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Brand vs. CEO: How to leverage a CEO's voice to build your business

The digital game today is really about transformation. Business leaders want to know how they can stay competitive in a world which seemingly changes every day. How do you remain relevant?

Humans play an essential role in this transformation. CEO represents the company's leadership and employees – culture. What CEOs or employees say online now matters more than ever before.

We analyzed over 70,000 LinkedIn posts to find out how business leaders' voices can be used to build business. Here are six reasons why leaders should be visible online.

1. CEOs are expected to be visible

71% of employees believe it's critically important for their CEO to respond in challenging times (Edelman Trust Barometer Global Report). People expect them to reflect and share insights on various industry issues, political events, and other relevant issues. This has been particularly visible during the pandemic when leaders had to choose: to remain silent or speak up about their business and industry's unclear future. We live in an open, social world where interactions and conversations truly matter and can influence a course of action.

2. A CEO's profile can be more engaging than the brand's

The rise of Human-to-Human (H2H) is not just a vision or wishful thinking. On LinkedIn, there is clear evidence that a single CEO profile can often outperform an entire brand page run by large teams. Let's look at a few examples. Herbert Diess, the Chairman of Volkswagen, has only a fraction of followers compared to Volkswagen's LinkedIn page. However, when we look at the average post engagement (i.e., a sum of likes and comments), his posts receive 397% more engagement than the brand page. Similarly, Pieter Zwart's LinkedIn posts are 189% more engaging than those of Coolblue.

"On LinkedIn, there is clear evidence that a single CEO profile can often outperform entire brand pages that are often run by large teams."

In unique cases, a leader's profile can outperform a brand page by more than 7000%, like we see in the case of Sara Blakely, the Founder and CEO of Spanx. What's interesting here is that it appears that the amount of followers doesn't determine success. What matters is who people relate to more.

3. CEOs drive meaningful conversations

H2H connection is all about having meaningful, human conversations, where CEOs and employees can play a significant role. It's all about establishing trust, exchanging insights, and opinions, leading to a deeper understanding of industry trends and people.

Let's look at the post of Jeff Weiner, the former CEO and now Executive Chairman of LinkedIn. His LinkedIn post is not about sharing the financial results of LinkedIn or telling why people should use the platform. Far from it. He talks about emotional intelligence - something that people relate to on a human level. Even though Jeff Weiner didn't specifically ask anyone to reflect on the topic, 130 people decided to join his conversation. People want to be engaged in something that they care about. That's the power of meaningful conversations.

In the digital environment, it's no longer about who you know; it's about who knows you. Do you know who the CEO of Microsoft is? The CEO of Tesla? Big chances you do. And how about the CEO of Volkswagen or Vodafone? Chances are lower. Many leaders do visionary work, which often gets unnoticed by the larger society because it's not communicated. Being stuck in your stakeholder bubble represents many missed opportunities, like attracting new talent, being invited to speak in industry events, creating new partnerships, securing investment, getting new clients, etc. The list goes on.

"In the digital environment, it's no longer about who you know; it's about who knows you."

We compared the number of comments among 17 leaders and their brands. On average, we found that leaders' posts received 140% more comments than their brands, once again proving that people would rather talk to people and not brands.

(Connected Circles Research) If you wish to see how you or your brand is doing on LinkedIn, contact us to get a free, customized dashboard.

4. CEOs are more human, while brands tend to be overly polished

Even to this day, many people view LinkedIn as a sales messaging and broadcasting channel, talking about and selling their brand and products. That's a huge mistake! People want to talk to real people - authentic, those who don't shy away from uncomfortable topics, who dare to show emotions and be vulnerable. Knowing how to connect with others on a human level sets thought leaders from regular LinkedIn users.

Let's look at the example of Sara Blakely who took a personal approach to sharing big news. In her announcement about donating $5 million to female entrepreneurs, she opens up. She explains how being a woman entrepreneur can be scary and lonely - something many small business owners can relate to.

It's not only emotions that matter in this context. Sharing professional insights plays a crucial role too! Leaders with considerable experience and knowledge have the power to inspire and influence the agenda on essential issues like sustainability, digital and business transformation, society, inclusive leadership, and many more.

"Being able to share a constructive view on what's happening in the industry, and the word is what sets thought leaders apart."

In a world driven by purpose, people tend to attach themselves to something bigger than themselves or their company - a community, mission, service, values. For your audience to be deeply engaged and feel connected, they have to understand who you are as a human being. This personal touch is essential.

Brand pages often miss this human touch as they commonly lack a distinct personality or voice. That is because multiple teams are responsible for brand communication. After passing content through managers and legal teams, it often becomes void of character, making it far too factual and polished (see examples below).

Seeing your customers as a distinct community with a sense of purpose and values can drastically shift how you communicate online. People crave to be part of something bigger, and creating a sense of community can have a real impact on your business results.

5. CEOs can work in synergy with their brands

Reading this, you probably think that we don't believe in the power of brand communication. Not at all! We believe and encourage clients to use their CEO and brand pages in unity, allowing them to play distinct roles.

A brand page is excellent to tell what is happening in your company and industry, while the CEO profile is ideal for explaining why the company is taking a particular direction or action. This strategy is geared towards driving engagement and complementing both brand and CEO profiles (see the example of Banco Santander below). This approach adds another dimension to brand communication, which would be hard to achieve through brand channels alone.

6. Effective CEO communication contributes to business results

CEO positioning is not only about creating deep connections with your stakeholders or awareness of your brand. It can also influence business results that go beyond creating organic reach. According to a recent study by Edelman and LinkedIn, 89% of decision-makers say that thought leadership contributes to a better organization's perception. Moreover, 49% agreed that it was effective in influencing their purchase decisions. Thought leadership done correctly can directly impact your business.

Nowadays, reaching anyone in the world is at your fingertips, but creating relationships with them is another ballgame. And that's what H2H conversations are all about - building trust. Because trust serves as a foundation for driving business.

The question is then, where are you going to invest your time?


About Connected Circles

We help purpose-driven companies, leaders, and their teams to create meaningful conversations and make a positive impact in the world. Enabled by AI technology, creative and strategic thinking, we build online profiles that become centers for discussion, inspiration, and learning.


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