Executive Spotlight: Ed Bastian

LinkedIn has released their list of the top 20 U.S. influencers on LinkedIn, which includes philanthropist Melinda Gates at #1, broadcaster Katie Couric at #10, and Wired’s chief editor, Nicholas Thompson at #19. Coming in at #16 is Ed Bastian, who has had a long career at Delta Air Lines. He first joined the company in 1998 and has been serving as the CEO for the past three years.

In this article, we will be looking at how Bastian uses LinkedIn and Instagram to shine the spotlight on Delta Air Lines. Unlike some of the other CEOs we have featured in our Executive Spotlight, Bastian makes stronger connections to his brand, with the majority of his posts directly mentioning Delta. We will analyze how executives can discuss their company branding on social media in a way that feels more authentic.



Why Executives Use LinkedIn


Both Twitter and LinkedIn are commonly used platforms when looking at the top executives on social media. Twitter’s bite-sized content format makes it easy to use and manage. For executives who produce fun, entertaining content with the intent of reaching a wide audience, Twitter is the first platform that comes to mind. However, LinkedIn is an effective platform for industry professionals who are looking to connect with their peers and share their knowledge.



On LinkedIn, Bastian has over 95,000 followers. His content regularly achieves at least 1,000 reactions, though some posts have reached over 6,000. When analyzing content on social media, it is important to pay attention to CTAs (call to actions). The post below ended with a comment that prompted users to comment, which helped drive engagement.



The majority of Bastian’s content is directly related to Delta Air Lines, but not necessarily in a way that discusses the company’s products. When he does refer to Delta’s services, it is done in a subtle way that informs the reader about brand quality, rather than overtly trying to sell the service. Many of his Delta-related posts follow two themes. The first theme emphasizes Delta’s commitment to providing quality service to their customers. The second theme is about highlighting the “Delta family,” or employees.



Although Bastian appears in most of the photos posted on his LinkedIn account, he is only ever seen from the perspective of a Delta executive. Personal posts on LinkedIn are rare, which is usually the case when examining other content from executives on the platform. Bastian’s tone is very much that of a company spokesperson, and while he does come across as friendly and approachable, not much of his own personality is shown.


Instagram: a Visual Platform


While LinkedIn is an excellent platform for sharing business news, Instagram is a different type of social media platform. It is more visual, emphasizing photos over text. Bastian’s Instagram account is relatively new, having been created on June 6th, 2019. He has kept this account well updated, making posts every few days using a mix of content, posting single images, carousels, and videos.

On Instagram, Bastian lets his personality shine just a bit more, with his bio reading: Dad. Golfer. Traveler. CEO @delta. While content relating to his personal life is absent from LinkedIn, he does share a few personal posts on his Instagram.



Interestingly, his link in his Instagram profile does not go to Delta or a brand-related page. Instead, he has linked to his LinkedIn account, which appears to be his main social media platform given how much content he posts there compared to Instagram.

Overall, Bastian’s content on Instagram is almost the exact same as his content from LinkedIn, except for posts that have a more personal touch. While he only has 11,200 followers on Instagram, he has achieved a high engagement rate, with image posts averaging around 2,000 likes and 20 comments.




Influential Executive: How to Choose Social Media Platforms


Bastian is an active user on both platforms, posting every few days, which is a good way to increase engagement with his followers. All of Bastian’s posts on LinkedIn typically feature at least one relevant hashtag and a common one he uses is #DeltaProud. When executives post on social media, attaching a brand-related hashtag is one way to connect the conversation back to the business. Bastian’s LinkedIn posts all have correct tagging whenever he is mentioning a brand or individual, which is good practice when posting content to any social media platform.

LinkedIn is a very good fit for Bastian and his content since the majority of his posts are brand-related and feature longer copy. What makes him an influential executive is how he discusses his company in a more authentic way. Instead of trying to sell the reader on flying with Delta, Bastian highlights initiatives that focus on engagement, such as Delta Kindness Tags. It is an effective way of keeping the brand within the minds of consumers while promoting the brand and attaching it to a positive project.



On Instagram, Bastian’s post copy tends to be lengthier than other executives we have highlighted in the past. This is partly due to the fact that he copies the text from his LinkedIn posts, which are generally on the longer side.



The majority of images posted on his Instagram have a very polished, professional presentation. When selecting images for Instagram, it is important for executives to maintain a consistent aesthetic, which Bastian has done.



Improvements: Diversifying Content


Research shows executives on social media can be a more effective marketing tool than brands on social media. With this in mind, executives should focus on creating engaging content that fits with the social media platform’s key strengths. One of the most common things we see executives do is repurpose content from one platform to another. This is not necessarily poor practice, but it is important to keep the social media platforms in mind. Since Bastian is using Instagram, it is important to “translate” his LinkedIn content appropriately.



For example, breaking up text into different paragraphs can increase legibility rather than keeping it as one long paragraph. Another key practice executives should keep in mind for Instagram is to make use of several periods in between the post copy and the hashtags. Bastian’s posts typically only feature one hashtag, but to increase a post’s reach, executives should consider using 8-13 hashtags.

For Bastian’s Instagram video content, we highly recommend adding subtitles as this can increase engagement and view completion rates. Adding accessibility features can also result in content that is inclusive to more audiences.



Ed Bastian: a LinkedIn Influencer


Ed Bastian states, “It sounds obvious, but share what you know and what’s most important to you. People can tell when you’re not being yourself.” This is sound advice, especially coming from one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices of 2019. A common theme among top performing executives on social media we have highlighted in our Executive Spotlight series is that each of them speak to a specific industry or topic. In Bastian’s case, that particular topic is his own company, Delta Air Lines.

What makes Bastian’s social media strategy effective is that while he regularly shares content about Delta, it is never done in a way that attempts to push sales or is otherwise gimmicky. He has a consistent professional tone of voice and content that portrays the Delta brand in a positive light. Executives on social media should think about their platform as a way to engage with their audience and as a marketing tool to build brand awareness.


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