I Listen, I Tweet, I Lead: Notes on Digital Leadership

By Furlong, Mary | Aging Today, September/October 2012 | Go to article overview

I Listen, I Tweet, I Lead: Notes on Digital Leadership


Furlong, Mary, Aging Today


I tweet, I text, I link, I listen, and this is the new way I lead. This is 2012. The messages around leadership are the same: to mitigate the loneliness of older adults and provide venues that instantiate their roles as leaders in society. I lead by listening, following and disseminating information on baby boomer trends, eldercare and caregiving to other thought leaders.

My work has taken me through four career iterations: as a university professor; a founder and CEO of a nonprofit organization called SeniorNet (1986); a founder of a venture-backed start-up called ThirdAge Media (1996); and now as CEO of Mary Furlong and Associates. As the decades clicked by, media has evolved. In those iterations I've communicated through speeches, print, radio, TV and e-mail newsletters.

My constituent groups now include corporations and private clients- often start-up companies and entrepreneursstudents, and other thought leaders in aging, media and entrepreneurship. My classroom extends globally as I teach in Rio de Janerio and Sao Paulo, Brazil, Washington, D.C., Auckland, New Zealand and in Silicon Valley at Santa Clara University. I also produce two conferences each year, What's Next and the Silicon Valley Boomer Venture Summit.

Communication Is All

My digital leadership persona is the core in all I do. I communicate to the business and aging community mainly through tweets. My e-mail newsletter reaches 5,000 business and thought leaders, and serves as a deeper exploration of business insights originally expressed through Twitter.

I spend about six hours a day online, engaging with clients, partners, customers and students. My audience is baby boomers, and according to the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project, here is how they spend their time: 77 percent of baby boomers (ages 50 to 64) and 53 percent of elders (65 and older) are online; 47 percent of baby boomers use social media to network and connect on the Internet.

Social media outlets offer business leaders a direct way to connect and engage with like-minded thinkers. Business leaders can use StumbleUpon, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Linkedln, YouTube and Facebook to target their market. Leaders use Google analytics and marketing automation tools to track and monitor social media and advertising.

Many baby boomers have lost their positions in the traditional workforce and have had to kickstart their life by creating a new business. They know that such digital and mobile strategies are key to their growth.

Leading While Learning

Much of my time is spent learning and following: remaining open to new ideas and putting them to use immediately is a key leadership principle for me. …

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