3 reasons why CEOs need to be on LinkedIn
CEOs have not joined the social media bandwagon in the same numbers as the general population. While common people—and everyday professionals on LinkedIn—have flocked to social media, CEOs have been, for the most part, reluctant to do so. One of the reasons for this hesitance is that the stakes for CEOs are much higher. Social media platforms like LinkedIn are public spheres where vulnerabilities have the potential to be unwillingly or inadvertently exposed and exploited. It’s one thing for a rank-and-file employee to make an embarrassing off-the-cuff statement on their LinkedIn stream and quite another for the CEO to do it. Say the wrong thing on social media and within hours the whole world can know about it. Within a few more hours, the CEO—and by extension, the company—could have public relations campaign launched against it. It makes perfect sense then that CEOs who have profiles on LinkedIn are in the minority. Yet, on the other hand, social media has become ubiquitous, powerful, impossible to ignore and some would argue that social media has become “the future.” Are CEOs then being too careful, too insular? Is the CEO reluctance to enter the fray of social media, in this instance, create profiles on LinkedIn, akin to the executive who refused to give up the typewriter at the dawn of the computer age?
1. A LinkedIn profile will humanize the CEO
With the exception of a few high-profile CEOs like Tim Cook, Jeff Bezos and their ilk, CEOs struggle to be more in the public imagination than a dry title: CEO. A title in acronyms, like “CEO” is like a number assigned to a customer, it lacks a real identity to be associated to. Being able to put a face to a name is important to any relationship and any CEO worth his salt should value, above all others, the relationship between the customer—current and future—and the brand the executive represents. A LinkedIn profile, however, reaches much more than customers. It also reaches employees, potential recruits and peers. An individual cannot do business with a company before approaching it. When a CEO creates a LinkedIn profile he humanizes himself and makes himself, what he represents more approachable.
2. A LinkedIn profile will fill an important consumer demand
In his article on Circle Studio, “Why your company leadership should have strong LinkedIn profiles, Alex Charalambous reports on important trends relating to C-Suite executives and LinkedIn profiles.
“In the growing digital world, social media allows companies to be perceived as interactive and relevant to prospects. But there is a demand for a more personalized message from companies—especially C-Suite leadership and management,” writes Charalambous.
He also reminds us that corporations already have social media and that trends are pointing towards larger involvement by CEOs: “Many discussions on ways to make corporate social media more personalized have been focusing on one individual–the CEO. Brands are beginning to realize the importance of having the face of the company represented on social media and actively engaging with clients and prospects.”
Finally, Charalambous reports on some of the insights in the 2014 Global Social CEO Survey, produced by BRANDfog.
“A recent survey published by BRANDfog states that 83% of U.S. respondents believe that CEO participation in social media can build better connections with customers, employees and investors. These connections create relationships that resonate with consumers—inclining them to be more attentive to your brand. And the best way establish those professional connections is through LinkedIn,” writes Charalambous.
3. Two words: “Engagement Marketing”
In a recent article on the 2015 Marketing Nation Summit, Business Review USA wrote: “The general consensus among the elites is that traditional approaches to marketing have now been displaced by “engagement marketing,” or creating real relationships with customers to generate demand.” A complete LinkedIn profile will enhance engagement between consumer and brand.
Again, Charalambous writes: “Creating a LinkedIn profile allows better accessibility to potential consumers to connect and interact with you. When the consumer feels they are able to interact with the CEO, it allows for a more personalized experience that creates trust. Nearly 75% of U.S. respondents to the BRANDfog survey believe that a company whose C-Suite executives use social media to communicate brand values is more trustworthy. It allows the CEO to be seen as a peer and creates a more engaging marketing experience – both for the company and consumer.”
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.