If you’re like some executives, you turn up your nose at the thought of social media use for professional purposes. Perhaps you quiver at the thought of being tagged in an unflattering photo at the office holiday party. For many executives, social media is largely understood, a time sink, and inherently risky. It's a domain tailored to, and reserved for, their children and grandchildren.
Yet the use of social media can be a force multiplier in terms of your career trajectory. Smart CEOs capitalize on this. Research by Weber Shandwick found that 80% of employees would rather work for a CEO who has a social media presence. What's more, social CEOs are more likely to be perceived by Boards of Directors as effective, forward-looking, better communicators, open and accessible, in-touch, better listeners, inspiring, and technologically savvy, as compared to their non-social CEO counterparts.
As an executive, non-participation in social media can be a career inhibitor. If you’re intent on leveraging social media to advance your professional career, LinkedIn can be the ultimate propellant. While you probably have an established LinkedIn profile, it’s likely suboptimal.
1. Re-evaluate your profile picture
A picture is worth a thousand words. Your profile picture is the single-most important component of your LinkedIn profile. A study by Photofeeler found that numerous aspects of your social media profile pictures affect how you are perceived by others. Eye blockage (via hair, sunglasses, or even glares and shadows), for example, causes you to appear less competent and influential. Somewhat paradoxically, slightly squinched eyes cause you to appear more competent, likeable, and influential (the researchers explain that wide open eyes commonly denote fear). Smiling is, by far, the most impactful characteristic. A smile with teeth visible results in increased perceptions of competence, likeability, and influence. Beware, however, of the laughing smile, which decreases perceptions of competence and influence. Informal dress, face-only close-up pictures, and extensive photo editing are also more likely to result in a negative impression.
2. Leverage social media to post your own psychological profile
Today, many organizations leverage third party organizations to conduct psychometric tests on potential candidates as a means of evaluating the candidate’s personality. This is often seen as an invasion of privacy and an abuse of power, especially in light of the fact that executive recruiting firms don’t always have an obligation to share profile results with candidates. Bypass them, control your own data, and connect with potential employers directly by sharing your own personality profile via LinkedIn or other platforms. Many executive coaches (including myself) are certified in administering a host of personality and business profiles (including the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator and the 5 Dynamics Model, for example).
3. Familiarize yourself with your privacy settings
It’s important to be cognizant of your privacy settings on LinkedIn, as well as all social media platforms. The “Who’s Viewed Your Profile” setting, which enables you to select the extent to which your profile is public, is especially critical. As an executive, it’s best not to opt for a totally anonymous profile. What’s the point of having a social media profile, if others can’t find you?
Another important setting is the “Sharing Edits” feature. This feature updates your connections when you make changes to your profile. If you’re doing a complete revamp of your profile, it’s best to turn this setting off to avoid bombarding your connections with a storm of updates. Your boss doesn't need (or want) to know that you graduated high school in 1993. On the other hand, it can often prove beneficial to revert back to the default setting as a means of informing your connections that you've been promoted or have acquired a certain skill or credential.
4. Prioritize authentic thought leadership
In 2017, LinkedIn named Richard Branson the most effective online influencer. As the first LinkedIn user ever to reach one million followers, Branson has perfected the art and science of LinkedIn. His secret? Engage in authentic thought leadership.
Instead of re-posting third-party content or promoting the Virgin brand, Branson focuses on original thought leadership content. He consistently authors long-form LinkedIn posts. Some of Branson's posts include, "Answering Your Questions on Work-Life Balance", "Want to Be More Productive?", and "What Does It Take to Be the Boss?” Branson does not leverage LinkedIn as a promotional platform. Instead, he nurtures his connections by imparting knowledge on them.
Nadine Greiner, Ph.D. provides Executive Coaching and Human Resources solutions. Her mission is to make the executive experience exceptionally enjoyable and effective. She believes that the world needs great leaders, and has dedicated her career to helping them.
As an organization psychologist and former corporate CEO, Dr. Nadine understands the pressures and demands executives face. She offers her clients the high expertise that only comes with three decades of consulting success, and a dual Ph.D. in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology. Dr. Nadine is an in-demand speaker, teaches in doctoral programs, and coaches other consultants. She is the author of two books: ‘The Art of Executive Coaching: Secrets to Unlock Leadership Performance’, and of ‘Stress-less Leadership: How to Lead in Business and in Life’. amazon.com/author/nadinegreiner