Personal branding in social media – what should tweets (and LinkedIn/blogs) say about you?

26 February 2014 By Northern Lights

Personal branding in social media – what should tweets (and LinkedIn/blogs) say about you? image

Simon CowellThis week Simon Cowell has been tweeting pictures of himself with his new baby.  Are these tweets changing his personal brand?

What have you tweeted in the last few weeks – and what is your twitter profile saying about you?  Have you thought about your online ‘brand’ and how you reflect this across all social media?  And how your online brand is linking to you as a professional in your working life?

A while ago I spoke to a boss who didn’t really understand social media and wanted a view on the Twitter profiles of his leadership team.  Were they ‘acceptable’?  I explained there is no such thing as ‘acceptable’ in social media, provided it is not obscene or defamatory.  And whatever his view of those profiles is – that is probably the same as others will be deciding.  Just because it is a Twitter profile doesn’t change the fact that you are making an impression, whatever that is.

Some questions for him to consider are – does his business have guidelines about personal vs professional profiles;  has he thought about helping leaders to define their personal brands and what does the business want strategically from social media?

So in this blog, I have outlined some tips on how to create a personal brand on Twitter (which applies to all social media) and then looked at some Twitter profiles that I think have really clear, consistent and professional brands.  I have purposely chosen a mix of people who will be well-known in some countries/markets and others who may be less so.  But no matter whether you know them or not, you will still make some kind of decision about them, based on what you see online.

And that is the point to remember with personal branding online.  People often make up their minds about you from a mere snapshot of seconds in time.









10 tips for a successful personal brand on Twitter

So how do you develop a personal brand on Twitter?

  • Look at other Twitter profiles.  Find the ones you like and admire.  Write down the words that come to mind about each one
  • What do you like about the profiles below – or not.  Remember what you don’t like about profiles as well
  • What words do you want people to write down for your Twitter profile?
  • When you meet someone, jot down the words that come to mind about them – in meetings, at conferences, around the water cooler
  • Think about the words that you want others to say about you – these will help you decide on your personal brand (but do check these will help you in your business).  You might want to discuss what you decide with clients or line managers – do they agree these are good for you?
  • Jot down what you will – and won’t – tweet about.  Think through how personal you will go.  Does your organisation have guidelines about what you can and can’t do in a professional capacity?  This blog highlights our own view of putting children in the spotlight
  • Alongside this, think through what you want to achieve from Twitter – new relationships, new business, influencing others, career development.  Look at our tips in this blog
  • Watch which tweets your followers like – and don’t.  Which ones get the most responses – are these good things to do more of?  Do they reflect your brand?
  • And check if your brand is consistent across all social media, including blogs, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, Facebook and others
  • Review your profile every few months – have you kept to your brand?  Do you need to do anything differently?

Here are a few profiles of people with very strong brand identities online  can you learn from them?

1.            His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum


HH Sheikh Mohammed, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has nearly 3m followers.  He tweets in English and Arabic with absolute consistency on his role and activities as a leader of the UAE and Dubai.

If you look at his top five Twitter moments they were on:  thanking the labourers who had literally helped build his country; his vision of a brighter future for young people; asking for creative ideas for health and education under #UAEbrainstorm – resulting in 65,000 responses; thanking his 2m followers; and ‘Thank you Khalifa’ to the UAE President.

My thoughts about his brand are that he is demonstrating commitment to his country and young people; his passion for his job, role and people of his country; and vision and innovation.

HH Shk 1HH Shk 2

  2.            Angela Ahrendts (@angelaAhrendts)

Angela is ceo of Burberry, the international retail brand.

I think I expected her profile to be very ‘Burberry’ and fashion, new seasons.  Interestingly it is more leadership, but passion for her company’s leadership team – as well as the brand.

There is a lot to think about in here and how she is positioning Burberry in a particular market – very cleverly I think?

Angela 1 Angela 2

 3.         René Carayol

I heard René speak at an international conference a few years ago – his words have always stayed with me  he talked about when he was at Ford and his appraisal focused on all the things he wasn’t very good at.  He was a really good salesman (I think that was it) and he couldn’t understand why his company didn’t focus on his doing more of what he was brilliant at!

René is now an international speaker on leadership, culture and transformation.  And look at what he is tweeting about below:  a philosophical comment on leadership/culture; tips on leadership; corporate culture as we come out of the recession.

You are in no doubt that his expertise and passion is for leadership?

Rene 1

Rene 2

 4.            Clare Woodcraft- Scott

Clare is chief executive of Emirates Foundation Youth.  And her Twitter profile couldn’t be clearer on her brand and her passions.

‘structural #sustainability optimist – recycling won’t do it, #technology & #long-term thinking just might. #CEO @EFYouth #philanthropy #CSR #social_impact

Look at the tweets below and you will see that Clare’s tweets absolutely reflect what she says she is about – youth, philanthropy, innovation in philanthropy, climate change.  Very little personal – the only thing perhaps is a tweet about 76 things that England would like to apologise to Scotland for.  It’s witty – very much Clare’s personal brand – but still with a leadership feel to it.

Clare 1

Clare 2

5.            Shirley Ayres  (@shirleyayres)

I have always thought Shirley manages an interesting social media dilemma – that of being extremely focused and professional, but also holding a lot of personal conversations, but still keeping them within her brand.

Shirley’s business is to help with digital engagement to build connected communities – so she does a lot around how the police, health authorities, local authorities, universities and others use social media to engage with their communities.

Her Twitter conversations are extremely active and widespread – but always coming back to her focus of engaged communities and digital.

Shirley 1

Shirley 2

 6.            Gary Verity (@garyverity)

Gary is chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire and as he says ‘determined to make Yorkshire one of the world’s top visitor destinations’.

I have included Gary because unlike the others he includes far more of his personal life in his tweets and there is a lot of boys’ banter, particularly around sport and the success (or otherwise) of Leeds United football club.

The one thing that Gary does that all the others do is to demonstrate his passion for what his job is – he lives and breathes Yorkshire and promoting everything that is great about it.  It could be a sunsest over Scarborough, a new born lamb in the Dales or a fantastic supper in his local (Yorkshire) pub.

But he also includes a lot about exercising – in the screengrabs below he was on a bike ride and his chain snapped.  This could of course be a way to bring in that Yorkshire is hosting the Tour de France 2014 (yes, that is right – and Gary led the pitch for this).  And he talks about the farm that he also runs.

Somehow this all reflects his brand which is passion for Yorkshire – but also life in general and spotting new opportunities.

Gary 1

Gary 2

This has been a really interesting blog for me to write.  It’s made me think hard about my own Twitter profile and what my brand is.  I think my brand is business, communications, passion for our clients and contacts and helping them, fairness, open-ness, honesty, social media – of course – and constantly learning and contemporary.  If I had to choose one it would be passion for business and making a difference.  I try to have some personality in my tweets – but I am now wondering if I do too much?

Any views would be welcomed!  We are all still learning and helping each other.

Author Image

Written by Northern Lights


  • Great tips – personal brand is something to consider. Some people have a personal and a professional twitter account. I like Angela Ahrendts twitter and some great ones to follow in your list here. Gary Verity (@garyverity) has a great profile at the moment and reflects that in the Twitter profile.

  • Interesting questions raised as to the distinction between personal and business personas’ on twitter. Are lines becoming blurred? How do we stay consistent with our message in an age where everyone has an opinion on everything. Personal branding seems to focus the mind and provide consistency on what we want to achieve, what we stand for and perhaps more importantly how we would like others to perceive us.

  • This has prompted a further question for me……do I need 2 twitter accounts and therefore have 2 personal brands? I have a twitter account for work, but should I have another one for my personal (ie, not work) life? Which one would be the real me? Would this create a schizophrenic personal brand? I use LinkedIn for professional networking, and use Facebook for personal networking. At the moment, I only use Twitter for professional ”tweeting” – am I missing out I wonder…….?

  • Some great thoughts here Victoria, I have separate twitter profiles for work and personal use and neither portray any personal brand so that’s given me food for thought.

  • Thanks to you all for thought-provoking comments, Stuart, Pete, Robert, James and Chris.
    I have come to the view that professionals/senior people can’t have a ‘private life’ in social media – it’s so easy to find who someone is. Whenever I do something more personal on Twitter, it never feels quite right – though sometimes they can be the most retweeted etc! I struggle to keep the one professional Twitter profile going – with a bit of help from my colleagues – but good luck if you can manage both! But just being aware that even the personal profiles still form part of your overall professional life.
    No easy answers here and really appreciate you all adding to the conversation.

  • Our opinions, beliefs, and humour are what makes us interesting. If we strip this out of our online brand we are simply reduced to retweeting data which really nothing about me. However, the possible risks associated with one poorly considered tweet are so high that many people simply dare not fully embrace social media. With such high risk and uncertain rewards what should we do?

    1. Hi Gary
      Thanks for a thought-provoking comment – and your point is one I struggle with. I hope that came through in the blog? I think there is a really fine line (for business people on social media) between having a personality online with beliefs and opinions (which is the easier bit) and revealing more personal information – and I am not sure women can do humour! I don’t think I can, I always regret it when I try! The way I address this is to be very generous with insights and tips, sharing my knowledge so that people want to follow to learn. Hopefully in an interesting way and they don’t notice the lack of banter?!

  • An interesting debate regarding personal vs. professional lives on social media. I think the occassional personal tweet ‘humanises’ the profile. Its a fine line though, and your audience can too easily misinterpret the comment or sentiment.

  • Very useful tips. I particularly enjoyed reading about Sheikh Makoum’s twitter profiles and his millions of followers. As a new Twitter user, any new hints and tips are very useful. In particular, how can I raise my professional profile, which may help me generate more business

  • Integrity and clear expression of values are important – your audience needs to understand what you stand for . I would of thought a personal and separate business profile is best practise

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