Building a Scientist's Personal Brand on LinkedIn
How the ModumUp team can help a busy scientist in managing online activities and presence, and in building a personal brand.
In 2 years:
  • Sergey's connections on LinkedIn surged from 1,316 to over 10,000
  • Sergey's X followers increased from 103 to 2,780, showing steady growth with an average connection rate of 25%
  • He became LinkedIn's Community Top Voice in Algorithms and Artificial Intelligence
  • He received several requests for consultations, five invitations to speak on podcasts, and six invitations to speak at conferences

Personal Branding in Defining Self and Team

Sergey Plis, a Professor of Computer Science at Georgia State University (GSU) and Director of Machine Learning at the Center for Translational Research in Neuroimaging & Data Science (TReNDS), embarked on a journey to establish his personal brand in the fields of neuroimaging and deep learning.
At the TReNDS Center, the team employs advanced data science and machine learning techniques to gain deeper insights into the functioning of the brain. They investigate brain images and mental health using a range of data sources, including MRI and functional MRI scans.

One of their recent projects, Brainchop, is an in-browser 3D MRI rendering and segmentation tool designed to be user-friendly for individuals without technical expertise. It runs on the user's own computer which helps keep the MRI data private and secure.

Sergey began focusing on building his personal brand because he found managing a research team, in his words, "was similar to managing a startup, with the need to assert existence through visibility." He noticed that sometimes the ideas he discussed with his team and wrote about were being discovered again by others as if they were new. This led him to decide that he needed to share his work more widely and build a personal brand to prevent his ideas from being overlooked.

However, managing a thriving research group on top of his duties as a professor at GSU made it difficult for him to maintain an active social media presence. In need of support, Sergey turned to the ModumUp Social Selling agency with the task growing and supporting his LinkedIn and X profiles.

There was also another benefit of building a personal brand that Sergey discovered as he worked with us: he could treat our work together as a journal, and look back to recognize his and his team's accomplishments despite the feeling of not making any progress due to constant work.
Building a personal brand helped me with an identity crisis by examining what we showed, what I discussed, and what my team does. And then the identity sort of emerges as what I am, what my team is, rather than what it should be.
Professor of Computer Science at Georgia State University

Growing Sergey's Profiles

Our job was to provide assistance with various tools and techniques to help him grow his profiles. We began by working on increasing the number of connections and followers.

For LinkedIn, we segmented our target audience, identified priority groups: Hospital & Health Care, Biotechnology, Research Services, Software Development, and Education, and systematically started adding representatives from these target groups. Each month, we sent out approximately 500 connection requests and saw an average increase of 300 people per month.

On X, we approached the growth of the profile through publishing tweets, liking tweets related to ML and Neuroscience, and later through potential mutual following, by following 50-100 people in the relevant spheres each week. The average growth of followers was about 100 people per month.
Over the course of two years, our collaboration aimed to enhance Sergey's visibility and credibility among scientists and medical research professionals in the US and Western Europe.
  • 1
    Sergey's connections surged from 1316 to over 10,000, with an impressive average Connection Rate of around 60%
  • 2
    Sergey's X followers increased from 103 to 2780, showing steady growth with an average Connection Rate of 25%

The power of co-creation: two heads are better than one

The second major direction of our joint work became the content for Sergey's profiles. The primary goal of the content was to share Sergey and his team's research and work, and to improve their visibility. Our content strategy focused on engaging topics such as student projects, research updates, teaching stories, professional conference experiences, as well as Sergey's personal thoughts on topics that he found interesting.

In terms of content, together with Sergey, we brainstormed interesting topics to discuss during our weekly calls. Based on recordings of these sessions, we prepared drafts that he then edited to add more personality or reviewed the texts he wrote on a whim, making occasional changes to style and structure to enhance text readability. Overall, the whole process is built around co-creation.
It depends on the person, but for me, the writing process feels much easier when done together with a partner. Not only is it more fun to discuss things as you go, but it also helps with organizing your thoughts and looking at ideas from a different point of view.

What seems interesting to me might be boring to others. Or vice versa. An outside perspective helps you notice unexpected and entertaining perspectives from which the idea could be presented
Professor of Computer Science at Georgia State University

The posts that received the highest number of impressions and engagement over the past two years focused on Sergey's research, as well as the work and achievements of his students. Such impactful and novel content naturally attracts higher visibility and interaction, resonating with both academic peers and the general public
Other successful posts featured collaborative research and attendance at numerous conferences, showcasing Sergey as a professional actively involved in the field. Additionally, the natural and lively photos of local sights from the cities where the conferences were held also helped in capturing the readers' attention.
Sergey also mentioned that his attitude and perception to publishing his thoughts, ideas, and opinions has changed since he started working with us.
At the beginning of our cooperation, I was really hesitant to post anything on social media. I was afraid of what people might say, concerned about the criticism I might receive. But over time, I've come to see the value in just sharing thoughts, even if they're not fully formed or ready for a scientific publication.

With LinkedIn, it's like that. Sometimes, things are just thoughts, or aren't ready for publication in a scientific journal. But by sharing them you can get feedback, and also criticism, but so what? Once you put your thought or idea online, other people can build on it. Maybe I will not succeed in improving the idea, but maybe the idea deserves to live by itself and other people can improve it. Now, I post without worry, understanding that this is how ideas evolve and grow.
Professor of Computer Science at Georgia State University

When discussing effective strategies for explaining complex topics like machine learning and neuroimaging on social media, Sergey said that he likes to share what is truly interesting to him.

He posts about his and his team's work, using analogies and visuals, such as graphs and GIFs. This method not only highlights their progress but also allows him to discuss his personal interests. For example, he enjoys sharing various thoughts on Fridays, using the day as an opportunity to explore a range of subjects, from unique mathematical ideas and eternal life to the merging of machines and human brains.

Besides his research, Sergey also teaches at GSU, although he finds it quite challenging. He has been teaching for over four years and still occasionally struggles with it. Writing about his difficulties and experiences in teaching helps Sergey to reflect on these challenges, and such posts also resonate with people.

Content Performance

Over the last two years, we published a total of 138 posts on LinkedIn, with our most popular post reaching 11,729 views.
Additionally, Sergey shared several personal gains from publishing content with the agency's help:
  • Collaborative efforts made it easier to keep posting regularly, which also reduced management stress
  • Using LinkedIn as a journal helped Sergey organize his team's tasks and reduce stress
  • Regular posting helped Sergey get over his fear of making mistakes and highlighted the value of openly sharing ideas for everyone to review
  • Engaging closely with LinkedIn allowed Sergey to learn new things and broaden his perspective
I work in somewhat of a rut, and usually interact only with particular types of work and people. But some of the suggested content helps to breathe fresh air into the rut and helps in overcoming potential viewpoint barriers.

I discovered some genuinely interesting news and information that I wouldn't have even thought of searching for. Maybe it doesn't help from the professional point of view, but I found the value in that as a person.
Professor of Computer Science at Georgia State University

When asked which social media platform he prefers, LinkedIn or X, Sergey said he likes LinkedIn better because it lets him write longer posts. However, he also uses X sometimes, mainly for quick browsing to get news and ideas.

Live events: Is it like being a streamer?

LinkedIn Live events are another popular way to build a personal brand on LinkedIn. These events are very engaging and reach a wide audience, which made them a great fit for our project. That's why we suggested Sergey host one.

At first, Sergey wasn't very excited about the idea, and we had to gently push him out of his comfort zone. The decision to start using LinkedIn Live came after a study was published in which Sergey was a consultant on Machine Learning.

As a result, we successfully held a LinkedIn Live event where Sergey and a colleague from the TReNDS Center talked about his work on a Machine Learning project with the Norwegian company, Holberg EEG.
The event attracted significant engagement:
  • Invited 1400 connections
  • 1170 visits to the event page. Conversion from invitations to page visits: 83%
  • 370 registrations. Conversion from page visits to registrations: 31.6%
  • 930 live viewers or recording viewership. Conversion from registrations to event viewing: 251%
These results boosted Sergey's confidence about speaking live in front of a LinkedIn audience. A couple of months later, we managed to host another event revolving around a paper publication on the topic of interpretability in machine learning by one of his team members from the TReNDS Center.
The second event attracted significant engagement:
  • Invited 1000 connections
  • 215 visits to the event page. Conversion from invitations to page visits: 21.5%
  • 157 registrations. Conversion from page visits to registrations: 73%
  • 573 live viewers or recording viewership. Conversion from registrations to event viewing: 365%
Despite having fewer invitations because of the short preparation time and fewer visits to the event page, which might have been due to the event being too early for attendees on the West Coast, the registration and event viewing rates were still relatively high. The event also received positive feedback, with several viewers leaving encouraging comments about the topic. That's why we plan to continue hosting similar events every couple of months

Opportunities and Recognition

Thanks to the development of his personal profile on LinkedIn, Sergey received several incoming requests for consultations,even though we didn't actively seek out leads.
He also got 5 invitations to speak on podcasts and 6 to present at Machine Learning conferences.
We didn't reach out to the podcast hosts or conference organizers ourselves. They found Sergey thanks to his interesting content in his profile. Notably, he accepted an invitation to a local podcast, and his colleague represented their work on a project in a couple of interviews when it was discovered by TensorFlow.js.
Additionally, Sergey's contributions to collaborative articles on LinkedIn earned him two Top Community Voice badges in Artificial Intelligence and Algorithms, recognizing his expertise.


Over the past two years, Sergey Plis undoubtedly felt the efforts of growing the personal brand. It allowed him to establish various new connections, share his work and thoughts with a broader audience. It also helped to improve his personal and professional life by overcoming the fear of being judged and solidifying his identity as an expert in neuroimaging and machine learning not only in the eyes of others but also in his own.
One of the great things about working with you and your team is the effective 'babysitting' you provide, these constant reminders about content and consistent publications on social media.

All of that is really helpful in the following sense: a management job, or constantly thinking about what needs to be done, drains a lot of energy. If that's the only thing you do, it's easier, but when you have to handle many other tasks, it takes a toll because a portion of my energy has to go there
Professor of Computer Science at Georgia State University

When asked how his increased social media presence has influenced the research and funding opportunities for his laboratory, Sergey answered:
It's really difficult to quantify whether my growing presence on social media over the last two years has affected my personal or professional life. Well, I stopped managing my website, and LinkedIn kind of became my stage for showcasing the work of my team.

Actually, some things did happen. For instance, our projects like gained attention because people at Google who are working on and developing TensorFlow JS, the framework we are using, noticed us. And Mohamed Masoud, the main author of the software, was invited to multiple presentations and similar events.

Also, our work on LinkedIn helped us move towards commercialization of A company that makes special hardware for clinics reached out to us. They suggested that we could make our software work on their hardware in clinics, to help with things like measuring tumors right when an MRI scan is done.

I think the fact that people know about is solely due to your efforts in promoting it on LinkedIn
Professor of Computer Science at Georgia State University

As a result, over two years of work:
  • Sergey's connections on LinkedIn surged from 1,316 to over 10,000
  • Sergey's X followers increased from 103 to 2,780, showing steady growth with an average connection rate of 25%
  • Published a total of 138 posts on LinkedIn, with our most popular post reaching 11,729 views.
  • He became LinkedIn's Community Top Voice in Algorithms and Artificial Intelligence
  • He received several requests for consultations, five invitations to speak on podcasts, and six invitations to speak at conferences
The project is still ongoing, and recently we set ourselves the task of generating leads for TReNDS Center work contracts, on top of audience growth and content preparation. So, work on the personal brand doesn't stop for even a minute.
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