Social Media Lessons from a Silicon Valley Veteran

LinkedIn is the biggest social media networks in the world—experiencing a 1,000 percent growth rate in just over 10 years & boasting over 530 million users.

In this episode of the Hootcast podcast, CEO Ryan Holmes chats with Brayton about the lessons learned from her time in the tech industry, along with social media tips.

In this episode you will learn:

  • Brayton’s leadership tips from years of industry experience
  • What you should & should not do on LinkedIn
  • How to be authentic on social media

Press play to hear the show in its entirety, or if you do not have a set of earbuds handy, read the transcription of the conversation below.

Q&A with LinkedIn’s CMO Shannon Brayton

You have been working for a long time in Silicon Valley & spent most of your career in PR &comms. In 2015 you took the role as the CMO of LinkedIn, previously working as a communications executive. What has it been like moving from the communications into the marketing?

It has been fun & challenging. The fun part is really the fact that I have learned more in the last 2 years than I have in the previous 10. It is been the most condensed version of marketing that you could ever imagine & I have absolutely loved that, even when it’s been really hard.

I say challenging because I had essentially done corporate communications for 20 years, so I had a bit of a bias against marketing because as your listeners probably know, comms& marketing bump into each other quite often & for me to get rid of those biases & then learn more about the team. It was definitely challenging but highly interesting, and at the end of it, it’s been two & a half years, it’s been incredibly rewarding at the same time.

It is a really interesting era that we live in when you think about the breadth of an executive role. You need to have all of these arrows in your quiver & right now we are seeing many different perspectives being demanded by leaders. How are you helping CEO Jeff navigate the communication needs that he has?

Part of the reason Jeff wanted to take the role was because he was one of the first CEOs that I’m aware of that really saw that convergence of comms& marketing, and decided to put it under one leader at the company. Comms was creating lots of content that was bumping into the same type of the content that the marketing team was creating.

I think Jeff realized that those narratives and the way that you tell your company story and your brand, it is essentially the same thing, and we have actually gotten quite a bit of synergy by having it all roll up to one leader. It is true how many arrows in the quiver, as you said, you have to have. My current team is 500 people & I have everything from pricing, everything in-between, & then social impact.

I think that is one of the hard things about being a marketer these days is you need to understand a little bit about a hundred different things.

I absolutely see that. You mentioned Jeff briefly & I think he’s been known as a very authentic leader. You wrote a really interesting article about how you will not hire someone until you’ve had lunch with them, are there any tips you could share with people on how you could have authentic interactions on LinkedIn?

One piece of advice that Jeff give to CEOs that ask him about how to approach social is to make sure that no one on your staff is responsible for writing your stuff, and that is sometimes hard for CEOs to hear because they think, “Oh my God, how am I possibly going to find the time to do this.” Jeff does all of his social media himself. I think you could really sniff it out when CEOs or executives, in general, are not being authentic or are having somebody write their stuff for them.

And so that is my number one tip is to do it yourself. It is amazing what it can do for both recruiting & retention of your own employees.

What are some best practices on how people could remain professional and authentic on social? Any personal plans that have really helped you in your career?

On the professional side, you need to think about the guardrails between FB& Instagram versus LinkedIn. We really do encourage people to ensure that the content they are posting remains professional on LinkedIn. So, things that are political in nature/pictures of your baby don’t belong unless you have got a way to dovetail it back to your professional life.

I see a lot of people who’ll make that mistake and post something that’s highly personal and not as professional & people will respond in the comments and say things like, “This is not Facebook” or, “This does not belong here.” And so I really encourage people to think about their social media life in 2 very distinct ways. LinkedIn is the place where you talk about work and your profession and your industry, and FB is the place you talk about your kids & your Halloween decorating.

It is really important that you kind of draw that invisible guardrail in your mind when you go to join social media because people expect a certain thing on LinkedIn & they expect a certain thing on Facebook.

I recently did, as you know, a LinkedIn social leadership course, I always give my six tips on social leadership &comms for leaders. And picking your channel is always one of the top things that I tell people. I agree that baby pictures are not really the right thing for the LinkedIn channel if you not tie that back to a great business comms piece around what having children taught you about being a better leader/something like that.

I have seen moms post pictures of their kids upon returning from maternity leave & talk about what their maternity leave was like & what it was like returning to a job. I think that is inherently appropriate on something like LinkedIn. But sharing a picture of your cute baby in their Halloween outfit is not something we encourage because people donot expect to see those types of things on LinkedIn.

And as the online world has become more political & you’re seeing more and more unfortunate chatter on places like Facebook & Twitter, I think we sort of disproportionately benefited because people think of LinkedIn like a respite from political discourse.


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