CFO Digital Presence Guide

But where can CFOs even start? With multiple digital media platforms exploding daily, it’s impossible to even keep them straight. Should CFOs tweet? Can LinkedIn be more than a place for your resume and rolodex? What about Facebook? Or Instagram, Tumblr and the like? And what ever happened to blogging?

In The CFO RoundTable Boston’s session, “Professional Presence In The Digital Age,” part of its 2013 Executive Communications Workshop, a panel of digital, social and legal experts came together to discuss how CFOs can:

  • Demonstrate integrity and expertise in their online and offline personas
  • Utilize digital and non-digital resources to enhance their professional presence
  • Clarify their messaging to ensure they’re understood
  • Understand the business, career and personal risks associated with digital communications platforms

Our panelists included:

Why Should CFOs Have A Digital Presence?

If you’re a CFO who is on the fence when it comes to managing a digital presence, consider these 5 stats shared by Mari Anne Snow:

  • 11.3: If you were born after 1960, this is the number of jobs you’ll have in your lifetime, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
  • 97%: According to a Bullhorn Survey, 97% of their recruiter respondents said that they use LinkedIn to source candidates for jobs
  • 3.4 Billion: A rough estimate (as of March 2012) of the number of internet searches done daily.
  • 566.4%: The increase of internet usage between 2000 – 2012.
  • 200 Million: This is the number of users who now have profiles on LinkedIn, in over 200 countries. LinkedIn is considered the single biggest talent database that exists today.

The point is simply this: If you’re not online either during or in between on of your 11.3 jobs, you’re invisible to those 3.4 Billion searches done daily, and to the 97% of recruiters searching for talent just like you.

If you’re now convinced that you should have some sort of a digital presence, read on.

Where’s The Best Place To Create Your Digital Presence?

According to Google and SEO expert Patrick O’Malley:

  • If you believe that relationships are the heart and soul of business, join LinkedIn
  • If you have friends, use Facebook
  • If you just have something to say that’s a little long-winded, blog about it
  • If you’re just bored, use Twitter
  • If you just look good, go with YouTube

Focusing primarily on LinkedIn as the platform of choice, O’Malley discussed how most professionals use LinkedIn in phases, starting with the posting of their resume and moving forward to treating it as an online rolodex that allows you to keep in touch with your colleagues as they move forward in their careers.

In fact, the entire panel encouraged attendees to be more active on LinkedIn than just creating connections. Simply sharing an article that’s interesting to you, ‘liking’ a status update from a colleague or friend, or even actively participating in group discussions, all go a long way show your network what interests you, both professionally and personally, as well as keeps you top-of-mind for people searching for talent just like you.

And for those of you who do not have a picture on LinkedIn: Now is the time to upload a headshot. In the world of LinkedIn etiquette, profiles that don’t have pictures are considered suspicious, and that the person behind it is hiding something. Invest in a nice headshot and get it online.

What Else Can LinkedIn Do?

As alluded to by Mari Anne Snow, O’Malley also pointed to LinkedIn’s true power as a searchable database for refered talent and opportunities anywhere in the world. Consider this example: If you’re looking for an accountant, LinkedIn offers advanced search capabilities that shows not only the accountants that your first-degree network is connected to, but also those that have referrals from your network.

Essentially, LinkedIn is a search engine that can not only help you enhance your digital presence, but also help your business grow.

But Don’t Forget The Basics

Yet while LinkedIn has certainly opened the floodgates for digital connections and networking, Larry Blumsack asked us “Have you ever gotten a firm handshake from LinkedIn? From Facebook?,” which was an excellent reminder that a professional digital presence must always be backed up by a professional in-person presence.

After all, the professional presence of a CFO must convey respect and integrity. And after you meet a connection on LinkedIn, how can you translate that persona? It all comes back to the face-to-face meeting, otherwise known as the original social media that’s about 2,500 years old.

According to Blumsack, your ability to connect with and persuade your audience face-to-face is as important, if not more so, than the material you have to present. In fact, 80-85% of your personal and professional success is based on your ability to communicate face-to-face and present effectively.

Now, this is not breaking news to CFOs – no financing rounds, complex partnerships, or strategic decisions that affect the course of a company have ever been made through online platforms alone. But what can be surprising is how effective communication isn’t just a recital of facts, but rather, a compelling story told in just the right tone, with the right body language, that drives your audience to act.

After all, as we learned earlier in the workshop, stories are a method to connect people in an emotional way, that drives them to act. And it is your professional presence, which conveys respect and integrity, that will get them to stop and listen.

Sounds Great, But What Are The Risks?

Of course, there are risks associated with maintaining a digital presence, which can be mitigated with some good common sense and a little awareness of privacy.

First, Steve Charkoudian reminded us that there should be a distinction between personal and professional ‘channels,’ meaning that your networks of personal friends and professional colleagues should be kept somewhat separate. (Think of the natural split between Facebook and LinkedIn.)

While the two can successfully mingle somewhat, there are sometimes unintended consequences for CFOs who share a little too much. Take for example the case of the CFO who was fired for improperly communicating company information through his Facebook and Twitter postings. While the posts that got him into trouble are seemingly innocuous and harmless, his employer certainly didn’t think so.

So what can be learned from this? First, don’t be afraid that every post you make, whether it be on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, is going to get you fired. However, do consider your audience and the tone you use, and remember that the internet never forgets. (Case in point: Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffreys.)

Secondly, be aware of the privacy settings on each of the platforms you use. If you choose a platform to be a personal channel only, consider restricting access to that channel (like Facebook) to your friends only. If you choose to tweet on personal interests or hobbies, also consider locking this down to approved contacts only.

Another tip from Charkoudian is to be mindful of the security updates of the platforms that you use. For example, in the release of new features, Facebook has a tendency to tear down privacy walls and re-expose your information. Stay aware of the updates to your platforms, and be mindful of how these updates affect the confidentiality of your networks.

Ready To Get Started?

The key takeaway for all of our attendees was this: Everyone, everywhere, at some point will need to rely on their network to help them. And the last time that you ever want to create a network is when you’re in crisis. Be mindful of the platforms you use, their security protocols, and their ‘hidden gems’ that can open up opportunities for you in your career and your business. And never forget that no digital platform anywhere can ever replace a good handshake.



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