09 Apr Executive Spotlight: Richard Branson
Richard Branson says, “I don’t see any separation between work and play – it’s all just living, and I love sharing all of it,” and his LinkedIn profile clearly reflects that sentiment. Dr. Yes—as he is affectionately referred to at Virgin—is a self-proclaimed dyslexic thinker who loathes ties and believes in turning ideas into reality, as demonstrated time and again at Virgin. Branson’s professional LinkedIn profile effectively showcases each aspect of his identity, blending business, personal, and larger social topics to position himself as both a reliable source of information and an approachable person. Richard Branson is currently the number one rated LinkedInfluencer—an exclusive collective of 500+ of the world’s foremost thinkers—let’s shift our executive spotlight to Richard Branson and take a closer look at how he uses LinkedIn to position himself as a revolutionary thought leader.
Richard Branson uses all the tools at his disposal to craft and reinforces his online persona, including leveraging the visual content options on LinkedIn. Each of the visual elements selected by Branson work together to establish a cohesive and professional brand image on the platform. Branson’s profile picture and header image are color-coordinated, and the images themselves are of high quality, conveying a sophisticated and cohesive look and feel. Additionally, the header image is intended to promote Branson’s latest book, reflecting compelling endorsements from celebrities. While the endorsements are specifically related to the book, they seem to apply to Branson on a personal level as well. The culmination of visual elements on the profile creates a strong first impression for viewers, positioning Branson as a well-liked and mindful professional before the written content is even taken into consideration.
Branson’s effective use of visual content goes beyond his profile, too. A quick peek at his activity feed reveals a wide variety of content types, including visually-appealing photography and videos. The steady cadence of eye-catching content keeps Branson’s audience interested and engaged, especially considering that photos and videos tend to drive higher engagement rates than text-only posts or shared articles.
The thoughtfulness behind Branson’s LinkedIn tactics isn’t limited to visuals. He adheres to a number of best practices and tools, maintaining a steady cadence of content output, leveraging a strategic mix of content types and topics, and proactively engaging with other users.
Branson typically posts three times a day from his profile, which is actually much higher than is considered best-practice by many studies. The more widely-referenced optimal frequency is one to two posts per day, and any more could risk oversaturation and lead to less engagement. However, each unique audience has different preferences and social media habits, and because Branson’s audience engagement remains quite high, his three-post-per-day cadence seems to work for him.
Because Branson posts so frequently, diversity of content is important, and he frequently varies the format of his updates to keep things fresh and maintain audience interest and engagement. For example, just this past Friday, he posted a quote graphic, a photo with a link to an article, and a video:
Branson even considers variation within the post formats themselves. He balances personal promotion with outside points of view by switching between third-party sources and his own bespoke content, which keeps things fresh, authentic, and avoids being overly promotional. By referencing or sharing articles he has written himself, Branson demonstrates his breadth of knowledge and further-establishes his credibility as a thought leader. Likewise, he maintains more control over the information being shared with his followers.
Branson uses this control over what information is shared on his page wisely by covering a wide variety of topics. Many people follow his profile because he is a successful businessman with valuable information to share about business operations, entrepreneurship, leadership and more. Those individuals likely appreciate the content that Branson shares about his approach to business and how he strives to make ideas into reality, including a series of quote graphics that speak to the way he approaches life and business (as seen above). However, he also uses LinkedIn and his accompanying influence to spread awareness about other topics of personal interest as well. As displayed by the posts shared above, Branson draws attention to different causes that need assistance or marginalized populations that deserve recognition and inclusion. His social good content addresses larger societal issues and encourages a conversation surrounding them. The decision to share this type of content established Branson as a caring and socially aware activist in addition to a formidable businessman.
This humanitarian positioning is further solidified by his engagement with other user’s content. Below is an example of Branson commenting on one of his employee’s posts about coming back to work after paternity leave. This shows a human connection between Branson and his staff, lending more authenticity to his social presence overall.
From the format of his posts to the subjects he addresses and the way he engages with users, Branson uses his social content to portray himself as an intelligent, caring and multi-faceted businessman.
Though Richard Branson’s LinkedIn presence is undeniably effective, there’s always room for improvement.
In terms of profile optimization, Branson’s summary section is quite long, requiring users to click “read more” to see all of it. The part of the summary that users see right away includes company and professional information, while his personal information is hidden at the bottom. This may be perceived as less authentic, especially when paired with his promotional cover image. To humanize this section a bit, Branson might benefit from including a more personal touch toward the top of this summary, deprioritizing his professional accomplishments slightly.
Likewise, while Branson uses visual content effectively, the photos that he posts are not properly sized for LinkedIn. His profile picture, as well as photos included in his updates, have grey or white borders, indicating unnecessary white space around the image. For a cleaner and more professional look, these photos should be cropped to fit the appropriate dimensions.
Overall, Richard Branson’s LinkedIn profile strategically balances business and pleasure to create an approachable and inspirational persona. Thanks to his thoughtful choices and effective use of LinkedIn’s platform, Richard has more than 15.6 million followers, and growing! We can all take a page out of his book.