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Anti-social success stories

Top of the tree and too busy to bother? While many ambitious types see their LinkedIn profile and Twitter presence as key tools for the corporate climb, some senior executives are giving social media for business a wide berth.

Property maven Ian Mackie is one who says they’re not for him. As head of private equity for LaSalle Investment Management’s Asia Pacific region, he’s responsible for $8 billion in funds under management and is a regular panellist and occasional speaker on the international conference circuit.

Mackie’s social media presence is limited to a Facebook account for looking at photos of his young grandson. He says he’s considered other sites, but could find no reason to sign up.

Sometimes referred to as Facebook for business people, LinkedIn has four million members in Australia and 238 million worldwide. The site is visited monthly by more than a third of executives in Europe, Asia and the US and claims to reach 90 per cent of business decision makers globally.

Mackie says he won’t be joining their ranks any time soon. “It has nothing to offer me at the moment as I see it,” he says.

“People say LinkedIn is reasonably useful to keep in contact with people and see who’s doing what … I’m in contact with everyone I need to be. I don’t feel any need to be any more connected.”

If he wants to meet someone, Mackie believes a personal introduction from a mutual acquaintance is better than the online equivalent of a cold call.

Positioning yourself as an industry “thought leader”, via frequent status updates and musings on the property sector, is also not a priority when you’re dealing at an institutional level with hard assets, Mackie says.

As for using Twitter to engage with clients and peers: “I think it’s for twits,” Mackie asserts.

“Ninety per cent of what’s out there is moronic … I don’t know what I’d say or who I’d say it to, or why bother.”

John Grant, the Australian Rugby League Commission chairman and managing director of listed IT services company Data 3, shares his sentiments.

While it can be a powerful tool for disseminating information, Twitter allows anyone to comment about anything and uninformed debate predominates, Grant believes.

“It’s the voice of those who speak before they think,” he says.

“They get more attention than they probably deserve and more than they would in any conventional forum.”

Grant doesn’t tweet with either of his head honcho hats on, and after taking on the high-profile ARL gig in 2011, he shut down his Facebook and LinkedIn profiles.

The former was to protect the privacy of his family and friends, and the latter because the site had never assisted with his business dealings and took up time he didn’t have.

‘The life I lead is so busy, you have to make choices about what you can and can’t do,” Grant says.

Executive head hunter Ben Derwent says genuine industry leaders don’t need to waste time self-positioning in cyberspace – they’ll still be on the shortlist for plum roles, however low their online profile.

Good experience doesn’t need to be touted daily and “thought leadership” is speaking at conferences and being interviewed by the business press, not posting topical articles with your own commentary attached, Derwent says.

“Social media usage has exploded in the last 12 to 18 months but that doesn’t mean those who are not on there are less capable,” he says.

“By no means do we look at the LinkedIn profile and go, ‘whacko, aren’t you a hotshot’!”

But Carnegie Management Group founder and executive coach Paul Smith believes hold-outs like Mackie and Grant will come to the party eventually as social media continues its relentless spread.

“It’s becoming more and more [accepted] as a way of doing business, therefore denial will not help your cause,” Smith says.