidence that I could network and connect people online, so when Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn came along, I felt ready.


“LinkedIn is useful for establishing which connections are interested in what topics. If you throw out a link or story, you’ll soon see who’s interested and you can reach out to them when you need to.”

Dr Sue Black


# Twitter sharpens your communication skills!

You have to grab time to spend on Twitter when you can, so I’m now a bit of a speed-reader and can scroll through a thousand or so Tweets in just a few minutes.

You can use Twitter as a broadcast platform – I’ve found that people like it when I share pictures and details of the events I’m attending. But you also have to engage.

Everyone I’m following, I’m following for a reason – I want to connect and find out what they’re doing. See it as a two-way conversation and you can’t go far wrong. 


# Beware the rookie mistake of Tweeting from the wrong account!

I have various Twitter accounts for my various interests and enterprises. After a night out I Tweeted a rant about a rail replacement bus service that hadn’t been advertised and ended up sending it from the business account. I quickly realised and deleted it.


# Not all your social media has to be public

In 2006, I and 300 others attended a NESTA Crucible programme, four-weekend residential workshops to enable academic researchers to develop and solve complex problems in their fields.

We did sessions around personal development and attended random lectures about portraiture in fine art, economic forecasting and molecular gastronomy! It was fascinating stuff and created a strong bond in the group.

Afterwards, I started a private Facebook group (and later a LinkedIn group too), which I chair to this day for the alumni to continue inspiring one another and stay connected.


“Sometimes you have to put your phone away for a few days – especially when you need to focus. Twitter is addictive so make time for regular digital detoxes!”

Dr Sue Black


Follow Dr Sue Black on Twitter @Dr_Black, where she is happy to answer your questions on all things social media.


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