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Don’t Go Dark: Business Leaders from Around the World See Record Engagement on LinkedIn During the Coronavirus Pandemic, But Not All Are Using Their Voices During the Crisis


April 03, 2020

For those CEOs who have addressed the crisis on LinkedIn, post engagement rates are up 90%

Livebosses, TBWA’s unit which specializes in executive communications on social networks, conducted a study of LinkedIn posts by CEOs around the world since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, comparing the posts’ reaction and engagement rates to content created before the pandemic.

Out of the panel of 100 international CEOs covering all business sectors, including financial services, retail, automotive, consumer packaged goods and more, 60 CEOs have communicated on LinkedIn since the beginning of the crisis, and are seeing exceptionally high engagement rates as a result: half (30) have seen the most reactions (“like,” “love” or “celebrate”) obtained on aLinkedIn post in 2020 from their content addressing the virus and its business impact.

While many CEOs and leaders believe they are effectively communicating with their employees and key stakeholders through internal communications channels like email, company video broadcasts, Workplace from Facebook or intranets, a recent study from The Brunswick Group found that 80% of employees expect to hear from their CEO on social media during a crisis. Yet 40% of CEOs are not using social channels to communicate to key stakeholders about COVID-19, according to TBWA’s audit.

“People want to hear from their employers in turbulent times, and not just through traditional internal communications channels,” said Nicolas Bordas, who leads the Livebosses unit for TBWA. “CEOs are seen as the most credible sources of information but not enough of them are using their voice. The high engagement levels we saw in our analysis from those who did show just how important it is for leaders to not ‘go dark’ in crisis.”

The number of positive reactions (“like,” “love” or “celebrate”) obtained by the 60 business leaders on their most popular post during the crisis is 469,904*, while the number of reactions obtained by these 60 business leaders for their most "liked,” “loved” or “celebrated” post before the crisis was 247,352*, representing a 90% increase in the rate of engagement. The 5 most positively reacted to posts during the crisis were these:

- Alfred Kelly, CEO of VISA (Guaranteed job security at VISA in 2020)
- Arianna Huffington, CEO of THRIVE GLOBAL (Importance of containment)
- Arne Sorenson, CEO of MARRIOTT (Impact and consequences of the crisis)
- Satya Nadella, CEO of MICROSOFT (Payment of hourly workers during crisis)
- Doug McMillon, CEO of WALMART (Acknowledgements to associates)

The main themes of the most reacted to posts were:

1. Gratitude to internal teams
2. Ensuring business continuity during the crisis
3. How the company is helping, giving back or contributing

The least engaging and least successful posts from CEOs did not express enough gratitude to employees, were too company-centric, were presented without a photo, or included a reposted link without context or comment.

TBWA tracks 100 of the world’s most active CEOs across social media weekly. The analysis also found that most CEOs are currently active on Twitter, likely to connect with the public and external stakeholders, but are far less active onLinkedIn, where more of their employees are.

According to TBWA’s audit, of the top 25 most active global CEOs on social media, 52% don’t have an active presence on LinkedIn, and only 28% have posted during the coronavirus crisis, missing an opportunity to connect with employees and other key stakeholders by not adding LinkedIn as a secondary channel.

"Employees have high expectations of company managers during this period, which comes not only from their need for reassurance, but also from their desire for companies to engage in actions that are useful to the community and world at large. Employees expect to hear from their leaders on social media and other key stakeholders like clients, shareholders and partners, expect the same,” added Bordas."

CEOs and managers can begin by following some simple guidelines:

1.Be empathic and acknowledge your employees’ contributions
2.Think bigger than your company
3.Be human and personal in your communications

As part of its product offering, Livebosses analyzes CEO social media presence and provides leaders with a personal presence scorecard. The scorecard is informed by visibility on search engines such as Google and presence on social channels like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, as applicable.

LinkedIn and Twitter were examined for this analysis of global CEOs because they are the most global of communications platforms. It should be noted that in certain regions like the Middle East, Facebook is utilized by CEOs as a communication platform. Instagram is an important channel for industries like luxury goods, fashion and design. But they are not utilized broadly enough by executives to be included in this report.

*Figures as of March 29, 2020.