2021 was the year executives got more active on LinkedIn. And, for many us who have been urging execs to do this for years, it was about time.
However, as more execs started using LinkedIn as a tool to reach employees, customers and prospects, one theme started to emerge: These execs were just mouthpieces for the company. Most were likely run by corp comms teams–which, to an extent, is OK.
But execs seem to be missing the point: We don’t want corporate statements from you on LinkedIn. We want authenticity.
After all, authenticity is on trend in 2021.
What’s more, isn’t this what we have always wanted from our leaders? We want to feel more connected to them. We want to get to know them a bit more. We want to feel like they’re not some wizard off in an ivory tower.
Real content–that’s what most people want from execs.
And it’s why people like Spanx’s Sara Blakely, Target’s Laysha Ward, Walmart’s Doug McMillon and Delta Airline’s Ed Bastion are winning on LinkedIn.
Any list of examples of corporate CEOs and authenticity has to begin with Spanx CEO, Sara Blakey. Surely by now you’ve been the video below of her making an emotional announcement to employees. For those who have been following Blakely, you know this sort of emotion is not uncommon–and it’s almost assuredly authentic. This is exactly what I’m talking about in terms of showing employees, customers and prospects your real self.
Closer to home here in Minneapolis, Target’s Laysha Ward has established herself as essentially THE spokesperson for the brand on LinkedIn (whether that’s purposeful or not–separate topic, actually!). She often shares inspirational content, but I think she’s at her best with posts like the one below where she opens up a bit more. How many execs do you know who would share details of their vacation, like Laysha does below? This is the kind of post that allows key audiences to get to know execs better. You know, the kind of content we all post from time to time on LinkedIn!
Then there’s the CEO of one of the biggest companies in the U.S. He routinely is sharing personal content–like him getting his COVID booster! One key concept many execs struggle with when it comes to LinkedIn is the visual–specifically, photos of themselves. I realize this is tough–I don’t like to snap photos of myself either. And I realize you usually want those pics to be not-notch showcasing your best self. But again, authenticity is what people want from their leaders right now on LinkedIn. And McMillon seems to understand that. You see a healthy dose of selfies and shots of him with Walmart team members in his feed.
Finally, Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta is another example of a CEO who clearly “gets it” on LinkedIn. Sure, he does share corporate info a fair amount in his feed. But, he also mixes in content that showcases his human side, too. Like this post about his wonderful dog, Oliver. Imagine how this post resonated with employees, customers and prospects–many of which most likely have a dog (or have had a dog at one point in their life). What an emotional connection he established with the pics in this post.
Or, what about this post from earlier this summer when he dropped his daughter off at the University of Georgia–a huge emotional moment for any parent. Again selfies of Ed and his daughter were front-and-center. How does that not tug at the heartstrings of any parent? What a great way for Ed to establish a common bond with many of his employees, customers and potential customers.
In order to win on LinkedIn in 2022, execs are going to have to get a lot more real. It may not feel natural. It may not be easy. But, it’s table stakes for execs who want to reach key stakeholders in the year ahead and create positive brand perceptions.