At the World’s Watercooler: global themes through a regional lens

The most shared posts on LinkedIn in March show that audiences across regions gravitate to the same core subjects – but often in a different style

April 29, 2021

At the World’s Watercooler: global themes through a regional lens

The most shared posts on LinkedIn in March were a reminder that, although the world’s professionals often focus on the same core subjects and issues, they respond to those issues in distinctly regional ways. For content creators and would-be influencers, it’s not just a case of picking on the right topic, but of approaching that topic from an angle and in a style that resonates with their regional audience.

Wherever professionals gather around the world’s Watercooler that LinkedIn has become, you’re likely to find discussion around several key themes. There’s the future of work and the professional landscape likely to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. There’s the increasingly urgent need for action on the environment, interest in creativity, innovation and innovative companies, the hope that springs from young people taking initiative and respect for wisdom that stems from experience. However, in each of the regions where we analyse content sharing, we see these themes explored in different ways.

The way that different regions approach the theme of innovation shows these different regional lenses in action. Hubris and hidden dangers are compelling angles in Europe, with posts highlighting the potential downsides of Bitcoin as well as the innovative investment opportunities that were passed on by the stars of popular business TV show, Dragon’s Den. In the Middle East, the focus is on celebrating ambitious ideas and projects, such as a proposal to store samples of all life on earth in a facility on the moon. Latin America, as often, takes a career-focused approach, with the opportunity to learn from successful entrepreneurs. In Africa, the emphasis tends to fall on local role models and stories that demonstrate success is open to all.

As with innovation, so with environmental responsibility, gender equality, the changing workplace and more. It’s not just what you talk about that drives sharing – it’s how you talk about it.

The Watercooler for Europe:

1. Brewdog, Trunki and Cup-A-Wine: Ten Dragons’ Den rejects now worth billions

From The Evening Standard

2. Jean-Marc Jancovici, l’écolo qui atomise tout le monde

From L’OBS

3. FT 1000: the fifth annual list of Europe’s fastest-growing companies

From The Financial Times

4. Zu teuer, zu qualifiziert, zu schräg: Aus diesen Gründen sagen Personaler wirklich ab

From Handelsblatt

5. Bill Gates Sounds Alarm On Bitcoin's Energy Consumption–Here's Why Crypto Is Bad For Climate Change

From Forbes

6. Kabinet wil meer vrijheid bieden met 'coronapaspoort'

From NOS

7. Covid: 'People are tired of working from home'

From The BBC

8. London retains title of most popular city for work

From yahoo! finance

9. »Ich bitte alle Bürgerinnen und Bürger um Verzeihung«

From Spiegel

10. 'It's saved me from going down the wrong path': The teenagers running a community food shop on a Hackney estate

From My London

Lessons from Europe’s Watercooler:

The most shared post in Europe by some distance is a satisfying tale of business ideas that went on to be worth billions, despite being rejected by The BBC’s Dragon’s Den, a show in which entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to intimidating potential investors. The opportunities that got away include Brewdog, a Scottish brewery currently valued at over £2 billion, and the iconic children’s ride-on luggage brand, Trunki.

Seeing high-profile millionaires miss out can make satisfying reading – and it’s not the only occasion when Europe’s readers responded to stories that show things aren’t always as straightforward as they’re made out to be.

A profile of the pro-Nuclear environmentalist Jean-Marc Jancovici revelled in these kinds of tensions and nuances. The Financial Times’ ranking of Europe’s fastest-growing companies celebrated the rise of Green energy supplier Bulb Energy, but made note of the hit taken by OakNorth Bank, the business previously in top spot, as a result of bad loans. Handelsblatt revealed what rejection letters for jobs really mean – but are too polite to put into direct language. Most notably, there was widespread sharing for Bill Gates’ warning that not all innovations are good for the environment. A post from Forbes related Gates’ claim that “Bitcoin uses more electricity per transaction than any other method known to mankind.”

There were narrative tensions too in the posts that Europe shared on how the world of work could emerge from the pandemic. Howard Dawber, the Head of Strategy at Britain’s biggest office complex Canary Wharf, highlighted the downsides of working from home that he expected to lead people back to the office – at least for some of their working week. The Dutch cabinet announced it would like a ‘corona passport’ that identified those free from infection and allowed greater freedom – but acknowledged the technical and legal difficulties in making it happen.

Not every story in Europe looks for a downside or a counter argument, though. The uplifting tale of teenagers running a community food shop in an estate on Hackney spoke to key themes around young people taking control of their future and their environment, which resonate among audiences wherever they are.

The Watercooler for Latin America:

1. Fachin anula condenações de Lula relacionadas à Lava Jato; ex-presidente volta a ser elegível

From Globo G1

2. My Octopus Teacher has lessons for us all

From Richard Branson’s Blog

3. Segunda Turma do STF deve declarar Moro suspeito em processos contra Lula

From Globo G1

4. Aos 12 anos, menino cria site para ajudar idosos no agendamento de vacinação da Covid

From OPOVO online

5. Os 100 líderes empresariais com melhor reputação no Brasil

From Exame

6. How to identify and apply for unposted job opportunities

From Fast Company

7. Quitting the day job: How to be a full-time founder

From Virgin StartUp MeetUp

8. Navio encalhado no Canal de Suez: por que incidente pode piorar crise econômica global

From Globo G1

9. Aos 21 anos, filha de diarista e cobrador de ônibus é aprovada em medicina na USP e Unicamp

From Globo G1

10. A reminder of why we need peace

From Richard Branson’s Blog

Lessons from Latin America’s Watercooler:

Richard Branson and Lula da Silva are the names that dominated Latin America’s content sharing on LinkedIn – with special mention going to Luiza Helena Trajano of Magalu. Together they show the power of established thought leadership brands, the interest in high-profile business leaders, and the natural interest that professionals have in a piece of political drama.

The Virgin founder contributes two of the top ten posts, dropping in personal anecdotes of conversations with the filmmaker and environmentalist Craig Foster (star of the recent Oscar-winning documentary, My Octopus Teacher), Nelson Mandela and Peter Gabriel. Branson is able to provide a unique perspective on issues around the environment and international co-operation that resonate with audiences worldwide – and the power of his personal thought leadership brand seems to be particularly strong in this region.

Two of the top ten most shared posts relate to the same unfolding story – the process by which Brazil’s Supreme Court eventually annulled the convictions of the country’s high-profile former president, making him eligible for election once more. It’s a saga of obvious interest to all types of audiences in the country.

Luiza Helena Trajano is no stranger to the Watercooler, whether leading a COVID-19 vaccination drive in February or designing a Magalu leadership programme exclusively for black candidates. It’s therefore no surprise that she tops a ranking of the 100 business leaders with the best reputation in Brazil, for the fourth consecutive year. The story highlights the fact that the number of women in the list continues to grow, reaching 12 in 2020.

The most shared content in Latin America often focuses on professional development and empowerment – and this month is no exception. A live event from Virgin didn’t just showcase successful entrepreneurs – it focused on how others can start innovative businesses for themselves. Fast Company posted a feature revealing how many of the most attractive job opportunities aren’t advertised in the conventional way – and sharing tips for forming relationships with hiring managers that can help give candidates an edge.

Celebrating innovation and initiative among young people is another consistent theme of the region’s most popular posts. In March, professionals enthusiastically shared the story of a 12-year-old boy whose website has helped more than 3,000 elderly people to schedule COVID-19 vaccinations, and a lowly born 21-year-old who graduated fifth in her class at the university of São Paulo.

The Watercooler for The Middle East:

1. All listed UAE companies now need at least one female board director

From The National

2. Engineers propose solar-powered lunar ark as 'modern global insurance policy'

From EurekAlert!

3. Yıldız Holding Yönetim Kurulu Başkanı Ülker, iş yaşamını anlattı: İşimi tam anlamıyla yaşıyorum

From Haber Turk

4. Expat workers rejoice as Saudi Arabia’s labor reforms usher in new era

From Arab News

5. Saudi Arabia’s Bold Plan to Rule the $700 Billion Hydrogen Market

From Bloomberg

6. UAE: One-year remote work visa, 5-year multiple-entry tourist visas for all nationalities

From Gulf News

7. Anghami's story is one to celebrate and emulate

From Wamda

8. How to prioritise employee well-being in the new reality

From Hotelier Middle East

9. UAE: Multi-entry tourist visas announced for all nationalities

From Khaleej Times

10. Qatar plans to build floating hotel that spins to produce its own electricity

From Qatar Tribune

Lessons from The Middle East’s Watercooler:

The Middle East shared content to celebrate innovation in all its forms: from an ambitious scheme to store the seeds, sperm, spores and eggs of 6.7 million species on the moon, to the design for a zero-waste, floating eco hotel that will spin slowly to generate tidal power. Saudi Arabia’s ambitious plans for a $5 billion hydrogen plant powered entirely by sun and wind continued to drive interest after first appearing in the Watercooler in January.

Innovation isn’t just about large-scale infrastructure projects. The story of Anghami, a music streaming platform to rival Spotify, Deezer and Apple Music, was another cause for celebration. It became the first Arab company to list on the NASDAQ since the delivery business Aramex, 24 years ago. The founder of Aramex, Fadi Ghandour wrote a passionate tribute to Anghami that argued for more of the region’s entrepreneurs to leverage global investment and unlock the potential for innovation in the Middle East.

Opening the region to investment continues to be a consistent theme among the most shared news stories on LinkedIn. In March, professionals responded to news of reforms in Saudi Arabia that will enable greater flexibility for expat workers, and a new visa available to remote workers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Greater professional mobility isn’t the only area of government legislation that engages LinkedIn audiences, though. The most shared post of all focuses on new rules that mean every business listed in the UAE must have at least one female director. The need for gender equality is a theme that’s found in impactful stories across every region – and The Middle East is no exception.

The Watercooler for Africa:

1. At 17, Elon Musk Had To Be Retested Since His Score Was Too High


2. Meet the South African philanthropist investing for good

From Knight Frank

3. Emmanuel Macron – Achille Mbembe: face-à-face attendu en juillet 

From Jeune Afrique

4. Why self-promotion doesn't have to be taboo

From The BBC

5. Steve Jobs and Albert Einstein Applied the Concept of 'No Time' to Boost Their Creativity. What Does It Entail?

From Entrepreneur

6. Britam vets executives afresh amid layoff of 138 staff

From Business Daily

7. ‘Opportunities for growth are greater in Africa than elsewhere,’ says Colin Coleman of Arise IIP

From The Africa Report

8. Why M-Pesa agents are Safaricom employees

From Business Daily

9. Paying tribute to Aggrey Maposa

From BizCommunity

10. Congé Parental: Une entreprise Marocaine décrète un congé rémunéré de 14 semaines, y compris pour les pères

From Le 360

Lessons from Africa’s Watercooler:

If there’s a sure-fire formula for a piece of content being widely shared on LinkedIn in Africa, then the Number 1 post in this month’s Watercooler has it. It’s a story about Elon Musk (an almost ever-present in our top tens), it emphasises youthful talent and it showcases Africa’s potential for innovation through a local role model. None of our other top ten most shared posts feature the Tesla founder. However, plenty of them focus on local role models, discuss Africa’s potential for innovation and encourage professionals to build their own brands and capacity for creative thinking.

Among the high-profile leaders driving discussion at the Watercooler are the South African venture capitalist and philanthropist Vusi Thembekwayo, The Cameroonian historian Achille Mbembe who will debate French President Emmanuel Macron as part of an upcoming France-Africa summit, and Aggrey Maposa, the former CEO of Kantar TNS East Africa who sadly died in March and is the subject of a long tribute shared by BizCommunity.

Other posts focus on building readers’ own potential. A feature from The BBC discusses the need to overcome taboos around self-promotion and celebrating achievements – and points out the value of building a personal brand on LinkedIn. The Entrepreneur explores ideas from TED speaker Steven Kotler, who uses the examples of Steve Jobs and Albert Einstein to illustrate the importance of setting aside focus-free ‘No Time’ to provide space for creativity.

Success isn’t just shaped by one’s own efforts though – and two posts highlight the importance of support for workers. There’s news of the pharmaceutical business Novartis extending paid parental leave for employees in Morocco to 14 weeks. Meanwhile, a campaigning post from Kenyan high court advocate Donald Kipkorir picks up the story of a UK ruling that Uber drivers should be entitled to employee benefits. Kipkorir highlights the situation of the agents that administer mobile operator Safaricom’s hugely influential M-Pesa micro-financing and payments app, arguing that they too deserve to be recognised as employees.