Co-creating professional brand identity on social media in a career transition

Thesis event information

Date and time of the thesis defence

Place of the thesis defence

Linnanmaa, TA105

Topic of the dissertation

Co-creating professional brand identity on social media in a career transition

Doctoral candidate

Master of Social Sciences Kati Koivunen

Faculty and unit

University of Oulu Graduate School, Oulu Business School, Department of Marketing, Management and International Business

Subject of study



Associate professor Veronika Tarnovskaya, Lund University


Professor Saila Saraniemi, University of Oulu

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Personal Branding on Social Media Shapes the Professional’s Identity

Personal branding on social media has become one of the most crucial skills for career management among professionals. However, focusing solely on the career-related benefits of branding paints a one-dimensional picture of its impact on individuals. Especially during career transitions, where professionals must redefine their identities, branding diversifies the examination of identity and assists in its reshaping.

This is the assertion made by Kati Koivunen in her doctoral dissertation, which found that a professional’s personal brand is constructed on social media around the brand identity that emerges through dialogues with stakeholders. This anchors the brand identity closely to the professional's personal and professional identities. In these dialogues, the brand identity becomes a subject of negotiation. When various stakeholders, such as colleagues, both support and question the expert's expertise, authenticity, and values, identity tensions arise.
- Social media may have an even greater impact on an individual's identity formation than expected. Identity encapsulates who we are and who we aspire to become. Personal branding on social media seems to challenge an individual's experience of their identity. This is a novel finding in research.

In her dissertation, Koivunen has sought new perspectives to study personal brands. Previous research has often overlooked the effects of branding on individuals and has frequently examined them as measurable outcomes, such as employment. Although human identity is understood to evolve throughout life and develop as a continuous interactive process, this has not been considered in personal branding research. Koivunen's research shows that experiencing a coherent brand identity accepted by stakeholders enhances a professional's self-esteem, increases a sense of belonging, and strengthens career resilience. These are crucial aspects, especially for professionals who lack daily contact with their work community, such as during remote work or career transition periods.

With 18 qualitative interviews with professionals, Koivunen's dissertation connects contextually to the current discourse on the evolving nature of the workplace, where career transitions are actively sought, with social media playing a role in expediting them. The results of the study indicate that a strong sense of responsibility characterizes a professional's brand identity, as they feel responsible for their profession and society. Additional building blocks of brand identity are values, personal and professional identities, and authenticity-related factors. Since these factors are constantly evolving, professionals experience uncertainty about brand identity development. This is reflected in identity tensions, crises that experts can address through deliberate identity work. Identity work refers to ways an expert can reinforce the sense of coherence in their identities.

Koivunen's research broadens the narrow theoretical understanding of personal brands and helps professionals address challenges related to personal brand construction. Additionally, the results can be utilized in workplaces and universities to support professionals in facilitating career transitions.
Last updated: 23.1.2024