21 Feb Executive Spotlight: Bill Gates
When managing multiple social media channels, it can be challenging for executives to manage them all, especially when taking into consideration the required variation in tone and content for each platform. Best practices for social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn all differ, and therefore they can be tricky to navigate for businesses and brands that strive to be present on multiple channels.
This week, our article focuses on business mogul and philanthropist Bill Gates, and in particular the way he adapts his content according to the platform he is using. The co-founder of Microsoft is perhaps best known as one of the pioneers of the microcomputer revolution, and these days is chiefly known for his humanitarian work through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Gates is extremely active on social media, present on four major social media apps (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram). However, we found that Gates’ Twitter and Instagram in particular are great examples of adhering to different aspects of his business and brand, and do so according to the best practices of each respective platform.
Twitter: Staying Active, Relevant, and Humble
Gates has been active on Twitter for 10 years. With 48.9 million followers, he has a significant presence on this platform. Some may think that since Bill Gates is a household name, he does not need to work as hard to boost his social engagement. However, he is still very active on the app and keeps up with trends, as well as works to cater to a large demographic of users, proving himself worthy of his role as a globally recognized thought leader.
Because Gates is already established on a worldwide scale and has little need for additional fame, his dedication to maintaining a consistent social media presence that is true to his brand indicates a more authentic commitment to the causes he endorses. Inevitably, this will result in reaching and engaging with a large audience. Whether you are a full-time philanthropist like Gates or not, taking a page out of his book and staying active and consistent on social media is essential to keeping your followers and supporters engaged.
Having an authentic and approachable voice, as well as maintaining a level of humility, is important when aiming to reach a wider audience—particularly youth and other people who are not aware or interested in hearing about complex, technical, or overly niche content. To that end, Gates’ Twitter headline reads: “Sharing things I’m learning through my foundation work and other interests.”
Immediately, this reads as an approachable and authentic voice, and though many regard Gates as an authority figure, he does not put himself on a pedestal when approaching his followers on Twitter. Rather, he presents himself as a man who happens to know about a lot of varying subjects and simply wants to share these resources with his followers. Whether his content is related to global health, social change, humanitarian work, or scientific information, Gates is sure to simplify his content by posting short and concise blurbs as well as frequently pairing his posts with images or videos. For example:
We’re hopeful that our foundation’s work with Networks for School Improvement will help increase the number of Black, Latinx, and low-income students who graduate from high school and pursue postsecondary opportunities. Here’s why that’s so important: https://t.co/Kc5iCU6qhE pic.twitter.com/anMDUnuVPh
— Bill Gates (@BillGates) February 18, 2020
The accessibility of Gates’ content undoubtedly makes for an account that is easily digestible for a large audience.
Gates is also not afraid to employ humor where he can use it, which contributes to the approachability of his platform. Although the topics he discusses are for the most part serious, humor is incorporated when appropriate, which contributes to making Gates more relatable. For example, in this video commemorating 10 years on Twitter, which outlines his favourite Tweets, humor is very much part and parcel of the video:
— Bill Gates (@BillGates) January 23, 2020
Another aspect of what makes Gates’ Twitter a success is that he adheres to many of the platform’s best practices.
For example, he posts almost every day. We recommend that businesses and brands should create and stick to a plan wherein they are able to post quality content on a consistent basis. While it may not be feasible for every executive to post every day, remembering that quality will ultimately prevail over quantity is a crucial (and, ultimately timeless) idiom to abide by. Both quality and consistency are essential to maintaining an accessible and successful social media presence, as they will contribute to your reputation as well as increased brand awareness.
Another example of Twitter best practices that Gates abides by is keeping posts short and concise. He almost always accompanies these posts with a visual such as a photo, third-party link card, or video. Gates also frequently connects and engages with other users with retweets and replies, always tags the people or businesses he is posting about when he posts about them, and actively recognizes other leaders by highlighting their contributions to a cause or community.
Thanks to the work of this father–daughter dynamic duo, Bangladesh is moving toward a future of fewer disease outbreaks and more children reaching their fifth birthday. https://t.co/mMXuxNnnYf
— Bill Gates (@BillGates) January 14, 2020
As for the content itself, Gates is focused on relaying relevant news sources such as articles, statistics, images and videos from reputable parties or that are directly related to the Foundation. Overall, Gates maintains a consistent tone—one that is dedicated to relaying information on the causes that he actively cares about and is relevant to his brand (science, global health, education, and social change are predominant focuses). Maintaining a consistent tone is imperative when establishing one’s brand in order to ensure that a clear voice is coming across.
Instagram: Balancing Personal with Professional
Instagram appears to be the lesser-used social media platform for Gates. Having only joined three years ago, Gates has a fairly low number of posts at 138 posts in total and a significantly lower number of followers, 4.7 million, than Twitter.
Though Twitter seems to be a more effective platform for conveying content that is more relevant to his brand, Gates still thrives on Instagram and takes on a different, more personal approach.
Much of Gates’ success on Instagram can be owed to following the platform’s best practices, as well as incorporating popular Instagram trends into his account.
Since Instagram is a predominantly visual platform, as opposed to tweets that rely more heavily on words, Gates makes sure to post high-quality photos that tell visual stories within those photos. Oftentimes, the photo will act as a starting point to a larger conversation and is typically further explored in his captions.
Personal is mixed with professional on this platform, as Gates incorporates photos of his family as well as other insights into his everyday life, such as the books he likes or the authors he and his family enjoy. He also utilizes common Instagram trends like “throwback” photos, and always uses that opportunity to insert captions that are centered around the philanthropic element of his brand. Gates’ Instagram also has a more present and visible sense of humor: for example, a photo with Gates’ face photoshopped into an elf’s body is used to promote his personal holiday reading list.
Gates makes use of Story Highlights for the purpose of showcasing his charity involvements and other topics of personal interest, which ultimately offer followers insight into his personality. This is important because it humanizes him, and makes him come across as more authentic and relatable as a human as opposed to a persona. He is effectively using many of the Instagram features in order to provide content variety, showing that he is up to date with platform features.
Gates also stays on top of Instagram updates by posting regular stories and combining them into an organized, comprehensive highlights reel on his main page.
Improvements: Why Hashtags Matter
Although Gates adheres to most platform best practices, there is one area for improvement. Hashtags are one way that users find content on a platform, and are hugely helpful in marketing strategies for businesses. Therefore, incorporating relevant hashtags can increase a post’s reach. We recommend using 7-9 hashtags per post to ensure better boost engagement.
Since Gates’ usage of hashtags is currently very sparse on his Instagram and Twitter pages, incorporating more hashtags may further help to maintain a consistent and brand-relevant tone and, since his efforts are of the philanthropic nature, may broaden the demographic reach.
Conclusion: Understanding Best Practices on Social Media
Keeping up to date with the best practices of your platform of choice, or each respective platform if you are managing multiple, is a great place to start. Our social media team has developed a checklist for both Twitter and LinkedIn to help executives get started.
Gates stays aligned to a specific goal with his content, and is dedicated to reaching as wide of an audience as possible. Accessibility and openness to adapting with the times and trends are key to a successful social media presence, and often these will vary from platform to platform.
Bill Gates has shown that consistency, high quality, and the ability to adapt to each respective platform and the optimal ways to use them leads to a successful social media presence. Maintaining an approachable tone as well as showcasing the varied yet unified aspects of the brand, as opposed to applying a one-dimensional or repetitive template across the board, can be a difficult balance to strike: however, Gates proves that it can indeed be achieved.
Is your marketing team ready to get your executive(s) on social media? Book a free consultation and learn more about why having executives on social media can help your brand achieve its business goals. In the meantime, follow Influential Executive on Twitter for inspiring leadership quotes from today’s top executives and more!
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