5 Social Media Tips for Senior-Level Execs

Many top-level executives limit their social media presence to a LinkedIn profile. It takes a lot more to get ahead.

Here’s a stat that isn’t widely known: about 100 million of LinkedIn's 660 million worldwide users are in senior-level or decision-making positions. Here’s another telling data point: only about 1% of LinkedIn users post content weekly.

Together, these two figures suggest that while senior-level executives understand that they need to have a presence on social media, they aren’t effectively using these networks to advance their careers. For the vast majority of these executives, for instance, their LinkedIn presence consists of a profile page that regurgitates their resume and the occasional sharing of a newspaper article with a bland “interesting piece” comment.

Experts say that isn’t going to help executives build a professional network or find their next job, as many of them are now finding out. With the pandemic putting many of them out of work, they are scrambling to find their next position, sending out connection requests at random and awkwardly messaging peers. Peter McDermott, a senior client partner in Korn Ferry’s Corporate Affairs Center of Expertise, says he hears from a lot of executives who are flummoxed over the lack of success in their job search on LinkedIn. “It’s because they are playing a numbers game,” he says. “They think that clicking the apply button and sending in their resume is enough.” Here are some tips for leveraging social media for career advancement:

Articulate your value.

The “About” section on LinkedIn is the single most valuable piece of social media real estate for senior-level professionals, says Deborah Brown, a managing partner in Korn Ferry’s Leadership and Talent Consulting practice. Don’t waste it with a simple list of skills or career highlights. Instead, says Brown, “use it to articulate your values and purpose, as well as the kinds of problems you can help businesses solve.” Tell a story, she says, that draws the conclusion for decision-makers and hiring managers that you are the kind of talent the organization needs to get to where it wants to go in the future.

Share a point of view.

The fear of getting fired or going viral in a negative way because of something shared or posted on social media is very real, of course. As a result, if senior-level executives share at all, they either do so without commenting or by making generic, executive-speak remarks. But that isn’t going to build an audience, says Brown. Instead, she advises executives to use posts to demonstrate a point of view that has value in the marketplace or highlights issues that showcase their skills. “The goal with posts should be to get people thinking,” she says.

Get people to approach you.

Not only do you want to get people thinking, ideally you want to get them to come to you. One way to do that is by using social media to hold out your subject-matter expertise for participation in panel discussions, webinars, and training and development classes. David Meintrup, a Korn Ferry Advance career coach, says joining professional associations and trade groups affiliated with your area of expertise and then posting thought leadership to those groups can be a great way to get noticed for possible speaking and presentation opportunities. He notes that most higher-level positions are part of the “hidden job market,” coming from word-of-mouth rather than being posted on a job site. “Higher visibility leads to more conversations, which leads to more opportunities,” he says.

Don’t limit yourself to LinkedIn.

Many senior-level executives think being on LinkedIn is enough. After all, it is the social-networking site for professionals. But Facebook and Twitter also offer tremendous value for senior-level job seekers. Executives looking to switch careers, for instance, can join a Facebook Group or start following Twitter hashtags related to the new field of interest. Joining groups and following hashtags provides insight into the daily conversations taking place, as well as a way to connect with leaders in those industries or functions, says Zach Peikon, a principal in Korn Ferry’s Marketing Officers practice. “Social media can help executives explore where they want to go and create a roadmap to get there,” Peikon says.

Reach out for advice, not jobs.

One of the most common mistakes users make on LinkedIn is reaching out to someone they don’t know to ask about an open position. That screams of opportunism. Instead, McDermott suggests asking a question about the organization, commenting on a post the person shared, or finding an association or experience in common when attempting to make a new connection. He also advises that the connection you are reaching out to should be “within reach,” at the same level or one or two above, at most.