Using social media as a tool to acquire a board position is par for the course in today’s technology-driven world. Alexandra Cain explains why maximising your online profile is integral to board success. 

    The year is 2015, which means no matter who you are, your social media game needs to be strong. For company directors, the starting point must be a current, regularly maintained and strategically thought out LinkedIn profile. But that’s just the beginning when it comes to establishing a social media profile that’s going to help you win new board posts.

    Judy Sahay, director, digital media at Crowd Media agrees that all directors must maintain a superb LinkedIn profile. “This means having a great profile photo and interesting summary. And you need to include detail about the roles you have performed. For instance, if you have been the CEO of a large business in the past say so, because that’s very different to being the CEO of a small one,” she explains.

    Adam Franklin, co-author of Web Marketing That Works, says when it comes to listing your experience, focus on the outcomes you have helped to achieve. “Concentrate on the tangible results you’ve helped businesses achieve and don’t forget to highlight your network, because that’s what any business that hires you will be wanting to access.”

    He says directors that emphasise their digital experience stand themselves in good stead. “Digital is business these days and by demonstrating your proficiency on social media you’re demonstrating your business acumen. People who can showcase their digital business outcomes will be very attractive to boards.” Sahay’s advice is also to use the functionality on LinkedIn that allows you to upload multimedia such as Slideshare presentations to the board to demonstrate your governance credentials. You can also upload e-books or videos that demonstrate your boardroom expertise. “You can really customise LinkedIn but a lot of people don’t do that,” she says. Aside from showcasing your credentials Sahay says LinkedIn is a great place to accrue recommendations from others for your governance experience. “You need people who are influential to recommend you and don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations from people who you admire.”

    Additionally, it’s important to have great connections on LinkedIn. Says Sahay, “Don’t just add everyone who asks, focus on connections that will deliver mutually beneficial relationships – it’s all about quality not quantity”. She says it’s also a good idea to publish your own work related to governance on the Pulse LinkedIn page, again to demonstrate your expertise, as well as to contribute to groups on governance or even start your own group. Don’t just post haphazardly. Instead develop a social media strategy that determines the type of posts that help your long-term goals.

    Social media etiquette

    If you’re not prepared – or don’t have the time – to maintain your profile across a number of different social media channels, consider staying out of the channel. LinkedIn is pretty much a must, as is Twitter, but reconsider whether Facebook and Instagram will really work for you if you don’t have time to maintain these channels, beyond simply re-posting messages you have used on other channels. And if someone sends you a message on social media, it’s polite to acknowledge them immediately.

    For instance, Sahay recently tweeted one chief executive officer (CEO) through a social media platform. His profile was incomplete – it had no profile picture – and she received a reply to her message three weeks later, via email, rather than through the platform. It showed the CEO did not really understand social media and, in a digital world, this reflects badly.

    Sahay has a great example of how to use social media to its full effect when applying for a board post. “I recently applied to sit on the board of the ABC. After I had prepared my CV I connected with the recruiter on LinkedIn, followed them on Twitter and tweeted existing board members to find out about the role. I would say anyone who wants to be a director needs to use LinkedIn and Twitter to build personal relationships with recruiters and to stand out.”

    One of the reasons why LinkedIn is important is because it’s the first port of call for recruiters when they receive a brief to hire a director. It’s the place they go to develop a complete view of a candidate and to understand their interests. But it’s not the only place they check. It’s now routine for recruiters to stalk future candidates on all social media platforms. So it’s essential that every professional page you maintain is up-to-date.

    Kerryn Newton FAICD, managing director of specialist executive search firm Directors Australia, agrees that aspiring directors must treat social media seriously. “It’s part of your branding as a director.” So no happy snaps as profile photos. Instead, ensure you have a professional photo taken. “Your career history also has to match your CV as we check your online profile with what’s on your resumé.”

    Newton says she gives considerable credence to LinkedIn and Twitter. “We use social media to gain insights about a candidate or to clarify something. We also use it to find candidates. But I would also say it’s better to have no presence on social media than to have a bad presence.”

    Her advice is to use social media to stay in touch with what’s happening in the world of governance. “Follow prominent directors on Twitter and search for posts using the #governance hashtag. But don’t take it too far. Over-use and too much self-marketing won’t serve you well.”  Finally, Newton’s advice to aspiring directors is to Google yourself so you can see what boards and recruiters that might be interested in hiring you will also see.“Be aware of what’s available on you on the internet. If there’s something adverse up there that might restrict your chances of successfully landing a board appointment, you need to know you can potentially do something about it,” she says.

    However, be aware that if something exists on the internet, it’s there forever. Above all, take a long-term view of your social media profile and treat it as one of the aces in your pack when securing board positions.

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