How Richard Branson Became the Million-Follower Man [SLIDESHOW]

November 30, 2012

Today, Sir Richard Branson set a new record at LinkedIn, becoming the first LinkedIn Influencer to cross the 1 million follower mark. Branson, the founder of Virgin, was one of the charter contributors in Influencer, a program we launched six weeks ago that gives a select group of thought leaders the ability to write long-form content on LinkedIn and have their words and sharing activity be followed by our 187 million members. The program has been a huge success, with 6 million total following relationships and nearly 1,400 articles posted.

But Branson is in a league of his own. Let me provide a bit of context: He now has twice the number of followers as his nearest competitor. That thought-leader? Barack Obama.

So how does a dyslexic, thrill-seeking high school dropout top the president of the United States, the prime minister of the UK, CEOs of some of the most important companies and non-profits and a collection of the top business book authors and speakers? It helps to have a formula for success that in his most recent book Branson sums up in three sentences: "Have passion for what you do; believe in yourself and your product and your customer; persevere; delegate; listen. Have fun… Do good."

With that kind of worldview, who wouldn't want to follow him?

Like many of our Influencers, Branson has been posting about entrepreneurship, paths to success, and the keys to balancing good work and a good life. His five tips for starting a successful business has nearly 500,000 pageviews; his 197-word article suggesting that happiness is the best measure of success drew close to 3,500 comments. Our data shows that he's popular with everyone from entrepreneurs to HR workers and in industries ranging from tech to construction (Dig deeper into the data in the related SlideShare below). The only continent where he doesn't have a single follower is Antarctica.

To celebrate the 1-million follower man, we'll be doing an in-person Q&A with him next Friday using your questions. What have you always wanted to know about how he got where he did? What can you learn from his latest push to use business as a force for good, or as he puts it, prioritizing "people, planet and profits"? Leave your questions for Branson in the comments on our Executive Editor Dan Roth's post or tweet your questions to @LinkedIn using the hashtag #Branson1m.

The million mark is also an an important milestone for LinkedIn. In less than two months, we've seen original content on LinkedIn take flight. Articles like IDEO CEO Tim Brown's look at designing vs planning a life or former Citi honcho Sallie Krawcheck's lessons from being fired are generating hundreds of comments from our professional community almost as soon as they are posted. Many more pieces regularly get circulated through social and traditional media.

Professionals from around the world are coming to LinkedIn to read, share, and exchange business insights directly with our influencers and with each other. And we are just getting started: Every week we add new Influencers that you can follow. That means more knowledge and inspiration from some of the world's most powerful and influential leaders. To see the full list of our Influencers, as well as the leader board and recent posts, check out our Who to Follow page.

And finally, if you know anyone in Antarctica looking for professional guidance, please let them know Richard Branson can be found on LinkedIn. And that he's already working on his second million.