There is Room in the C-Suite for LinkedIn

Published October 1, 2010

How LinkedIn has gained entry to the hallowed halls of corporate America isn’t so much the question but, rather, why has it taken so long?  Whereas many incumbent CEOs remain indifferent to social media as a practice, their resistance to it continues to diminish.  The paradigm continues to shift toward learning how this instrument can benefit big business.  LinkedIn, the social networking site dedicated to the pursuit of commerce, has penetrated the rarified air of the C-Suite, leaving a vapor trail that winds its way down the corridors of power to the big mahogany doors of the top dogs. 

The generation that spawned social media has flooded the global playing field with spirited and enlightened leaders who are crystallizing their corporate visions and deftly managing multiple agendas on social networking sites.  This new breed of CEO – bent on shattering the ivory tower mentality –understands the importance of communicating, being connected, monitoring the corporate brand and advancing a leadership platform through any readily available, accessible and cost effective channel.  There’s a fine line between corporate credibility and damage control.  Arguably, the most effective and efficient way to initiate, sequence and monitor this content is on social media – where all roads lead to and from the LinkedIn profile.

With well over 75 million users, and growing at the staggering rate of about a million new users every couple of weeks, LinkedIn, founded in 2002, is the largest professional network in the world.  It is a flexible and elastic medium that can accommodate as much (or as little) content as is desired and functions as an online branding hub through which corporate messaging is aligned and elevated through the individual profiles.  Senior executives have begun to realize that a strong LinkedIn presence is certainly worth exploring.  It is, arguably, the most cost effective means through which to build brand.  Research indicates that this is where businesspeople are doing their homework on other businesspeople and their companies.  Representing poorly on LinkedIn, or not at all, is considered a red flag.   

Senior management knows where their bread is buttered.  Social habits being what they are, Internet searching is an addictive behavior and will only become more prevalent in shaping public perception, researching products and services, and driving buying behavior in coming years.  The explosiveness of mobile web technology has catalyzed the thinking here, too.  Projections are that spending is about ready to go through the roof on this thing.  According to eMarketer, U.S. advertisers will spend approximately $1.7 billion on social networking sites this year, and allocate more than $2 billion on social networking sites in 2011.  Facebook will set the pace, but other networks will follow suit. 

Whereas the temptation of social media is strong, it’s not clear how many senior executives are responding to the lure of the text box.  An increasing number are being converted from naysayer to casual observer to enthusiastic dabbler, with some even taking the leap of faith to dedicated user.  This doesn’t mean that you’re going to see C-level execs huddled in a corner comparing elevator pitch videos on YouTube, punching out tweets, posting photos on Facebook, or roughing out blog posts anytime soon.  But as more acknowledge the power of these portals, engagement will increase and social media campaigns will get green-lighted in the hope of capturing eyeballs on these websites.  Some C-Suiters feel that these forums are at best a passing fad, at worst a distraction.  Others believe that there is too much momentum to be ignored.  Enter Jeffrey Hayzlett – he of recent Eastman Kodak fame and bestselling author of The Mirror Test: Is Your Business Really Breathing?  Hayzlett, dubbed a “Social Media Darling” by peers, is exemplary in his leveraging of these platforms and questions why his C-level colleagues would eschew the exercise.  He engages tens of thousands of visitors to his sites with infusions of value-added content and, in so doing, has raised the bar for the senior management.

In the universe of the C-Suite, only three letters matter – specifically, R, O and I.  Quantifying real-world outcomes from social networking efforts is today’s great challenge in all walks of business.  With the high demand for the knowledge come high expectations.  A great many people have reinvented themselves as social media strategists, hoping to entice an opportunity to create the light bulb moment for companies.  There is, however, no yellow brick road to the C-Suite.  Social media remains, for the present time, a tough sell.  In the case of LinkedIn, however, the potential upside is immense.

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About The Author

J.D. Gershbein headshot
© 2010 by J.D. Gershbein. J.D. Gershbein is the President and CEO of Owlish Communications, a Vernon Hills, Illinois-based Internet marketing firm that specializes in LinkedIn profile development, LinkedIn individual, group and corporate training and LinkedIn consulting. J.D. is a highly sought-after professional speaker and LinkedIn trainer who shows executives and their firms, top-level salespeople, professional service providers, and entrepreneurs how to monetize LinkedIn.