Tourism Ireland boss Niall Gibbons is the most influential Irish chief executive on LinkedIn, according to a new ranking by the Reputations Agency.

Vodafone Ireland’s Anne O’Leary and Bank of Ireland’s Francesca McDonagh claimed second and third place respectively in the communication firm’s analysis of the LinkedIn activity of the leaders of 100 organisations based in the Republic.

Robert Finnegan of Three Ireland was ranked fourth and Cathriona Hallahan of Microsoft Ireland fifth, while the top 10 was completed by Lidl Ireland’s John Paul Scally, Fáilte Ireland’s Paul Kelly, head of LinkedIn Ireland Sharon McCooey, BMW Ireland managing director Kevin Davidson and Kerry Group’s Edmond Scanlon.

Profiles

The Social CEO report assessed the business leaders’ profiles over a six-month period from March to September. All of the top 10 directly addressed the Covid-19 crisis in their posts, with about half of their content relating to pandemic support measures for their industry or customers.

“As a leader, this is what you have to be doing. You have to take the bull by its horns,” said Niamh Boyle, managing director of the Reputations Agency, which has made social media training a part of its new Leaders Reputations Programme.

While the highest ranked leaders were “all pushing hard and communicating with their publics”, others lack confidence when it comes to social media and “are afraid to make a mistake”, she said.

The study showed that LinkedIn was the social media channel of choice for chief executives, with 85 per cent of the 100 profiles analysed having an account. However, only 38 per cent posted on the platform in 2020 and only 30 chief executives were found to have a well-executed social media strategy that projected their organisation’s vision and purpose. This was described as “a missed opportunity”.

Mr Gibbons has the most connections and followers on LinkedIn, while his profile also received the highest absolute level of engagement in the form of likes, comments and other reactions. The Tourism Ireland chief executive, who is responsible for marketing Ireland as a holiday destination to overseas audiences, was also the most active CEO on LinkedIn based on posting rates to his own page.

Authenticity

“With tourism on its knees in the last six months, he has been constantly out there reminding us how important tourism is to Ireland,” said Ms Boyle, who praised the personal and authentic tone of his posts and his regular use of video and imagery.

Mr Scanlon received the highest average engagement per post, which was attributed in part to responses from Kerry’s 26,000-strong workforce. Ms Boyle said his “well thought-out” approach demonstrated that a social media strategy “doesn’t need to involve a huge amount of posts”.

Of the top 30, one third were women. As well as those ranked in the top 10, these were RTÉ director-general Dee Forbes, Coillte chief executive Imelda Hurley, head of Kellogg in Ireland Ruth Hughes, Eir’s Carolan Lennon, Bord Bia’s Tara McCarthy, Bord Gáis Energy managing director Catherine O’Kelly and Olympic Federation of Ireland president Sarah Keane.

While both LinkedIn and Twitter were initially examined for the report, the rankings are based only on LinkedIn in light of a relatively low use of Twitter – only 27 per cent of chief executives were active on the platform – and LinkedIn’s status as a “safe space” for professional communities.