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ANZ chief Mike Smith sees the light on social media and joins LinkedIn’s influencers

ANZ chief Mike Smith is the most recent Australian executive, and the most high-profile, to join LinkedIn’s Global Influencers program.

The program allows influential and knowledgeable business leaders to publish posts sharing business advice and opinion. All LinkedIn users can follow and comment on the posts.

Influencers include former GE chief Jack Welch, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson and Microsoft founder and chairman Bill Gates. Smith’s first post is on what he’s learned about doing business in Asia.

The Australian Financial Review reported he was the first Australian CEO to join the list.

He may be the first CEO of a listed company to join, but he’s actually the third Australian CEO overall.

SmartCompany blogger and Red Balloon founder Naomi Simson was inducted into the list when it was launched in October 2012, as was Freelancer.com founder and CEO Matt Barrie.

Smith, who at the time of writing had 604 followers, is a recent convert to social media, telling the AFR he changed his mind about its value after meeting with some LinkedIn executives in America in May.

“To me it had a nuisance value and I did not truly appreciate what the network could offer,” he said.

“I suppose you could say I had a Road to Damascus conversion.”

SmartCompany called up both Australian CEOs who’ve been on the list for some time to ask them what words of advice they'd have for Smith.

Simson said the key to doing it well was to be honest.

"It isn't a PR exercise," she tells SmartCompany. "It has to be in your own words. And you have to be thinking about it regularly."

Barrie says he’s loved being part of the program.

“You certainly get your message out there,” he said. “I used to be a columnist for BRW on a monthly basis, and now I have more followers on LinkedIn than the entire circulation of BRW.

“You get a pretty stimulating debate with a high quality, global audience. Quite a few of my posts have been also been picked up by the traditional press after I’ve written them.”

One of Barrie’s posts, where he called for the disbanding of the Australian Computer Society, was the most read post on LinkedIn for a day.

Asked what his advice to Smith would be, Barrie says while it’s hard to keep up writing while managing a business, it’s the key to building an audience.

“The other thing is that you need to develop your own personal style and brand. I tend to write about technology and entrepreneurship. I’ve found that if you stick to a theme, you get a really good response.

“Naomi Simson is great at it. She’s extremely prolific. She had a large blogging following before and she’s built up a huge number of followers using it.”

Barrie has 55,700 followers who subscribe to his posts, while Simson has 181,500.

LinkedIn’s shares rose 4% this morning as it unveiled 33% earnings growth in its second-quarter profit announcement. Membership rose to 238 million, which is a 37% increase on its numbers a year ago.

The company’s profit was $US3.7 million ($A4.14m) up on $US2.8 million ($A3.13m) a year ago. Its revenues were $US1.46 billion ($A1.63m).

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Myriam Robin

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Myriam Robin is a reporter for SmartCompany and its sister site LeadingCompany. She has degrees in economics, international studies and journalism. She likes writing about businesses taking risks and doing new things.