In a CEO Update article, The McCormick Group Principal Ivan Adler discusses whether CEOs should be active on LinkedIn.
By Lori Sharn | February 19, 2016
LinkedIn claims more than 400 million users around the world. But for many association CEOs and other senior executives at big groups, the risks—and the hassle—of having an active LinkedIn presence outweigh the benefits.
John Graham, CEO of ASAE, has a bare-bones profile on LinkedIn: no photo, his current job title and just 46 connections. Yet, he still sees three or four invitations to connect in his mailbox every day. He ignores them all.
“In many cases I don’t even know the people who want to link with me. I’m not getting a lot of requests from people in town,” said Graham, who has led the association for association executives since 2003.
Graham said LinkedIn is “totally appropriate and smart” for younger professionals working their way up the career ladder. It’s a great way to get their names out in front of people and to communicate their interests to peers and potential future employers, he said. The same goes for online communities such as ASAE’s Collaborate.
But for executives at his level, “if they’re going to land that next CEO job, it’s not going to be because they’re on LinkedIn,” he said. “There are plenty of opportunities to network around town to keep yourself visible and available for that next opportunity.”
Mitch Bainwol, CEO of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, does not have LinkedIn or Facebook pages. That’s because as a CEO, he can be bombarded with pitches and job requests from people he does not know, he said through a spokesperson.
Other CEOs apparently without LinkedIn pages include Pam Bailey of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, Tim Pawlenty of Financial Services Roundtable, Dale Stinton of the National Association of Realtors and Gordon Smith of the National Association of Broadcasters.
CEOs with minimal or apparently abandoned profiles include Nicholas Calio, who has led Airlines for America since 2011. A LinkedIn page lists him as still being EVP of Global Government Affairs at Citigroup, with 26 connections. Tom Kuhn’s page shows 295 connections but little information other than President at Edison Electric Institute. A page for Bill Graves of the American Trucking Associations shows four connections. So does a page for Bruce Josten, EVP and top lobbyist at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Of course, there are a great number of CEOs who do embrace LinkedIn and its communication channels. David Stevens, CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association, has nearly 750,000 people following his LinkedIn “Influencer” blogs. (Unlike connections—which involve sending and accepting invitations—anyone can click a button to follow an Influencer.) Gary Shapiro of the Consumer Technology Association has more than 178,000 followers.
CEOs with robust profiles and more than 500 connections (the highest number LinkedIn will show) include Jay Timmons of the National Association of Manufacturers, Dawn Sweeney of the National Restaurant Association and Matthew Shay of the National Retail Federation.
Graham said that as CEO, he also avoids LinkedIn and Facebook because of concerns about posting something he might regret later, or that somebody might post something negative about him.
Recruiters weigh in
Ivan Adler, principal at The McCormick Group, says it is important to steer away from anything controversial on LinkedIn—just stick to the facts.
“LinkedIn, like a resume, is not going to get you the job, but (it could) keep you from a chance of interviewing for a job,” Adler said.
He thinks that LinkedIn, done right, is a great way for anybody to enhance their personal brand, no matter how well known they may be. However, he does not think negatively of someone not on LinkedIn