World Leaders on LinkedIn
LinkedIn prides itself on being “the largest professional network,” a social media platform where companies post job offers and users create their digital CVs. Since few world leaders are actively looking for a job and their institutions are already swamped with applications, it comes as no surprise that world leaders and governments have been slow to embrace LinkedIn.
Despite its massive audience of 414 million registered users, LinkedIn can be considered a niche network for governmental communication. Burson-Marsteller's research team has identified 154 governmental LinkedIn accounts, including 64 personal profiles of heads of state and government and 90 institutional government pages. However, only a third of the institutional pages are active and half of them are merely placeholders and have never shared an update. Five pages have been dormant for more than six months and all pages combined have a total of only 935,437 followers.
Many governments and institutions have a passive presence on LinkedIn; their respective entries were created through personal profile updates of current and former employees who have associated with their employer. The page of The White House is a case in point: More than 1,000 administration staff, including the personal profile of President Barack Obama, are associated with the White House page. However the page doesn’t seem to be official and has not been claimed by the Obama administration.
Of the 30 governments active on the platform, most use LinkedIn as a recruiting tool, posting links to job openings advertised on their respective websites. Only six institutions, such as the Dutch government, the Dutch and the French Foreign Ministries, have taken a paid LinkedIn subscription and created dedicated ‘career pages’ to scout out new talent on LinkedIn.
Only 13 governmental organizations use LinkedIn as a publishing platform to tap into the LinkedIn community and their constituents. The European Commission is the most followed government institution on LinkedIn, with more than a quarter of a million followers. The EU Commission shares posts with a clear business focus about the "EU Investment plan" or "How to improve the environment for Startups in Europe" and "reaching potential investors." The Commission is fairly active with one post per day and highly successful in engaging its followers on the platform attracting a fair share of likes and comments.
The U.S. State Department is in second position with 150,000 followers. The page is targeted to potential recruits, promotes career fairs and posts the odd job listing. The page is not overly active and doesn’t post any other foreign affairs related posts.
The Canadian government, the Dutch government and the UK Foreign Office complete the top five list with more than 30,000 followers each on their respective pages. It is interesting to note that the government in Ottawa has not become active on the platform despite its large LinkedIn audience.
The LinkedIn posts of the UK Foreign Office and the Office of the Prime Minister of Israel are tailored to the LinkedIn audience with a business focus including meetings of Benjamin Netanyahu with visiting foreign CEOs and sharing economic data.
The Canadian government has created so-called “showcase pages” for three of its embassies; however, only the High Commission of Canada in Mozambique is occasionally active. Australia’s Foreign Ministry has created similar sub-pages for its embassies in Washington, Jakarta and its trade and investment specialists who regularly post a link to their weekly Trade Talk e-newsletter.
However, in general, little love goes into postings on LinkedIn and they are rarely visually appealing. It seems LinkedIn is the last thing on the mind of a social media manager and few governmental pages are active on a regular basis. Several social media teams have tried to simplify posting by cross posting from Facebook or Twitter to their LinkedIn page. However some of these posts include hashtags which don’t work on LinkedIn.
Two thirds of the pages analyzed are either dormant or inactive and some have clearly outdated information. LinkedIn does not delete old company pages, as that would affect the profiles of all current and former staff associated with these pages. The Swedish government has decided to pool its multiple pages for each ministry into a one central government page which is close to reaching the 10,000 follower mark.
Sixty-five heads of state and government and foreign ministers have set up personal profiles on the platform and they have a combined total of 4.7 million followers with a median average of 569 followers. However only five world leaders have been chosen to be among the LinkedIn Influencers, a select group of thought leaders and business executives who regularly share personal blog posts on the platform.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron is the most popular world leader on LinkedIn with 2.1 million followers. He is closely followed by India’s Narendra Modi with 1.6 million followers. HH Sheikh Mohammed, the Prime Minister of the UAE, Japan’s Shinzo Abe and Canada’s Justin Trudeau make up the top five. U.S. President Barack Obama comes in at sixth position, having only activated his account on February 26, 2016.
All of the above leaders, except Justin Trudeau, are among the 766 hand-picked LinkedIn influencers who occasionally share personal blog posts and are regularly featured on the platform. UK Prime Minister David Cameron has penned more than 100 blog posts on LinkedIn since October 2012 which have been viewed more than a million times and received more than 43,000 likes and 11,100 comments. Barack Obama, on the other hand, has only posted one post in February 2016 about his first job at Baskin-Robbins in Honolulu which received more than 254,000 views and 4,700 likes.
Few world leaders are active on the platform and when they are they post only intermittently: India’s Prime Minister has published 26 posts, Japan’s Shinzo Abe 11 posts, HH Sheikh Mohammed six posts and Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen only three posts.
Four other world leaders are active on the platform, posting short form status updates, namely Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena, Belgium’s Foreign Minister Didier Reynders, Latvia’s Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs and Kosovo’s Foreign Minister Petrit Selimi.
All other 54 world leaders are inactive on LinkedIn and have only published their CV with key dates of their professional life. Interestingly, 26 leaders have published their skills on their profiles which are open to public endorsements. More than 1,400 LinkedIn users have endorsed Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for his leadership and his policy and he has received 120 votes for his “Outstanding Interpersonal Communication Skills.”
Surprisingly few leaders seem to take care of their public appearance on LinkedIn: Only 15 accounts have a cover picture and seven didn’t even bother to upload a profile picture.
LinkedIn has recently started to advertise the number of followers for personal profile pages on the activity tab, but the number of mutual connections a user has is capped at 500 and indicated on the profile. Ten world leaders have made no connections on LinkedIn, indicating that the page is probably a placeholder and not ready for any interaction.
It is rather difficult and cumbersome to connect with world leaders on LinkedIn. To connect with Barack Obama, David Cameron or Shinzo Abe you will need to know their personal email addresses before proceeding to make a connection. Other leaders are more open to connect on the platform; and we have been able to connect with 13 of them on LinkedIn and will probably send them an advance copy of this study.
World Leaders on LinkedIn is Burson-Marsteller's latest research into how world leaders, governments and international organizations communicate via social media. The research builds on Burson-Marsteller's highly acclaimed annual Twiplomacy study, now in its fifth year. Initially focused solely on Twitter, the 2016 study has been expanded to other social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and more niche digital diplomacy platforms such as Snapchat, LinkedIn, Google+ and Vine.
Burson-Marsteller has identified a total of 154 LinkedIn pages and profiles. Data was collected on April 18, 2016 and the full Excel data table can be downloaded here.
Thank you to Matthias Lüfkens for his ongoing strategic guidance on Twiplomacy and the World Leaders on Social Media series.