Blog 12 April 2023

What We Can Learn from Fortune 100 CEOs on LinkedIn

In building the third edition – and first with a global scope – of the CEO LinkedIn Tracker, our international team of digital and insights specialists analyzed 4,494 posts on LinkedIn from leaders throughout 2022, many of which were from CEOs based in the U.S. In fact, 63 of the 184 CEO LinkedIn profiles we analyzed were U.S.-based, touting an average followership of 333,536 – by far the highest average of followers among any country analyzed.

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What can we learn from how CEOs in the U.S. – dubbed “The Social CEO” by Kekst CNC for their ability to tell their brand story on the platform – post on LinkedIn? For the CEOs with the highest audience and broadest global reach, the biggest surprises were revealed when looking at the formats they use to post:

Images: the default format, but approach with some caveats

Images were the most frequently used format used by CEOs to post on LinkedIn, with almost half (47%) of examined posts containing an image. However, the format receives an average amount of engagement for CEOs.

Among posts with images, over 60% of posts either include a photo of the specific CEO or company employees. This is a good approach, as posts that include personal images have the highest average engagement, followed by posts that include images of company products and company employees. This indicates the audience is interested in posts that feature the CEO themselves, which may be due to a sense of perceived authenticity (i.e. the CEO is “posting” an image of themselves).

Just over 30% of posts feature an image with stock photos, text, or an infographic - indicating CEOs are using more personal images that feature relevant individuals (such as themselves or employees) more frequently. More impersonal visuals like infographics/photos of text/stock tend to greatly underperform in terms of engagement.

Takeaways: Posting with an image is a safe bet, but with authority comes a need for authenticity: make them personal.

Videos: possibly not worth the lift

While videos are the second most utilized format, posts with videos receive the lowest overall average engagement among all formats. As videos – especially the kind of professionally done videos common to LinkedIn – are a high-resource, high-commitment form of content, communications teams should calibrate their use to instances where they provide the most value-add.

Among videos posted by CEOs on LinkedIn, videos under 3 minutes are the most common, accounting for over 87% of the total. However, videos 1-3 minutes long receive the highest engagement out of all video lengths.

Unsurprisingly, videos over 10 minutes saw the lowest average engagement. But don’t just blame dwindling attention spans: videos clocking in at under one minute were also some of the least engaged-with posts.

While teams should approach the format with caution, there is one silver lining when it comes to video content, one that doubles as an easy workaround to the problem: while videos of the CEO talking – either directly at the camera or as a recording of an interview, keynote, or panel – account for 27% of all videos, this type of video receives the highest engagement by a large margin.

Takeaways: The resources required to produce expensive, professionally done videos for LinkedIn may be better directed elsewhere, but a simple video of a CEO speaking enhances a personal connection to their audience and pays dividends in engagement.

Text: utilize when appropriate

Posting simple text, without any visual accompaniment, is the least popular format among CEOs in the U.S. However, it is by far the most engaged-with type of CEO post – more than doubling the number of average engagements between image posts and videos combined (3,772 text post engagements vs. 1,612 image/video post engagements).

It’s important to note that among text-only posts, character count matters to a degree: posts that were written with less than 200 characters (the limit before one has to expand a post to continue reading) received significantly lower engagement than those requiring expansion. This suggests that much like with videos, people expect CEOs to take more space and time to build a personal connection.

Personal topics accounted for 48% of all content that used simple text. Within that topic, 61% referenced either a holiday or a major, often tragic, global event (Queen Elizabeth's death/Ukraine/gun violence/etc.), indicating CEOs are using this format purposefully when talking about serious or sensitive topics.

When it comes to engagement, U.S. CEO’s audiences engage most with personal topics, especially posts about personal history or career milestones, which receive nearly twice as much engagement as the next most-engaged-with topic (Innovation).

This begs an age-old question: which part of this causal dynamic comes first? Do people actually like simple text posts more, or is it rather that CEOs use the simple text format to post about topics the audience cares most about?

Takeaways: Text-only posts are a powerful way to get your feelings across, and they’ll resonate if you take the time to be considered, genuine, and open – regardless of what you want to talk about.