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If you’re one of those mid-level managers secure in your position who hasn’t wanted to take the time to learn about social media, you’re not just missing out — you could be damaging your career in the long run.
Recently I was training a group of mid-level finance executives on how to use LinkedIn in Portland. When I got to the part about sending out frequent status updates to their network, one CFO nearly fell out of his chair. “There’s too much risk!” he exclaimed. This seems to be a sentiment shared by many at his level of leadership. And it’s to their own disadvantage. After speaking with many executives, it’s clear to me that the ones who are flexible and adopt social media have greater career success, and the organizations they work for flourish.
Elle Kaplan is the CEO of a boutique private bank. She decided, after much debate, to launch a presence for herself on social media sites. She now posts about banking issues on Twitter and on her company’s Facebook page; she also has subscribers to her personal Facebook page. Kaplan says the positives “vastly outweigh the negatives” and that the exposure gives her and her business much more credibility.
What might have looked like a risky proposition just a few years ago has now become one of the most common methods for career networking, advancement and hiring. LinkedIn’s membership has grown from two million in 2004 to over 135 million in 2011. Social media provide a wealth of opportunities for management-level employees who are willing to adapt.
Consider these three reasons not to ignore social media:
Cami Zimmer, president of mobile applications company Campaign Touch, does most of her business through social media contacts. Zimmer says that “Tweeting and connecting on LinkedIn helps build client base and make yourself look like an industry leader. In the long run, it's important for furthering business.”
Austin-based payroll/accounting executive Curt Finch has established himself as an authority by blogging on industry sites. The Journyx CEO writes regular blogs for CIO.com and Inc.com. He uses the platform to explore topics he’s already interested in, and as an opportunity to conduct research with other experts in the field. If Finch and another CEO with no social media presence were positioning themselves for the same opportunity, or competing for a round of funding, who do you think would have the most street credibility?
Private banker Kaplan’s posts have generated media coverage, which in turn generates business, both for her company and for Kaplan personally. In her case, sharing her expertise pays off: "Most clients who found me from social media exposure say they have been "looking" for someone like me for a long time."
Blogs are an excellent way to share your knowledge and opinions about topics that matter to your particular field of interest. Instead of viewing blogging as a time drain, take advantage of the opportunity to share your knowledge and connect with industry players.
Silicon Valley executive Joshua Bauder uses social media to increase exposure for himself and his start-up toy company, HappyToyMachine.com. Social media connections have allowed Bauder to land high-level introductions he would not have been able to secure otherwise. His work establishing an online presence has also caught the attention of several industry publications that have featured his work and, consequently, his company.
Since social media has turned the average content consumer into a content publisher, organizations have become much more tolerant of employees having a voice. For instance, Intel allows employees to blog or tweet about their area of expertise as long as they take an hour-long training session and follow Intel’s policies. In essence, Intel has recognized that having many brands inside its brand grows its market share.
According to a Pew International poll, over 80% of people research the products and services they buy online before they buy them. Similarly, in 2011, the FTC approved social media content as a legal basis for rejection of job candidates. You are going to be Googled. That’s why Zimmer says, “It’s becoming more important to be “seen” and “heard” on social media.”
Regardless of whether you like this trend, the reality is that someone who is looking to do business with you is using the Internet to find out about you right now. Are you managing how you show up online? Just imagine going to purchase expensive home repair services from a general contractor, but the company doesn’t have a Web site and the foreman doesn’t seem to exist online. Furthermore, they don’t show up on review sites, even though customers are talking to them. You’ll most certainly lose interest.
At the least, a void in your online profile can lead to missed opportunities; at the worst, it can lead potential clients or others in your field to wonder about your reputation or credibility. Just imagine the difference it could make if your social profiles had regular, authority-building status updates and a feed from your thought leadership blog!
Even if you’re not looking for a different job, a recruiter with the perfect position could be looking for you, and they won’t find you if you’re not visible on social media. According to Jobvite’s study on hiring trends, 55% of companies plan on spending more on social media recruiting in 2012 than they did in 2010. Building your social media presence now will be an asset you will use until the day you retire.