The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

Cover Story | ACCJ Event | Social Media

October 2013
Younger, more mobile and integrated digital market makes proper online personal branding critical for careers

By Julian Ryall, Photos by Taro Irei
We all live in a world that’s increasingly linked in, but we can always be even more LinkedIn—and that applies to any company that is trying to increase the profile of its brand, the firm looking to hire new talent, or the skilled worker looking to showcase his or her abilities.

“Social media has evolved very quickly, from the first big wave of portals that served as a gateway to help people navigate the web in the 1990s, to search engines and then, more recently, the arrival of social networks,” Cliff Rosenberg, Managing Director of LinkedIn Australia, New Zealand, and Southeast Asia, told a chamber luncheon at the Tokyo American Club on September 10. The event was hosted by the ACCJ’s Young Professionals Group; Marketing Programs; and the Information, Communications and Technology committees.

The advantage of social media lies in the fact that it is a lot more interactive than its predecessors, with the big three of LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter leading the international pack, and a multitude of other companies contributing online options at the national level, such as Mixi in Japan.

Rosenberg does not consider the other social media sites to be rivals. “It’s all about context,” he said. “When we speak with our members and ask what they think of social media, we consistently hear that they want to separate their private from their professional lives.”

“LinkedIn is purely for professionals, it has been that way since we were founded in 2002. Our mission is to connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful,” Rosenberg said.

This is quite different from the model operated by the likes of Facebook, which focuses on social interactions, games, and keeping in touch with friends and family, while Twitter serves more as a public broadcast forum.

Although it may be acceptable, for example, to appear in a photo taken at a fancy dress party on other social media sites, that is not the image you want to be projecting to potential recruiters, clients, business collaborators, or employees, he emphasized. That is why it is critically important for each of us to take control of our own online professional brand.

“You can’t rely on someone else to manage your career. You are in essence your own chief marketing officer, and you drive your online professional brand to get to where you want to be in the future,” Rosenberg said. He suggested that everyone attending the event—around 90 percent of whom raised their hands when asked whether they had a LinkedIn profile—do an internet search on Google, or other search engine, for their name. “If your LinkedIn profile is not near the top of the search result, then you’re not painting yourself in the best possible light and you need to have a more complete LinkedIn profile,” he said.

“You have to establish and then build your professional identity and reputation, to make it work for you,” he said. “If your LinkedIn profile only has your name and title listed, then you’re not doing yourself any favors. Show your skills, achievements and education, and get recommendations and endorsements on LinkedIn.”

“There is no ideal number of connections”, said Rosenberg, who has well over 1,000 contacts on LinkedIn. “It’s all about quality, not quantity,” he explained. “There is little point in accepting random requests from people in parts of the world that you are unlikely to ever visit or do business in. There’s no need to feel bad about rejecting a request, especially if the invite is from someone you have not met, or who would not be a valuable addition to your professional network.”

For companies, LinkedIn is an opportunity to build the company brand through groups and company pages. Employees should be encouraged to share their positive experiences of the company on these channels so that potential employees can get to understand the company better.

A recent addition to the platform is the LinkedIn Influencers program, which was launched in October 2012. It brings together more than 300 of the world’s top thought leaders to share their professional insights. Those invited to date to take part in the scheme include Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, President Barack Obama, Bill Gates, Jack Welch, Arianna Huffington, and Richard Branson.

“LinkedIn has become the place where professionals can go to get deep and rich insights. Members can choose the categories that are of interest to them, giving them access to information that is uniquely tailored for them on a daily basis,” Rosenberg said.

This message resonated with Tim Trahan, joint chairman of the ACCJ’s Young Professionals Group. “I use LinkedIn a great deal and I know how it works, but I learned a lot about strategies for marketing and was particularly interested in the Influencers program,” Trahan said.

“And while I have got into the habit of updating my LinkedIn profile every three months or so, I came away from this event knowing that I need to do it more often, perhaps incrementally. But also that sooner is definitely better than later for updating the information. People I have spoken to since the event are telling me they are thinking exactly the same thing,” he added.

LinkedIn is also increasingly looking to make itself available through mobile devices, integrating with schedules, as well as encouraging a younger group of people to create profiles. It’s giving access, in some markets, to people as young as 14 years of age.

“We decided to lower the age limit because the sooner teenagers can start building their online brand and reputation, the better,” Rosenberg said. “It is becoming increasingly difficult to get that first great job on graduating from university. LinkedIn can be fundamental to getting that first job and building a career.”

“Japan is the world’s third-largest economy and there is a very vibrant recruitment industry as well as a fast growing online advertising sector,” he said. The market does pose some challenges to LinkedIn.

“Japanese professionals are not generally all that prolific, in terms of proactively publishing their profiles and achievements online, compared to professionals in other countries such as the Netherlands.

“The perception [in Japan] is that the company still tends to come before the individual and it is viewed by some professionals as being disloyal to promote oneself instead of the company,” he added.

“I do think that attitude is changing, but it will take time to evolve completely.

“We need to educate Japanese professionals that by branding and promoting themselves online they are also, in effect, branding and promoting the company. Employees with LinkedIn profiles can be great ambassadors for the company.”

There are, however, high hopes for the market here.

“Right now, we are at the stage of listening and learning from our members, as we continue to work hard to better understand what works best for professionals in Japan,” he said.

LinkedIn: In numbers
Founded: 2002
Launched: May 5, 2003
Number of users: 238+ million (as of September 10, 2013)
Rate of growth: More than two new members every second
Members in US: 35 percent of membership
Number in Asia–Pacific: 42+ million (as of September 10, 2013)
Number of countries and territories in which it is available: 200+
Languages: 20
Revenue: $972 million (2012)
Employees: 4,200 (August 2013)

LinkedIn is purely for professionals, it has been that way since we were founded in 2002. Our mission is to connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.”