The LinkedIn Diaries: Lessons from the Top

This following article by Write On The Money’s President, Andrew Brown, was originally published on the Financial Post:

The two most recent entry of The LinkedIn Diaries identified how executives can effectively establish a strong LinkedIn foundation: 1) setting the right goals; and 2) executing critical offline activities.

In this week’s entry of the LinkedIn Diaries, I identify some key lessons by focusing on the LinkedIn profiles and practices of leaders from two of the financial sector’s most well-respected brands.  These leaders are ING DIRECT Canada President and CEO,  Peter Aceto and Som Seif, President of Claymore Investments.

Like most busy senior executives, ING DIRECT Canada’s President and CEO, Peter Aceto and Som Seif, President of Claymore Investments use LinkedIn to achieve very specific  objectives, including : 1) to stay closely connected to members of their existing network; 2) to extend their current networks;  and 3) to promote their brand identity.  What makes their success with LinkedIn particularly exceptional is that they work in a highly-regulated and risk-averse sector — a sector that historically refrains from being on the leading edge of media because of concerns for confidentiality, privacy and security.

The ways that Aceto and Seif achieve their goals, while reinforcing the integrity of the sector, provide some important lessons for all senior executives looking to leverage the power of LinkedIn . Each lesson is built upon their three common LinkedIn goals:

1. Stay connected to members of an existing network. Both Aceto and Seif have scheduled time into their weekly routines to review the current status of their network connections — within their companies and well beyond.  Within a large sector, people often take on different roles and responsibilities, so regularly monitoring your network’s movements increases your success for tapping into it when you need it. If this is your goal, it is also very effective to send congratulatory notes upon reading about a person’s promotion and send personal messages through LinkedIn (as well as reinforce them via email or telephone).

2. Extend current networks. When appropriate, Seif and Aceto use LinkedIn to reach out to targeted members of their networks to establish what they see as a “friendly first step”.  Other ways that they could further this goal is to raise topical questions in LinkedIn’s “Answers” section as well as begin discussions in LinkedIn Groups to which they belong.

3. Promote brand values. One of ING DIRECT’s priorities is to be regarded as a tangibly different financial institution. As a result, they have consistently brought to market innovative consumer-friendly products and pricing. Their commitment to being a desirable alternative extends into their LinkedIn approach which emphasizes openness and transparency. Aceto, as President and CEO, regularly posts relevant and engaging updates on Twitter that get instantly posted to his personal LinkedIn profile as well as on the company’s corporate LinkedIn page. Similarly, Seif reinforces Claymore’s value on participating in the community by including a link to the Art Gallery of Ontario where he has served on volunteer committees.

Two other important LinkedIn lessons from Aceto and Seif are:

Create relevant guidelines.  While executives may be initially reluctant to delve into LinkedIn, Aceto and Seif have truly embraced this social media tool for business. One of the reasons that they have done so with such confidence is that they know that their companies have a well-articulated code of business conduct. Every company that looks to leverage the newest media tools needs to establish practical policies that guide employees’ use of social media in ways that positively present themselves and the company brand.

Be bold, when appropriate. The competition for finding and securing talented people in the financial services sector is fierce. While using LinkedIn to cost-effectively recruit staff is certainly one of ING DIRECT’s objectives for the tool, Aceto’s use of LinkedIn boldly pushes the boundaries of most traditional recruitment practices. In fact, Aceto calls out exceptional work and people at ING DIRECT on his LinkedIn page. By doing so, he sends a very strong message to potential (and existing) employees: when you work at ING DIRECT, your efforts are recognized and appreciated at the highest levels of the company. This is a powerful message that assists in recruiting new staff and reducing employee turnover.

In the next edition of The LinkedIn Diaries, I’ll focus on three LinkedIn “super users” by focusing on the practices of senior executives from Cisco Systems, Brookfield Real Estate Services and Loewen & Partners.

Andrew Brown is president of Write on the Money. He helps senior executives harness the power of digital and traditional business communication tools (such as LinkedIn) and strategies.