66 tips on personal branding on LinkedIn

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How to successfully position yourself as a personal brand!

66 tips on personal branding on LinkedIn

August 17, 2021

Photo: Susanne Mathony, CEO & Founder Mathony Brand Strategists; Credits: Andreas Pohlmann

You can no longer avoid social CEOs . DAX company leaders like Tim Höttges(Deutsche Telekom), Christian Klein(SAP) or Herbert Diess in his VW days are celebrated for their LinkedIn activities. More and more executives are setting their digital footprint as a person brand . They show themselves to be approachable and authentic.

Your own feed is probably full of these “Operation Me” examples. The Handelsblatt even called it a duel for attention, reach and personal positioning . The ultimate goal? Influence, power and opinion leadership. No wonder Google lists more than 400 million hits on personal branding.

The business platform LinkedIn was once a nice-to-have. With more than 835 million users18 million of them in DACH – it is now ‘without alternative’. To dismiss it as a vanity marketplace or the playground of digital natives would be a strategic mistake.

My own relationship with LinkedIn since 2008

When I signed up for LinkedIn in 2008, I did so primarily out of convenience. Professionally, I was living out of a suitcase and wanted to stay in touch with the people I met as an EMEA marketing executive at Booz Allen Hamilton (now Strategy&). Six months later, I was able to pack away the six Rolodexes from my PR agency days.

When Russell Reynolds Associates CEO Clarke Murphy tasked me in New York in 2014 with making all partners in EMEA ‘LinkedIn-ready’, I was skeptical. Getting around 180 such diverse characters in twelve countries excited about personal branding on LinkedIn seemed like a Sisyphean task.

Would they want or allow themselves to be positioned as personal brands? Would this large-scale change project have a measurable impact on the brand awareness of the top HR consultancy and support social selling? After countless trips over one and a half years, team trainings in almost all metropolises of Europe and dozens of individual coachings of the partners, I know: It works!

Since then, this form of positioning as a component of the modern communication mix has not let me go. Implemented professionally and with heart, such positioning pays off on the three central KPI’s of marketing – reputation, relationships and revenues.

When I advise DAX executives, strategy consultants, auditors or lawyers today, I see them first and foremost as people with a story to tell. Your professional storytelling helps to give not only yourself, but the entire company a distinctive face .

Personal branding and PR have a lot in common

When clients ask me how this personal branding work fits in with my two-decade-deep roots in PR, I answer in the affirmative! Both require a well thought-out strategy. Both create relevance. And that’s what matters in the attention economy. If you want to be a problem solver and pilot in uncertain times or demonstrate poise , you can’t avoid LinkedIn.

Because the correlation: “ People trust people; people buy from people – and not simply products ” is more relevant than ever. Those seeking opinion leadership should continue to strengthen their own visibility in a targeted manner and push brand differentiation.

Whether everyone should set up their own “praise cartels ” – as ironized by Manager Magazin – in order to collect as many likes as possible remains to be seen. Strong content prevails in this way, too.

Below are my personal tips on the most important issues surrounding personal branding on LinkedIn. Maybe these will help you ?
If not: I am only a phone call away!

Executive Summary on Personal Branding on LinkedIn

What are the top six tips for personal branding on LinkedIn?

  1. Know the basics – Take enough time to create your LinkedIn profile! Not everyone has to achieve “super star” status. But it should already meet the requirements of a representative landing page.
  2. Be different – Be consistent in your choice of topics. Be as specific as you are authentically “different.” A feed without a thread of content leads nowhere.
  3. Content is king No content, no reach! This does not always have to be a big study. Smart infographics, good quote cards with your own portrait or clearly formulated thoughts with the appropriate hashtags can go a long way.
  4. Consistency is queen regularity in your posts is important. Otherwise, you’ll have to keep ‘fighting’ your way back into visibility in the feed.
  5. Accept the algorithm – Use the right times, the right days for your target audience and dwell time.
  6. Demonstrate poise – Take a look at the feed from Dr. Ulrich Störk, Chairman of PWC, for example. His post after the riots in Berlin “#Democracy is a privilege, a high good to be valued and protected” clearly shows attitude. And this is despite the fact that the Big Four in particular are assumed to be “supra-neutral.” The more than 4,800 likes prove him right.

What are the seven don’ts on LinkedIn?

  1. An unprofessional, private photo – in the worst case with your children or your dog
  2. Continuous announcement communication – i.e. the exclusive posting of company content or the unfiltered forwarding of press information from one’s own company
  3. An orphaned profile with no significant activity
  4. No differentiation whatsoever in their positioning or in your content
  5. The inappropriate use of the corporate brand
  6. Party Politics. In the U.S., it’s good manners to comment on partisan politics. In Germany, we’re not there yet. According to the ESMT study, only 8% of respondents consider it appropriate to comment on politicians or political parties.
  7. The netiquette faux pas: a “still-the-lake” under your posts. Those who post must also respond to the comments under his/her post.


What is a social CEO?

Put simply, social CEOs are CEOs who use social media to put a human face on the company, the brand and its goals. They are still the exception rather than the norm in Germany. But their number is increasing day by day. This trend will intensify in the coming years.

Does social CEO belong in the modern communications mix?

Yes! There is a myriad of statistically robust evidence for the relevance of the social CEO – from the classic study by Weber Shandwick back in 2012 to the bestseller “ The Social CEO: How Social Media Can Make You A Stronger Leader “by Damian Corbet.

Today’s successful leaders not only achieve economic success, they also communicate it proactively. Whereas corporate leaders used to primarily use classic media such as annual general meetings or the FAZ interview for this purpose, today it’s social media. Here, CEOs can reach all relevant stakeholders – from employees to multipliers in business and politics to investors. In this respect, a presence on LinkedIn and/or Twitter is now an integral part of the communication strategy and successful CEO positioning.

There are strong pioneers such as Herbert Diess (VW) or Tim Höttges(Deutsche Telekom). Nevertheless, Germany has some catching up to do. While Bill Gates alone reaches over 32 million followers, all DAX and MDAX CEOs currently active on LinkedIn only have around one million followers, according to the “ CEO Navigator “by Landau Media. This analyzes the 99 CEOs from the DAX and MDAX and their LinkedIn performance. According to the study, only 19 out of 99 CEOs in Germany continuously use the potential of the international business network.

It remains to be seen whether otherwise highly visible players such as Adidas CEO Kaspar Rorstedt or Carsten Spohr(Lufthansa) will remain social media abstinent.

Why is a social CEO so important for the corporate brand?

Not only luxury cars like Porsche have a Reputation Premium. There is also the ‘CEO Reputation Premium‘. This describes the potentially enormous leverage of a business leader.
Expressed in figures, the CEO’s reputation accounts for 58% of a company’s overall reputation. A few years ago, this was only 45%.

Consequently, 67% of top decision-makers worldwide want the CEO to build a visible public profile. Incidentally, 71% of managers also expect this of themselves. Today, this reputation is ‘omni-driven’. Companies and their marketing teams need to consider many different key factors. This includes a compelling social media presence, a strong digital CEO personal branding.

If you look at well-crafted posts by CEOs – or those by board members or top executives – they always beat the corporate account on two dimensions. Both the reach and the engagement rate – the likes, comments and shares – are always higher. If they tell their own story, they easily get into high five or six figures. Corporate accounts that only post in an abstract tone do not manage this.

Why are social CEOs finding more and more followers – even among their own employees?

My counter-question: Why does Handelsblatt ‘only’ have a circulation of 127,000, but GALA, the people magazine, has a circulation of 182,000? People like to follow people. Regardless of the platform chosen – whether XING, LinkedIn or Instagram – CEOs communicate on social media primarily as human beings. If they do it right and don’t just act as an extended communications workbench for corporate goals and figures. They seem approachable, tangible.

That’s a draw in the Attention Economy. Not only for outside third parties, but also for the company’s own employees. For example, CEOs like Joe Kaeser, formerly of Siemens, were quick to recognize the power of LinkedIn for internal communications. Currently, of the 4.1 million DAX-30 employees, 1.4 million are on LinkedIn. VW, for example, has one third of its 660,000 employees working here.

The x.th internal newsletter is read less and less. LinkedIn posts, on the other hand, do. Here, CEOs can communicate the issues they stand for in a straightforward and direct manner. And for which not.

So CEOs are increasingly becoming mega-influencers. This receives a range through comments from the company, from which an external community is built up ever more broadly. This form of brand loyalty is good for the stock price and helps with employer branding.

Is CEO activism – the publicly communicated stance on sociopolitical issues – on the rise in personal branding?

The New York Times described CEO activism as #newnormal back in 2018. It says top decision-makers should comment on sociopolitical issues – from climate change to immigration to LGBTQ rights – beyond their core business. The thesis “ The business of business is business of economist Milton Friedman is thus outdated.

The study “The political CEO: Rationales behind CEO sociopolitical activism is worth reading.In it, 88% of the Germans surveyed demanded: Corporate leaders should take a political stance. However, there is (still) a gap between the declaration of intent and the actual implementation. Only 36% of German business leaders rated it as ‘very likely’ to speak out on sociopolitical issues in the future.

The reason? The feared faux pas! CEOs fear saying the wrong thing, upsetting customers or even damaging their own company’s reputation. That’s why they prefer to stay out of political debates.

The concern cannot be dismissed entirely: according to the “Trust Barometer”, 64% of consumers would boycott a brand because of a wrong or missing social positioning.

On the other hand, it is proving increasingly difficult to refrain from ‘showing one’s edge’. True to Watzlawik, “You can’t not communicate,” silence is increasingly interpreted negatively. In this respect, companies can hardly avoid the ‘attitude to attitude‘ and the corresponding CEO activism. This is always reflected in social media.

What are exciting examples of CEO activism on LinkedIn?

When mavericks tried to storm the Reichstag building in Berlin in August 2020, two top players from Professional Services ‘showed the flag against the flags’.

Democracy is a privilege, a great good that must be valued and protected. #wearemore” posted Dr. Ulrich Störk, Chairman of PwC Germany.

Martin Eisenhut – the head of Germany at Kearney – writes in a LinkedIn Pulse article:
The Red Line of a Democracy: My point is that all those who took part in the demonstrations cannot claim that they did not see who was marching alongside them with imperial flags and similar symbolism. […] It is now up to us, the majority society, to answer this with a clear stance, and from my point of view this can only be: Up to here and not a step further!”

The reach of these posts prove them right!

A current example is the statement of the new Eon CEO Leonhard Birnbaum, who calls vaccination a“service to society” and posted the same on LinkedIn.

Eon CEO Leonhard Birnbaum talks about vaccination as a “service to society” in ‘Manager Magazin’ and posts corresponding comments on LinkedIn

Are there limits to the social CEO?

A visible social CEO has not only advantages, but also four limitations:

  1. A CEO is always also a brand. Brands can only be ‘stretched’ to a limited extent. Your topic mix must not be arbitrarily broad, but must be strategically pointed in terms of the company’s goals. He/she cannot represent every topic – from digitization to diversity to climate change – without losing credibility.
  2. Authenticity trumps consistency: content, style and persona will intrigue some LinkedIn followers but not others. To put it bluntly: Some people like stories about the CEO’s dog, others do not. So no one can avoid walking a certain tightrope.
  3. Time – As social as a social CEO may be: More than 3-4 posts per week are not possible in terms of time. Even that is already a lot, but unfortunately important to feed the greedy algorithm. The exception: he/she has his/her own CEO communications team behind him/her.
  4. CEO Succession or Tenure: The more a CEO becomes THE brand ambassador, the ONE face of his/her company, the more a certain dependency between brand and person is created. For example, when it was unclear whether VW would give Herbert Diess a contract extension of four more years until October 2025, communications strategists wondered what would then become of his LinkedIn profile, and how to make the successor visible so quickly.
    BMW makes things easier for itself: Oliver Zipse does not even have a LinkedIn profile – probably due to the conviction of the major shareholder family Quandt/Klatten: “ The car is the star “.

Social CEO or the employees? Who should you push harder on social media?

As successful as a CEO may be on social media, the Highlander rule of “there can be only one” alone would be too little. To make a brand as widely visible as possible, requires the visibility of many employees, the so-called corporate influencers.

On LinkedIn, they become the curator of their own story. They make it tangible in which area they are an expert or which set of values drives them. Thus, these brand ambassadors flank ‘the one’ and reach additional clients and prospects. So always remember the Musketeer principle of “one for all, all for one.

Are you now wondering what the formula for business success is? The well-orchestrated triad :

  1. The visible CEO – the social CEO
  2. Accompanying ‘brand ambassadors ‘ – i.e. further brand ambassadors from a wide range of corporate divisions and across all hierarchies
  3. The classic corporate LinkedIn account – virtually as a line extension of the website.


What is social selling?

The goal of social selling is to fill the sales pipeline through social media activities. Customized LinkedIn positioning is designed to inform through relevant content, attract new contacts and initiate new business.

It’s important to know that social selling is never just a matter for sales or marketing, but indirectly also for the social CEO or top management.

Why does social selling work?

90% of decision makers NEVER respond to cold calls. A frustrating figure from the Harvard Business Review. Sales processes have become increasingly difficult in recent years. The reason:

People buy from people – not simply products . These people would like to have met them BEFORE. According to IDC, 75% of B2B decision makers rely on social media to get information BEFORE they make decisions.

74% of all buyers choose the provider that FIRST proves real insights and the famous ‘added value’. An unbeatable testament to the first mover Advantage! Last but not least: According to CEB, 57% of the purchase decision has already been made BEFORE the official sales process starts.

Companies do not buy a pig in a poke. Therefore, careful relationship building and strategic social selling is required. Classic mailings are no longer enough – no matter how sophisticated the CRM system. Too often, they are one-way streets. Interaction and intensive exchange as in the comments on LinkedIn do not arise in this way.

Why can’t B2B players avoid social selling?

92% of decision makers say, “Social media influenced a business decision last year!”
83% of executives with purchasing authority use social media as part of their decision-making.

Of course, 1:1 communication in face-to-face meetings with the CEO or supervisory board remains important.
And yes for sure: B2B is a ‘people’s business’.

BUT: Leads via LinkedIn are becoming an integral part of successful growth strategies. Why? On the one hand, the relevance of personal contacts is greatly overestimated, especially in consulting. Instead, the frequency of participation in digital events and consumption of digital content positively influences the number of sales leads and opportunities for key accounts.

On the other hand, the significantly more interesting price point is convincing: leads (and wins) via social selling are demonstrably cheaper.

What are the top ten guiding questions for successful social selling?

Would you like to improve your sales processes through social selling? Then maybe these ten questions will help you.

  1. Is your LinkedIn profile your own personal landing page or more of an academic-dry CV?
  2. What is your target positioning?
  3. What is your expertise? What is the USP you want to convey?
  4. Which target group do you want to reach?
  5. Does your content solve your target audience’s problems?
  6. What should the different stakeholders think, feel and ideally subsequently do?
  7. Is your content new and/or relevant?
  8. Do you meet the three golden E’s of social media and write “educating, entertaining and engaging?”
  9. Are you creating the emotional bridge to your followers or are you just trying to sell something?
  10. Do you end with a compelling “call to action” to invite interaction?

What is the difference between social selling and personal branding?

Simplified: personal branding works without social selling, but social selling does not work without personal branding.

What is meant? Personal branding makes people visible on a specific topic, on their expertise. Over time, they become credible and build trust. This positioning can facilitate sales – for example, when followers approach you proactively. This saves time and money.

From the very beginning, social selling has been primarily aimed at distribution and sales. However, it is significantly more subtle than the classic pitch. The focus is on building relationships and targeted interactions with key contacts. This can only be achieved on the basis of professional personal branding. Only those who have first earned a good name, a convincing reputation, gain trust and can then sell something.


What do management consultancies gain from positioning themselves in social media?

With differentiated positioning and a strong brand, consulting players can generate 20% more revenue. With consistent implementation in extreme cases even up to 40%., according to market estimates.

This #BeDifferentOrDie decides about growth – or loss of market share . Many B2B products are considered too complex and require too much explanation. At the same time, it is precisely this complexity of the products that promotes enthusiasm . Not only is there massive work in them, but also a great deal of heart and soul and passion. Those who can present this in a razor-sharp positioning have an advantage! This trump card can be played 24/7 on social media.

Every second buyer of consulting services complains about the lack of differentiation: Why not make the USP visible on LinkedIn?

My #ConsultantConsultant partner at Mathony Brand Strategists – Cardea AG – likes to present two key figures in joint consulting brand positioning projects.

According to the survey, 47% of consultants rate the market perception of their own consulting as only ‘mediocre’. And one in two buyers of consulting services say they have a hard time finding the right management consultant. He/she felt that there was no clear differentiation between the consulting firms or that this was not discernible.

To make this differentiation omni-present, the expensive website relaunch, the redesigned logo and the fresh slide deck are not enough. It requires the significantly less costly Musketeer approach instead of the Highlander approach. Everyone – from the CEO/country manager to the senior partners to the young consultants – lives and communicates the consulting brand. Where could they do this more visibly than on LinkedIn?

Are professional services players active enough on LinkedIn yet?

Looking at the Social Selling Index (SSI) on LinkedIn, management consultants and accountants are not yet the strongest ‘self-promoters’. Your score fluctuates between 30 and 35 points out of 100. There is still room for improvement.

Why should consulting firms and auditing firms be pushing their LinkedIn positioning right now?

The COVID19 pandemic has set a lot of things in motion in professional services through #remotework, #remoteconsulting and the compulsion to change employer branding. Look at what’s happening right now at Accenture, for example. The consultancy has completed more than 65 acquisitions in the last two years. This corresponds to a takeover every week and a half. This beat rate is higher than some PE players.

In this mishmash of a market, it’s doubly important to sharpen the brand essence from the inside as well as the outside, and then to reflect it consistently in social media.

Why does personal branding also belong in the communication mix for consulting firms?

Consulting firms – this applies to the MBBs as well as the mid-sized players or the hidden champions – must beheard in the market and perceived in a differentiated way. This requires customized B2B marketing in the force field of ‘brand, people and services’. If you are positioning yourself for the future and branding yourself in a customer-focused way, you should also reflect that in your LinkedIn presence.

We sometimes observe that in the day-to-day life of a consultant, the positioning and the actual revenue-generating business drift apart. In the medium term, this can lead to an inconsistent image to the outside world: Marketing and positioning then no longer fit together properly. Therefore, it is essential to know your own positioning core, to strengthen your own DNA and to communicate it accordingly.

Why is expertise not a USP?

B2B products and services function differently from consumer goods for end consumers. They are primarily purchased in trust and good faith. In this process, an excellent reputation is its strongest asset.

This is especially true for professional services players such as strategy consultancies, auditing firms or executive search. For them, branding is even more business-critical than for product brands.

What they ultimately sell is problem-solving expertise. Charging them emotionally is a challenge. Therefore, to use only one’s own competence, expertise to differentiate would be too short-sighted. Unfortunately, this is not a USP in the consulting market: Ultimately, every consultant is an expert.

That’s why using personal branding in social media can help with personality and emotionality alone.

Are Visible Experts really seeing sales increases and more new business?

Among my clients, I consistently see top strategy consultants or accountants who doubt whether they should become a Visible Expert – an expert with high name recognition and a compelling reputation for specific expertise. A good 70% of over-40s hope the corporate account will do it or delegate their LinkedIn posts to working students.

What they neglect in the process? The measurable return of your own visibility.
According to Hinge, 46% say their own ‘showing face’ has paid into their personal brand. 38% that it had increased their credibility and strengthened their reputation.

If your own personal brand leaves you cold, you may be motivated by the potential of new business. 41% of Visible Experts report increases in sales and increased new business.

For those who continue to procrastinate, consider the halo effect of your own digital footprint. Decision-makers who position themselves in social media not only benefit themselves, but do something good for the entire company.


Are there gender differences in the use of LinkedIn?

Yes, gender differences in social media behavior exist. At least in the Professional Services area. Here, female consultants sometimes act significantly differently than their male counterparts. That’s what drives me! Honestly, I experience a lot of reluctance. Julie Sweet, CEO of Accenture, (190,168 followers) or Julie Teigland, Head of EMEIA at EY (17,727 followers) or Leila Hoteit(BCG) are still the exception.

Male consultants – regardless of hierarchical level – throw themselves into their own social media positioning with significantly more verve. True, the gender ratio on LinkedIn is currently 57 percent men vs. 43 percent women. But the profiles are much less concise and less focused on relationship and community building. That should change.

Julie Sweet (Accenture), Julie Teigland (EY) and Leila Hoteit (BCG) as beacons for Women in Consulting on LinkedIn

Why are women less visible in consulting? Five reasons!

Women in professional services are still often behind in social media positioning….

… too modest

After social media talks and LinkedIn team coaching sessions, participants very often write to me asking for tips or reviewing personal profiles. The amazing thing is that 95% of the requests come from men. The fact that this consultation is not free of charge and that they may not even have a budget for it does not concern them. You just ask.

Women do not. But they should. Because: Asking costs nothing.

… too perfectionist

Someof the advisors are in conflict with each other. in their own way if they think hard about their social media presence and the tone of each post. To put it colloquially: Men also just bang something out sometimes. Please understand me correctly: I am certainly not inviting a consultant to a non-thought-out content strategy.

But social media works according to its own laws. One of them is speed. Another is regularity. So, as perfectly worded as the one post a week may be, the algorithm never yields the reach that men who post three times a week do. Therefore, consultants can adopt the 80/20 rule at this point: If the content, context and purpose are right, then it’s okay to post, even if only two other eyes are looking at it instead of eight.

… too worried about being reduced to their appearance

Are the current LinkedIn stars of the DAX classic Hollywood beaus á la George Clooney? Do they think about this for a single second when they present selfies to their followers in their own feed? Both probably no!

And the business women? Not least the discussion about Kamala Harris’ outfit on the cover of US Vogue painfully shows women: they are more likely to be reduced to their appearance than their male counterparts.
Accordingly, they are often hesitant to take selfies. But it is precisely these that generate an incredible amount of reach. Here, too, the 80/20 rule helps: If the content and intention are right, you can post, even if the styling is only 80 percent perfect.

… too busy

Studies show: In the pandemic, women are more likely than men to bear the double and triple burdens of jobs, homeschooling kids, and household chores. Often, this imbalance also leads to a lack of time for their visibility on LinkedIn. Therefore, current work-related posts by women have decreased significantly. Those of men, on the other hand, have increased.

Sure, you have to ‘carve out’ two to three hours a week for LinkedIn. But it’s a great opportunity to turn time into visibility.

… too little pro-active

In my work in consulting firms, where professional ‘corporate ambassador’ programs are set up, I only experience men who put themselves out there. For female consultants, “ Women don’t ask “. They are much less likely to request the support paid for by corporate marketing. There are extremely few who insist on a visible presence.

How do Women in Consulting become successfully visible on LinkedIn ? Five tips!

1. Become distinctive: “Be Pippi, not Annika!”

Your own distinctiveness is your most important quality. Be a ‘face’ that the market and relevant stakeholders notice.

With your personal branding you position yourself not as an abstract brand, but as a person and ‘consultant of choice’ who is trusted. Unfortunately, you cannot not present yourself! Even a non-presence in social media is a statement about you. Even if it’s only to the purchasing department or the company where you are to take over the management of a large project.

2. act as mentor and corporate influencer

As a mentor – and active corporate influencer – you are a real asset to your employer and its employer branding.

Women are the largest potential group for professional services. Retaining existing women and recruiting new ones is therefore an asset. And as a mentor, you actively help more women break through the glass ceiling.

It is true that the proportion of female university graduates among new hires is now 49%(source: BDU, 2020). But there is massive shrinkage on the way up. According to the Scientific Society for Management and Consulting (WGMB), the proportion of women at the top management level is only 15%.

Consequently, a successful mentor also includes her own social media positioning, if only as proof of success and visibility to clients and targets.

3. be more than the flesh press information.

Exclusively posting about one’s own consulting or WP brand – possibly even written exclusively by the social media editorial team or external agencies – is rather less the way to gain committed followers. An ideal social me should transport a maximum of 70 percent corporate topics. You determine the rest with your own themes that fit your brand core.

If you are accused of self-dramatization because you post a quote card with your picture or a selfie in a professional context four times a month, shrug your shoulders. What is legitimate for male consultants cannot be wrong for female ones.

4. support your social CEO(s)

Of course, the #SocialCEO of a consultancy or Big 4 player remains the central person for reputation management and competitive differentiation.

But he/she alone is just not enough. In keeping with my cherished Musketeer principle of “one for all, all for one,” you help your CEO by visibly standing by his/her side with a strong social media presence.

And if your CEO is a man, that’s even more true, both in terms of diversity, culture change, agility, and client and employee acquisition.

5. get advice

In #nextnormal, why not do a little like men do: get competent people on your team to do everything you can’t (yet) do perfectly yourself. The majority of male decision-makers are excellent at networking and bringing in external experts when needed. Women in professional services can certainly learn that from them. In this way, you are guaranteed to become the curator of your own story and determine your own narrative.


Why is focus important when choosing a topic?

No one expects you to comment on everything and anything all the time. Therefore, in modern personal branding on LinkedIn, “ Choose your battle well “. Otherwise, they could appear arbitrary – and thus interchangeable. Oliver Bäte (Allianz), for example, has been accused of not taking into account his range of topics “ People, Planet, Performance “is a bit too broad.

The (re)recognizable focus on strategically important topics is crucial. After all, professional positioning in social media is never an end in itself. Everything that a CEO posts as a social CEO or top executives must contribute to the corporate strategy.

Herbert Diess, who is particularly successful on LinkedIn, is a good example of this content focus. Among international automakers, he’s the only car boss who can rival Elon Musk in the media. He may not yet be able to challenge Musk, the electric pioneer, as thought leader N°1 , but in all likelihood Diess will allow the vision of CO2-free driving to triumph.

With the aim of selling more electric vehicles – keyword social selling – he pushes posts about e-mobility and sustainability. In order not to appear too PR-heavy, he also provides insights into the difficulties of this transformation process. He describes the switch to electric vehicles in the company car fleet as a “difficult birth“.

Top 3 CEOs by media presence – “New Mobility” example (Source: Unicepta)

What content formats exist?

  1. Own content – The most time-consuming content. But especially in the build-up phase of personal branding, it is crucial to attract and retain followers.
  2. Curated content – This is where you use exciting third-party content such as articles or studies and explain to your community what attracts you to that content.
  3. Comments – Comment on third party posts related to your topic area. By participating in exciting discussions, you not only become visible, but ideally also expand your community.

How do I choose the right content format for my feed?

If you want to become (and stay) visible on LinkedIn, you need content. Always new, always different. This is time-consuming and exhausting if you don’t want to sacrifice relevance. Of course, there are evergreens like videos or carousel posts with countlessslides to maximize dwell time .

Two aspects are crucial when choosing a content format:

  1. What goals do you want to achieve with your personal branding (or social selling)? Just follow the American sculptor Horatio Greenough. As early as 1852, in connection with the organic principles of architecture, he spoke of “ form follows function “. The same goes for your LinkedIn posts.
  2. How do you achieve variety so as not to bore your followers?
    Take a look at Herbert Diess’ feed and you’ll see that diversity in content formats is a guarantee of success.

Where can I find inspiration for my content? Four tips!

Maybe you work 100% in your home office and are looking for good content that is not too time consuming.
Four ideas:

  1. Do you have specific tips that could help followers in the same situation? Share them – just as you used to share ideas at a professional conference.
  2. Youread a lot and stumble upon an exciting thesis or new figure that is critical to your sector, your industry. Why not use them as a hook!
  3. Your colleague raised a topic in the last MS Teams meeting that interested everyone and led to intense discussion. Why don’t you pick up on that?
  4. Otherwise, they regularly give lectures or moderate workshops. Why don’t you post key content or learnings from it?

In short, even if you are not at exciting conferences or traveling at the moment, you can still continuously present your expertise and know-how to your network.

Content or community: Which is more important?

My personal tip: mix it 60/40! Depending on your personal goals and the maturity of your LinkedIn profile, you can also increase it in favor of the community.

Why maintaining your personal network – i.e. the community – is relevant alongside your own content?

  1. No matter how brilliant your content is: If you don’t interact with your followers, they won’t want to interact with you. Think of a new book: If it’s not discussed at the book fair, in feuilletons and at readings, it never storms bestseller lists.
  2. Due to the adjustments of the LinkedIn algorithm, even the strongest accounts are currently losing reach. Therefore, get into the interaction in addition to your own posts with others. Only those who are visible in the LinkedIn community remain relevant in the medium term.
  3. Comments are Content, too “- Joshua St. Aubin said back in 2014. Why add to the noise on LinkedIn when you can contribute to the discourse instead? This type of content is inexpensive yet effective.

Should I feature topics that don’t interest me but are trending right now?

Of course, you can ride whatever wave is in vogue on LinkedIn at the moment. But my advice: consistently keep your hands off all topics that don’t interest you in the slightest.

One example: Anyone who also reads a lot of non-fiction and business books privately can discuss such books convincingly. If you don’t, you’re just one of many jumping on the summer vacation reading tips bandwagon. Unfortunately, you could be busted at the latest during the first exchange with an enthusiastic frequent reader.


Why is storytelling so successful on LinkedIn?

Storytelling can be the north star of your LinkedIn account in the “always on”/on demand world.
Why? Because our brains don’t differentiate between reality and fiction , according to neuroscientists. Since the Stone Age, we have shared best practices in the form of stories.

Thus, storytelling is probably the oldest ‘soft skill’ of mankind. It grounds you in a world of total sensory overload with extremely short attention spans. According to Microsoft, this is now only 8 seconds – that of a goldfish is 9 seconds.

That’s why crisp, emotional storytelling works. Not only in everyday life, but also in personal branding on LinkedIn.

A wonderful example of this is Herbert Diess‘ now famous post with VW’s ID.3 and his daughter Caro in the summer of 2020. This is where a connection to the ‘man Diess’ came into being.
The fact that this post went viral and corresponds to the reach of 26 elaborate test reports is only consistent.

Whatever content you launch:
The post loaded with storytelling always beats the dry-as-dust posts of the corporate account!

Legendary storytelling post by Herbert Diess (VW) about the vacation trip with the ID.3 and daughter Caro

Is storytelling also a suitable communication strategy in B2B?

Strategy consultants, accountants or lawyers all have the same challenge: abstraction. In the (perceived) compulsion to address as many of a client’s needs as concerns as possible, one thing falls by the wayside. Namely, to make the famous ‘added value’ tangible.

In the need to differentiate, to highlight one’s own USP, storytelling helps.
Skillfully it helps to win the race for attention. It supports being heard and understood – just like around the campfire in the past. Those who rely on emotions in exciting narratives instead of dry facts differentiate themselves ‘tangibly’ from the competition.

The organizational psychologist Dacher Keltner even claims: “ Being able to tell stories well contributes […] to maintaining power in the long run .”

So confidently forget the myth that a B2B audience doesn’t respond to stories. People remain people – even in business. They love personal brand stories by people for people.

Oliver Wyman forum takes up the power of storytelling as a theme


How much authenticity is needed in personal branding?

The current authenticity hype, including the advice to be as ‘authentic to yourself’ as possible, sounds like THE recipe for success for successful social media communication. Especially for those for whom differentiation in both corporate and personal branding is critical to the war effort.

BUT the whole has its limits. Rolf Dobelli even speaks of an authenticity trap. His tip: Everyone should create a second personality for the outside world, a kind of ‘foreign minister’. This he describes as a “professional, consistent, reliable attitude to the outside world.” The rest is reserved “for the diary, the life partner or the pillow.

Media trainer Stefan Wachtel also advocates being much more than ‘yourself’ and advises, “Leave your inner self where it is!” Instead, he is an advocate of professionally elaborated roles qua training. As he aptly writes, “The top manager is not paid to rely on his ‘natural talent’ and say whatever comes to mind at the financial press conference. […] If we work on our impression, we beat the ‘technically’ good ones.

Conclusion: Of course, their person and the facets of their personality are part of effective personal branding. Only you should overdo it in your authenticity. Don’t be confused by the certain ‘Instagramification’ of LinkedIn.

Why is attitude – i.e. showing an edge – required?

Have you read “Faust“? Remember the central question, “Now tell me, how do you feel about religion?” The Gretchen question is probably something like the literary birth of attitude. In 2021, attitude – like Purpose – remains important.

In the current situation – COVID19, vaccination discussions, Afghanistan, friction between the USA and China, and a super-election year – communicators have a hunch that they will either be caught in the media crossfire if their CEOs demonstrate their stance OR if they do not.

They fear the Damocles sword of ‘cancel culture‘ – that is, consumers turning away from brands that don’t show an edge. For this reason, the Swiss neutrality requirement is increasingly coming under scrutiny.

People’s expectations are rising not only of companies, but also of their leaders. These are intended to make a positive contribution to society: for more diversity or environmental protection and climate change. And that authentically and credibly without greenwashing.

So if you want to successfully drive your personal branding, you can’t avoid clear answers to the positioning questions: “Who am I?”, “What topics do I want to occupy?” and “What is my attitude?”. Go for it boldly!


Where is the line between personal and private on LinkedIn?

In my personal branding and social selling consulting work, I often discuss with clients the tightrope walk of “never private – personal yes gladly!” Everyday matters, private concerns or party politics have no place on a business platform. The personal, on the other hand, does. That’s why it’s called personal branding.

If you decide to showcase personal stuff on LinkedIn, think about content and messaging three times beforehand. What is ultimately more important to you: collecting likes or strategically curating a ‘persona’ to benefit the corporate brand? Unfortunately, the web doesn’t forget anything: not even dog photos or the allotment garden produce of CEOs. So you better have your narratives in check at all times.

In short, like to show your personality, but not private! The one proves, you have an opinion, expertise and ideally an attitude. Anything else makes them vulnerable. Consider if the recommended ‘inside foreign minister‘ could be their ‘reputation bodyguard’. This one would be your North Star in public. If, in addition, you have a communications professional at your side whom you trust 100% and whom you really meet at eye level: all the better!

What are some good examples of LinkedIn posts with a personal touch?

Have a look at the Feed from Stefan Wöllenstein, CEO VW China an. His posts are not only about VW products, but. also about his personal perceptions and experiences in China. His Post “ Looking at China, I see millions of people coming together with one goal – defeating a virus ” achieved 7,715 likes and 617 comments.

Or the aforementioned vacation post by Herbert Diess Going on vacation with an e-car – not possible? Goes well!“. The more than 5,600 likes show: It didn’t hurt to tell about his trip to Italy with his daughter (and the ID.3). On the contrary. This is precisely why he is increasingly using professional storytelling – and why he is now the No. 1 DAX30 CEO in terms of reach.

Why is there no way around empathy and emotion in the feed?

The separation of head, heart and hand is abolished. The book“The Heart of Business: Leadership Principles for the Next Era of Capitalism” describes it as“unleashing human magic” and leadership with meaning and humanity. Effective personal branding always creates emotional connections as well. These are powerful drivers to create affinity for brands and inspire action.

In my experience with clients from a wide range of industries, posts with a personal touch convert into high engagement rates. So if you’re fine-tuning your positioning, you should try to integrate both elements: The informative and, in between, the emotional.

Why content about emotion and empathy works so well? Abstract Followers are real people: They are always more than the sum of their data points.

What is the easiest way to do this? Convey technical information, your expertise, your know-how and combine this with your own examples and experiences. Storytelling can also help you!

Do vacation and dog photos fit on LinkedIn?

Have you read the “show economy” in Manager Magazin? It declares Oliver Bäte ‘s post with his dog Maja on Dog Day a mega-fail. The CEO of Allianz had a very positive impression with his opener “Whuff, whuff!” and a picture including dog in the dunes of Sylt achieved almost 3,500 likes, but still gets the statement “Among many DAX communicators, the Bäte account is considered a cautionary tale.” Also noting that the bulk of Baet’s 51,000 followers are primarily employees.

Honestly, I can understand the rejection of dog and vacation photos, and I adhere to it myself. Why? LinkedIn is primarily a business platform. It is true that the boundaries have softened in recent months and new topics have been added thanks to home office and remote work. But lifestyle statements and private vacation photos still belong on the other platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest or TikTok.

Therefore, for social media professionals it continues to be: Personal and not Private Branding!

The social CEO on LinkedIn: the particularly important boundary between personal and private.


Why is trust also significant in social media?

Trust is crucial in business – whether for the solopreneur or the DAX company. In recent years, confidence in the economy has increased. This in turn correlates with growing stakeholder expectations. This is what the “Trust Barometer 2020” attests: Companies are the most trustworthy institutions globally.

According to the 2021’er study, 58% of Germans think: CEOs themselves should be accountable not only to shareholders and boards, but also to the public. 57% say CEOs should take the lead on change instead of waiting for the government.

This is where CEO personal branding on LinkedIn is a key lever. Those who show themselves approachable, authentic and with attitude trigger the success formula:

Content builds relationships. Relationships are based on trust. And trust drives sales.

Why is building trust particularly important for B2B players?

Especially in B2B, no order can be won in a single day. Especially not when there are costly purchase cycles to go through.
B2B relationships grow slowly and require a lot of nurturing and commitment so that trust is built over the long term. Expertise plays a central role here – as do the people, the CEO, the managers behind it.
Because: Nobody wants to communicate with a logo, but only with people !

This is all the more relevant because B2B buyers now spend around two-thirds of the decision-making process before they have their first personal contact with the service provider.

In the “Trust Barometer 2020”, 67% of respondents express their trust in Professional Services – compared to 57% for Financial Services (the bottom of the ranking) and 75% for Technology (the top performer).

B2B companies should make aggressive use of this. Because: Strong pilots are always needed. How to position yourself as an experienced problem solver on LinkedIn? One is through smart thought leadership that truly provides answers for tomorrow.
On the other hand, through close, authentic communication to further build relationships with clients and prospects and to further strengthen trust.

Why is it worthwhile to position yourself as a ‘trusted advisor’?

Companies and individuals alike are looking for answers, for solutions to their problems. In this search, sooner or later all end up on the net. This is where the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) occurs, where a potential customer makes the decision online to purchase a product. It follows the moment in the buying process when the customer researches the product online.

Those who are then not visible, do not have a credible positioning as a ‘trusted brand‘ and/or as a ‘trusted advisor‘, have a problem.

In this respect, a clear “Yes!”: Personal branding creates relevance . It pays off!


What questions help with writing LinkedIn posts?

Are you currently pondering why your feed has such low engagement rates?
Maybe questions like these will help you when writing future posts:

  • What is your expertise?
  • What is your USP?
  • Who is your target audience? What do you want to achieve with your target group?
  • What do you want your followers to think, feel, and ideally do afterwards?
  • Is your content new or at least has a new spin? Is it relevant?
  • Have you thought about the three golden E’s of social media and are “educating, entertaining and engaging?”
  • Does your text exit feature a ‘call to action‘?

Short or long? Do I use the 3,000 characters for a post instead of the 1,300 characters earlier?

Because brevity is the soul of wit, … I’ll be brief,” says Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
Therefore, my advice: When in doubt, be shorter than longer! Think from the perspective of your target group: Do they always have time for long texts?

If you have something really relevant to convey, feel free to go a bit beyond the 1,300 characters that used to be the post limit.

Whenever you doubt whether your post is too long or too short, remember journalist and editor Joseph Pulitzer:
Write briefly, and they will read it. Write clearly and they will understand. Write pictorially and they will remember it“.

To write or to have written?

From experience I say: Both! All top decision-makers now have social media specialists – in-house or outsourced – feeding their feeds. After all, they have other things to do than text their own posts every day.

As legitimate as this outsourcing is, it still requires four things to be sustainably successful as a CEO or top executive on LinkedIn:

  1. Real commitment to the channel
  2. Clean definition of topics that go beyond mere announcement communication
  3. Continuous input of own ideas
  4. Default of personal style.

In short: A CEO account in particular should never be managed by one employee alone. A CEO must always fill his account with life himself. Herbert Diess obviously finds this worth two hours every week with his team.
And at Deutsche Telekom it says “ Where Höttges is on it, Höttges is in it.

Why doesn’t Denglish or consultant-speak work on LinkedIn?

According to Daniel Kahneman in “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” we always make our decisions emotionally first and only then justify them rationally. So even on business platforms like LinkedIn, write clearly and without technical vocabulary.

Ultimately, you’re ‘just’ telling a story to someone else. It is the true – and sometimes emotional – stories that inspire your community.Consultant-speak’, in-house acronyms or denglish only get in the way here.

Should I develop my own brand tonality?

The bulk of the feeds continue to be very similar. It’s true that more and more business leaders are showing themselves with selfies or venturing into modern storytelling. But they are not really distinguishable (yet).

If you wish: “ Make my content click ! develop your own ‘Tone of Voice‘.

Show yourself to be less operative, but more individual and humanly approachable. The way you communicate with your target audience on LinkedIn determines almost everything: not only how engaged they are in reading your posts, but also whether you motivate them to interact with you. Your ‘Tone of Voice’ conveys everything that defines you as a person, you as a personal brand, and that your target group values. This also makes it much easier to create an emotional connection and develop content that speaks directly to people – in both senses of the word.

Why does a buyer persona help with writing?

Especially in social media, there is extreme “noise”. Therefore, simply being in the mix is not enough to differentiate effectively. Therefore, create your buyer persona.

Unlike abstract, heterogeneous target groups, a buyer persona has a concrete face. It is the fictional person who embodies your target audience. This concept makes it easier for you to better understand the needs, challenges and actions of your ideal client. This allows you to tailor your content. With a buyer persona in mind, you don’t just write your content, you write it for someone.

This way, your followers don’t communicate with a logo, but with a ‘real’ person! Only follow them permanently.

Do emojiis on LinkedIn fit for top decision makers?

None of the DAX CEOs who are currently scoring points with their LinkedIn presence garnish their posts with emojis. This could also rule out the use of emojiis for you if you’re a leader or solopreneur and don’t want to be perceived as too playful.

Exceptions for emojis I see in the following:

  • Replacement for hyphens or bullets
  • Eye-catcher to make posts visually more attractive
  • Visual highlighting of a single statement.

As with the choice of hashtags, there should be no more than three different ones, and they should fit the target audience.


What works better than the plain text post on LinkedIn?

A picture says more than 1,000 words. ” This proverb has been valid since 1921. CEOs have also understood this in their positioning on LinkedIn. For example, according to the “CEO-LinkedIn Navigator“, only 1% of the posts by DAX leaders are still purely text posts. More than every second post has a picture .

In the medium term, no one who wants to achieve reach can avoid the topic of video . After all, every fifth post is already pushed by a video, some of which are very elaborate.

So the exciting question remains: How quickly will the 58 CEOs from the DAX and M-DAX who do not yet have an active LinkedIn profile follow their 41 active colleagues? And: Which content formats will they choose?

What are the top six basic technical hacks?

  1. Likes – both of your own posts and those of your colleagues
  2. Comments – The LinkedIn algorithm values comments higher than any other interaction. If your time is very short, in the worst case, use the generic phrase “Interesting read” or “Thanks for sharing!” (and then tag relevant contacts). But a real content-rich sentence is always preferable.
  3. Share – Yes, this forwarding is still technically an option. But the algorithm supports them only conditionally. Unfortunately, high engagement rates are not to be expected here.
  4. Tagging – from your peers, influencers or target audience so they definitely see your post.
  5. Smart hashtags – the ‘gold standard’ is 3-5 # per post
  6. Cascade – If you have a new product, a new study or great business figures, take the “musketeer” approach; i.e. don’t stick to the “highlander” principle where only one colleague pushes something, but as many colleagues as possible!

When is the perfect slot to post?

My tips used to be:

  • The strongest days to post on LinkedIn are Wednesday and Thursday.
  • The most promising times for high reach are Tuesday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.
  • Sundays have the lowest engagement.

Today, I still consider weekday mornings between 8:30 and 9:30 to be the most promising slots. But there are many more exceptions; i.e. posts that outperform even at off-peak times or the realization: If all 14 million people who are currently on LinkedIn in Germany post something at 8:30 on Tuesday morning, it will be crowded in the feed anyway. So keep trying different things yourself and keep in mind when your target audience and LinkedIn community is active.

Mass or class? What is the rule for building the contact network?

It all depends on your personal goals for your social media positioning! A solopreneur or a mid-size business owner is more likely to go for mass in the build-up phase of their personal LinkedIn account. And this also in the knowledge that the algorithm only plays out posts above a certain range.

CEOs, board members and top decision-makers differentiate neatly between pure reach and truly relevant contacts from hour 0. The latter can serve as multipliers.

If you want to know how successful an account really is, first look at the follower structure. Is it primarily your own employees or high-level, relevant externals?

Why is interactivity so important?

Those who position themselves successfully on LinkedIn benefit – albeit with consequences.After an interview in the classic leading media, nothing usually happens at first: the article ends up in the press review. In the best case, clients or acquaintances talk to you about it. With LinkedIn, on the other hand, there is dynamism, interactivity.

Communication here does not function as a one-way street, but as a dialog. This proximity is unique; in other words, for the first time, corporate leaders have a platform that they can curate themselves 24/7. Whatever topics they want to address – like Herbert Diess on electromobility or Verena Pausder on education and the digitization of schools – they can do it here. The higher the follower count, the higher the number of comments (ideally) and the overall engagement rate.

The disadvantages:

  1. Radio Silence does not work. In other words, anyone who does not respond to comments is in breach of netiquette. The right timing is also required: the 24-hour deadline for responses applies.
  2. Limelight cannot be switched on or off like a light bulb. For example, when Oliver Bäte called for COVID19 vaccination on LinkedIn, he had to live with 80% negative comments from Corona deniers under his post.

So the road between an attractive spotlight and an exhausting shitstorm can be a short one.

Is shared content still worthwhile at all?

Honestly, not anymore. This is sad but true. In the early years, LinkedIn still had a “sharing is caring” policy: sharing content was rewarded with good performance.

Today, however, shared posts are played out less and less. The reach and engagement of shared content is steadily declining. This frustrates many of my clients immensely. Just sharing content among colleagues has been a popular form of visibility for corporate brands.

Therefore my tip: Create your own post instead! This can lead back to the “original” of your colleagues through links in the comments. Simply hitting the forward/share button on posts from your corporate account won’t make you a reach star, unfortunately.

Do LinkedIn Pulse articles still make sense?

There are many benefits to becoming a commentator in your industry. When you share something via a LinkedIn Pulse article, you establish yourself as an expert, invite interaction, and gain visibility for yourself and your company brand.

The strong pro argument:

The post remains in your feed forever; that is, it is on the website like a study and can be searched and found by hashtags.

The Con Argument:

The LinkedIn algorithm no longer pushes this long content as intensively as classic posts. So please don’t be sad about lower engagement rates.

Since LinkedIn increased the post length to 3,000 characters a few weeks ago, I tend to give it the benefit of the doubt.

Should I get a branded banner for my LinkedIn profile?

Yes, please!” So far, only one in ten LinkedIn users worldwide uses a branded banner. So this is one of the easiest ways to differentiate yourself from the other 90%.

This is how you strengthen your personal brand, which is closely linked to the corporate brand. What’s more, you’ll make a more lasting impression than if you stick with LinkedIn’s default blue.

Why is the “About me” section critical to success?

Your personal LinkedIn profile works like a website: Visitors decide within ten seconds whether to read on or not. Therefore, your “About” section is your very personal sales pitch.

Tell people what drives you and why you enjoy your work. This is the only way to differentiate yourself from others with the same qualifications and experience.

It is absolutely common to revise this “About” section every now and then. Try different things – both of style and content, and over the course of your career path. The weekly information from LinkedIn about how often you were found shows you how successful you are at this.

Want to benefit from my top 1% ranking in the Social Selling Index (SSI®) on LinkedIn for your digital visibility? Then let us speak!

Author: Susanne Mathony

Susanne Mathony
Susanne Mathony

The positioning of brands and people are my passion. For more than two decades, I have lived out my calling with CEO positioning, strategic marketing and communications consulting, PR and business storytelling.
Added in 2014 was the Social Media Consulting. Here, the focus is on #SocialCEO and personal branding and positioning of boards and teams on LinkedIn.My home is Professional Services. At GSA and EMEA level, I worked for AlixPartners, Andersen Consulting (now Accenture), Strategy& as well as Russell Reynolds Associates, among others.
As a political scientist and trained journalist, I started my career at a Washington, D.C., think tank.

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