What Influences Execs and Decision Makers on LinkedIn? [New Data]

December 21, 2018

Who do members follow on LinkedIn? How do they use the platform? Which types of content do they seek out?

We wanted to uncover these answers, specifically as they relate to high-value B2B advertising audiences, so we dug deep into aggregate data in search of insights that can help marketers align with the behaviors and preferences of those they most want to reach.

Our target audience analysis turned up some findings that I did not expect. Read on and we’ll unpack five eye-opening takeaways from our research, and how you can adapt your strategy accordingly.

New Target Audience Analysis Findings on LinkedIn

For the purposes of this study, we analyzed five audiences: C-level executives, IT decision makers, marketing functions, small business owners, and SMBs. We also broke these segments down by geographies, but in this post we’ll mostly be zooming out to identify some high-level trends within the overall sample.

These five findings really stood out to me:

#1: Following the Leaders

The top influencer followed among these cohorts is Bill Gates, followed by Richard Branson and Jeff Weiner. I don’t think it’s too surprising that three of the biggest names in business are magnetic to a community of ambitious professionals, but it serves to reinforce the importance of leadership. Gates, Branson, and Weiner aren’t just successful current or former CEOs – they are visionaries with bold ideas.

Along those lines, we found that in most countries where the respective head of state or top political figure is active on LinkedIn, that individual tends to have a firm standing as top influencer. (For example, Justin Trudeau in Canada, Narendra Modi in India, Emmanuel Macron in France.)

The finding matches up with a consistent trend across all demographics on the platform: leadership is highly valued. This very much applies to thought leadership content, which consistently performs well. This data should further compel businesses everywhere to showcase their own leaders and the ideas they bring to the table.

#2: Rise of the Self-Starter and Small Business

The single most-featured “Top Employer” is technically not an employer — self-employed members and entrepreneurs are very prominent in these samples. In general, we see a rising number of solo ventures, self-starters and small businesses represented. Students also appear very frequently and of course larger corporations have a strong foothold as well.

#3: Coming for Company Info and Content

We studied the “Top Companies Followed” by these groups and the results are interesting, as they can largely be split into two segments. The first is Big Tech (think Microsoft, Google, Apple, etc.) but the second is actually Publications, such as Forbes, Harvard Business Review, and TED Conferences.

This reflects two of the top objectives we tend to see among members visiting LinkedIn: they want to learn about companies, but they also want to consume quality content. If your LinkedIn Page and campaigns are delivering on both fronts, then you’re on the right track.

#4: No Frills Around Top Skills

Here’s a tidbit that didn’t shock us: the most common skills listed among these audiences are also the most general and widely applicable. These include Management, Strategy, Business, Planning and Engineering.

#5: Businesspeople Are Hungry for More Than Business Content

It’s only natural to orient your content shared on LinkedIn toward business-focused topics, but the data we gathered suggests that it’s wise to expand your scope and aim for personal relevance.

While four of the top five content categories were in line with expectations — Finance and Economy, Startup Strategies, Business and Management, Technology — it was Society and Culture that topped the list. So don’t shy away from subject matter that’s meaningful to your audience beyond business implications, as hitting these deeper notes can hold the key to resonance.

Put LinkedIn Audience Insights to Use for B2B Advertising

Hopefully the new findings from this target audience analysis are helpful as you refine your B2B advertising strategy on LinkedIn. The critical things to keep in mind are the proven appeal of leadership (and thought leadership), the rise of small businesses and self-starters with decision-making authority, the value of impactful content, and the power of societal or cultural elements.

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