Personal branding: “People buy from people – not simply products.”

Personal branding: “People buy from people – not simply products.”

October 21, 2020

Susanne Mathony - Personal Branding

Personal personal is becoming increasingly important in terms of career opportunities. In an interview with, personal branding and social selling consultant Susanne Mathony explains why she advises employees and companies to leverage social media and reveals her personal top tips for LinkedIn.

The market research industry is considered to be well networked, many people working in the industry know each other and the communication channels are fast and direct. Why do you still recommend that both employees and entrepreneurs register and present themselves?

The bestselling book “Nur wer sichtbar ist, findet auch statt” (“Only those who are visible take place”) gets to the heart of the matter. Neither companies nor employees can afford to be ‘invisible’.
Today, it is no longer enough to rely solely on PR, websites or glossy brochures – both in customer communication and in employer branding.

Social media is part of the modern marketing mix. Especially since the outbreak of the COVID19 pandemic and the compulsion to #socialdistancing. Without physical events, how will you network in person, present your knowledge or find cooperation partners?

The reason for personal branding is extremely simple:

People trust people; people buy from people – and not simply products.

DAX CEOs have also internalized this in the past two years.
In addition to the classic interview in FAZ or WirtschaftsWoche, they now curate their stories in the social media and thus become the #socialCEO.
Handelsblatt aptly describes it as a “duel for proximity and trust“. In business, as on LinkedIn, it’s about “attention, reach, personal positioning. Or rather, influence, power and opinion leadership.”

Social CEO LinkedIn
Source: Handelsblatt, September 4./5./6., 2020

Why LinkedIn? What are the advantages of this network vs. other social media platforms?

With around 19 million users, XING (still) has a greater reach in DACH than LinkedIn with around 14 million users. But in a globalized world, you should also network globally. And LinkedIn is clearly the No. 1 business platform with approx. 700 million users worldwide.

In addition to the reach, I see great advantages in the most diverse features of LinkedIn. For example, there are references for knowledge and skills. This is particularly helpful for solopreneurs or job seekers.
But it is also being used more and more by purchasing departments of large corporations for checking. After all, they don’t want to buy the proverbial “pig in a poke”.

Apart from maintaining contacts, almost the most important thing is sharing information. XING limits creativity. For example, pictures can only be shared on the app. And posts via desktop are limited to a maximum of 420 characters.
On LinkedIn, on the other hand, I can creatively rave off and use a wide variety of assets to attract attention: Videos, images, and presentations.
All of these are reach boosters.

Equally relevant: the “LinkedIn Pulse Articles” feature. Here I can publish my own content, just like in a blog. In this way, I reach my own business network, but also the ‘contacts of my contacts‘.
What a huge potential – especially since Google includes this content in its search.

Social media loves the top 3 or top 10 as tips for certain situations. What are your top 5 tips for personal branding on LinkedIn?

Limiting it to the top 5 is a challenge. I do see so much potential here – for companies, their top decision-makers, as well as for every individual, whether a career starter or entrepreneur.

To summarize, my top tips are:

  • Know the basics – Build your LinkedIn profile with utmost care! Not everyone has to achieve the yearned-for “super star” status. But the profile should meet the requirements of a representative business card/mini website.
  • Consistency & differentiation – Be consistent in your topic selection, as well as the regularity of your posts. Be as specific as you are authentically “different”. Generic meToo “blah blah” without strategy leads nowhere.
  • Content is king – No content, no reach! It does not always have to be a huge study. Smart infographics, great quote cards with your own portrait or clearly formulated thoughts with the appropriate hashtags can go a long way.
  • Accept the algorithm – The key is to know about the right times, the right days and the specific needes of the LinkedIn “dwell time”.

LinkedIn also allows featuring private interests despite the business focus. Would you advise this?

In my personal branding and social selling coachings, I am providing our clients with the advice: “Never private – personal elements yes please!”
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‘.

Everyone believes this is a new hype. But it’s not. The bestseller “The Brand Called You” by Tom Peters is from 1997.
Already back then he wrote spot-on:

We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.

Take a look at the feed of Stefan Wöllenstein, CEO VW China. 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“ generated 7,715 likes and 617 comments.

Or the post “Going on vacation with an e-car – not possible? Yes, you can!” by Herbert Diess, CEO VW. The more than 5,600 likes show: It didn’t harm his reputation to feature his vacation in Italy with his daughter (and the ID.3). On the contrary. This is precisely why he is increasingly using professional storytelling – and is now the No. 1 reach among DAX30 CEOs.

Net-net: Let your personality sparkle, but hands-off regarding your private life! The former proves you have an opinion, expertise or even an attitude. Anything else only makes you vulnerable.

After having checked off the DO’s: What are the DON’Ts?
Better not to be on LinkedIn at all than to be on LinkedIn badly!” Would you agree to this?

Some of our CEO clients at the #BrandStrategists sometimes want to sneak off with this argument and refrain from a LinkedIn presence. There is the outdated bias that LinkedIn is only for headhunters, narcissistic self-promoters, desperate salespeople or job seekers. Behind this is the fear of faux pas or uncontrollable shitstorms.

But this is unsubstantiated if you stick to the Do’s already outlined.
And the don’ts go without saying: No unprofessional pictures, no political content, no continuous announcement communication – aka exclusively posting company content – or an orphaned profile without any activity.

view article (in German)