CEOs who post on LinkedIn should ignore much of the conventional wisdom about social media.
According to an analysis by communications firm Kekst CNC, the most engaging CEO posts are:
–Long (over 200 characters)
–Not linked to stories
That goes against the grain of years of social media orthodoxy which argues that the best strategy is to write short items linked to supporting articles hyperlinked to everyone and freighted down by hashtags to “optimize” search.
According to the report: “The smartest, most effective tactic is the least popular with CEOs: posting plain text. A post with simple text gets more than twice the number of average engagements.”
Kekst doesn’t say why text outperforms, but it’s clear to anyone who doomscrolls the Internet these days that photos have fallen out of favor and hashtags are comically unhip, particularly among younger influencers on Twitter.
The problem with pictures is that as many as one third of the photos that CEOs use are “stock photos.” No one wants to see an outdated headshot, generic building or company sign.
Researchers doing the study, among the better pieces of analysis I’ve seen on the topic, crunched the numbers manually. That’s a reflection of how hard it is to get and process the data. It included 4,494 posts by 184 CEOs in four countries.
The analysts say that longer posts show commitment and depth. According to Kekst: “People expect CEOs to take more space and time to build a personal connection.”
The demand for length may also reflect a fatigue with the short attention-span economy. People are tired of hors d’oeuvres. They want a meal.
According to Kekst, three quarters of CEOs post “personal” content related to public appearances, office visits, personal travel and career and personal milestones.
It makes sense personal posts get twice as much engagement as any other type. Everyone loves a story. People want details they can relate to.
Personal posts should obviously include the protagonist.
But saying you are delighted to visit the Singapore office doesn’t do much. You need to include something you saw or did or learned.
Deborah Liu, CEO of Ancestry, is a model. She writes about her work and home experience, managing to connect it to life and business lessons that feel both practical and authentic.
One surprise in the Kekst report: less than two thirds of Fortune 100 CEOs even have a LinkedIn page.
I believe public writing will increasingly be viewed like public speaking, i.e. part of the job of communicating to stakeholders. CEOs increasingly will be expected to participate.
My advice for CEOs or anyone posting online would be to write something original. Don’t worry about the links and photos and hashtags. Just contribute.
To paraphrase Michael Pollan, the best posts: Tell stories. Mostly with examples. Not too short.