20.05.2021 / Article

LinkedIn: from career network to discourse platform

Socio-political issues are increasingly discussed not only in the mainstream media, but also in social media. Those who want to take part and help shape the debate must be present there themselves.

In principle, positioning yourself or your company has never been easier than it is today, because social networks offer everyone the opportunity to be an agenda setter. CEOs, executives, specialists and communication managers are no longer solely dependent on what the media report. They can announce news themselves, set their own topics for discussion or take a noticeable stance. The community character of social networks makes it possible to conduct debates publicly and with the inclusion of different perspectives and stakeholders.

Management naturally has a central position in Corporate Communications, because managers represent the brand and attitude to the outside world. Their public appearance is observed and can have a decisive influence on the reputation of an organisation. Digital networks offer the perfect opportunity to position company representatives on certain topics, because people prefer to follow people rather than brands. In addition, managers who speak openly about their expertise and share their experiences can gain credibility and thus strengthen the employer brand of their own organisation. In terms of both internal and external communication, visibility, expertise and proximity are important factors for success.

LinkedIn as “the place to be”

Initially established as a business network for professional contacts and careers, LinkedIn has since developed into an interactive platform. This is no wonder, because the functions are diverse and constantly being expanded upon: from sharing short posts, photos or videos, to publishing extensive articles and a live function, LinkedIn offers a whole range of possibilities for the strategic positioning of both individuals and companies.

Since LinkedIn’s acquisition by Microsoft, the network has been moving in the fast lane. At the end of 2020, LinkedIn recorded around 15 million users in the DACH (Germany, Austria, Switzerland) region. The main German competitor XING is still ahead with 19.5 million users in the region, but LinkedIn is clearly winning when compared internationally, with more than 30 million companies and 690 million users.

Of course, many CEOs, managers, professionals and communicators have long recognised the network’s potential. Nevertheless, a closer look reveals that there is clearly still room for improvement. The results of a recent study show that only about half of the CEOs in the DAX and MDAX have their own profile on LinkedIn. Particularly active CEOs include Herbert Diess (VW), Christian Klein (SAP) and Bernd Montag (Siemens Healthineers). Above all, the example of Herbert Diess shows what is possible in a very short space of time with the right strategy. Since his start in summer 2020, Diess has gained 188,604 followers on LinkedIn. He owes this success not least to his authentic communication. For example, he combined the presentation of a new VW model with an insight into his holiday in Italy. By doing this, he generated significantly more attention than by simply sharing a press release. But LinkedIn is of course not just useful for DAX corporations and those in upper management. The network also opens up new opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses and the self-employed to reach their target groups and establish contacts with potential new customers – especially when it comes to niche topics.

Authenticity is crucial

Of course, there is no ready-made solution that will generate thousands of followers overnight. In essence, communication on LinkedIn should take the following factors to heart:

  • Relevance: Only those who have something interesting to say will be heard. What applies to all forms of communication naturally also applies on LinkedIn. Therefore, the definition of strategic core topics is crucial for positioning. In alignment with the corporate goals, a clear focus of the communication should be recognisable. Likewise, the interests of the audience should be consistently considered in the topic planning.
  • Compassion: While LinkedIn is of course first and foremost a business network, executives are people too. If they appear approachable, take a particular stance and occasionally give personal insights, this can increase attention and create a sense of individuality about the content. Successful positioning comes from one’s own personality, which is difficult to convey through prefabricated corporate messages.
  • Engagement: Those present on social media should not only publish their own content, but also be able to listen and be open to other opinions. Commenting on posts from your own network and exchanging views is what social media is all about. This requires active community management that deals with potential questions and comments from followers.
  • Continuity: The LinkedIn algorithm rewards activity. In order to remain visible in the long term, new posts should be published at regular intervals, while the possibilities of LinkedIn functions such as mentions, hashtags, photos and videos should be actively used.   

Does all that sound rather elaborate? Admittedly, it is. But it is worth it. A stringent and authentic positioning of management in social media can sustainably support the company’s communication goals.


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