In the fall of 2008, I was having a conversation with the CEO of a small technology startup about their developing social media strategy. Because of his industry, I wasn’t surprised to find his company’s social media strategy to be savvy and comprehensive. What was surprising was his sentiment regarding LinkedIn.

As a recruiter, I have long been an advocate of LinkedIn. And in 2008, it seemed like everyone else had started to realize its potential as well: during the height of the economic crisis, LinkedIn’s membership grew by over 20 million new users within a few short months.
This CEO was not one of those new users.

When pressed, he admitted that he thought it was too much like “Facebook in a suit” and that he would be considered unprofessional for using it. Besides, what would he do with it? He couldn’t see the point of having a profile when he wasn’t looking for a job. Another executive admitted that she had a profile but didn’t use it. And yet, there they were, at the same New York City industry mixer as me, pockets stuffed with business cards. It seemed as if LinkedIn’s potential as a 24/7 networking event had yet to be fully understood by the executive community.

Three years later, I am now in executive search, exclusively recruiting for former or transitioning CEOs who are interested in becoming executive business coaches. Like many of my fellow recruiters, my tool of choice is LinkedIn, which means that I interact with CEOs on LinkedIn constantly.

From a recruiter’s perspective, there are certainly things that I could suggest in order to optimize your profile for executive recruiters. But as a tool, LinkedIn is more than your online resume. Regardless of whether or not you’re on LinkedIn because you’re looking for your next executive opportunity, there are a few mistakes that all CEOs should try to avoid.

Don’t be (too) picky about who you connect with – and don’t wait for everyone to come to you. I am often surprised by how many CEOs have fewer than 50 connections on LinkedIn. Think of it this way: would you have the same reluctance to hand out or accept a business card at a professional gathering?  Try to see LinkedIn as the professional networking platform that it is rapidly becoming and not as “Facebook in a suit,” where you might only feel comfortable connecting with people you know well.

Let your professional personality come through. Because potential employees use LinkedIn as a research tool, your profile as CEO is not only being used for personal branding but for corporate branding as well. Your personality and background can say a lot about the company culture you promote. Upload a headshot. Fill in the summary section with your professional biography. Join alumni groups. Use apps such as the Amazon Reading List to share what books you’re reading or the WordPress app to link to business posts you’ve written. And don’t forget to fill out the sections that highlight the languages you speak, the charities that you support or your interests.

Have a LinkedIn profile! The single largest mistake that CEOs make on LinkedIn today is not being on LinkedIn at all. With 90% of companies using some type of social media strategy to increase revenue, your on-line presence is becoming a vital component of your corporate brand.

About the Author: Brianne Kennedy assists the national Executive Search team at Vistage International,  an organization that helps CEO members build better companies through unique executive coaching opportunities.

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