The Role Of LinkedIn In Brand-Building Featuring Jasmine Sandler

The social media marvels presents WonderWoman of LinkedIn marketing, Jasmine Sandler. Here, we are having a conversation about building a personal brand with LinkedIn. She also lets us know how it has a trickle effect towards other platforms too. And, how to send out a unified message for branding your business and yourself.

Key Take-aways :

  • Where do I start in order to build a personal brand via LinkedIn.
  • Approaches for B2B and B2C clients.
  • Various KPIs to track for performance evaluation.
  • Balance between personal branding and the business brand.
  • Leveraging various social platforms to expand your brand’s reach.
  • Having more than one message/product to spread under the same brand.

Q – So since how long have you been practicing marketing?

A – I will tell you about myself. I’ve been in digital marketing, gee, since, almost 20 years at this point. I started and sold a social network, pre Facebook, in the sports industry, which is interesting.

And previous to that, I was with IBM, and previous to that on Madison Avenue. So I have a long background of advertising, branding and technology, which has culminated into a career in digital marketing.

And I’ve worked for some very large agencies, and in 2006, decided to start my own, because I saw a real need in the marketplace to provide small and mid-size business-to-business professional services companies, an agency level of service, without having to have multi-million dollar budgets.

My business has changed over the years, and evolved. And today, where it stands, the company is JS Media. We are an online branding and PR agency, and under the hood of our agency we provide digital marketing training, specifically, around social branding and social selling in the B2B space. I run a conference series called Brand You, for female entrepreneurs and executives. And also I have a podcast, which is all about educating women executives and women entrepreneurs around digital marketing and social media. So that’s me.

Q – So you have essentially seen it evolve. How was it?

A – Well, I’ll start off by saying that digital marketing used to be more of, from an agency perspective, because I’m an agency owner, I would call it owned product. I was involved when social media was data mining. I was involved with intranets. I was involved with the developed and owned products, and the management, and onboarding of clients, and all of that jazz.

And now, since the evolution, all of that power, both on the technology side, as well as the marketing side, as you know, or SocialPilot, has been put into the hands of the business owners, which is pretty interesting, right?

Yeah, so I think that that whole change, and it’s such a general statement, honestly, because it’s like looking at synonymously broadcast advertising to consumers doing their own marketing. We’re being sophisticated. The tools, the processes, the knowhow in marketing, has really been flipped on its head, because of the explosion of social media, the Internet and telecom has become a commodity.

I could talk forever about it, but I’ll try to make it short. Basically, now people really do believe they can do it on their own. And that’s a good thing, but also a bad thing for agencies, because it disrupts our model. And also, we spend more time educating people. That’s why I have a conference series, and why I develop a lot of courses for people, and try to tell them the truth about it, because it’s not as easy as people think, and it can be very time-intensive.

I think there’s a whole shift in the industry, and I think it’s going to be interesting, where it goes in the future. I think it’s going to be really commonplace, you know what I mean? As opposed to this new, shiny object. It’s not that anymore. It’s almost things like VR are becoming commonplace. So it’s interesting.

Q – You specialize in LinkedIn marketing. Which are some of the KPIs that brands should look into?

A – Well, I like how you asked that, because KPIs, right? I do this whole keynote on social media, and I look at KPIs, both from a general marketing director standpoint, but also from someone that does a lot of education on social selling.

And so, a KPI can be as light as a like, as an impression, as a share, as a comment. But to me, those are very lightweight metrics. I think it’s important to understand those signals, because those signals will help you create better content along the buying journey.

To me, it’s very standard stuff. But, at the end of the day, the best KPIs, when it comes to LinkedIn marketing, and LinkedIn advertising, and social selling, and organic development on LinkedIn, etc.

One is the quality of the audience that you’re developing through your LinkedIn marketing. The quality, that’s number one.

And then, how well you actually develop relationships through the quality of the audience that you’re developing. Because, at the end of the day, I’m a business owner, so at the end of the day, I will get, for my own business, and for my clients’ business, I look at what is the net profitability, which any business owner should.

And so, you’ve got to take a look at, at the end of the day, are these relationships, is this audience development, that’s the tagline of my company, audience development. Is this audience development really driving a relationship that you can attribute to a sale?

It’s not as simple as saying … well, there’s no one-on-one relationship when it comes to B2B social selling. It really has to do with developing a social brand, which we do, and then cornerstoning or really nurturing that social brand, and the audience that you develop into a social selling pattern.

The number one aspect I look at when working with my clients, is what I call clean house, of their LinkedIn connections. I have them look at their LinkedIn connections, and say, “You know what, what’s the value of these people in your network? Are they a partner? Are they an indirect relationship? Can they … are they direct line? Are they a thought leader? Are they going to help you to be … do they have the influence in a certain group on LinkedIn?”

Because what you want is to have strong, as you call, KPIs, or interactions with your content, you have to have the right connections, and the right relationships to do that. I think that’s the first point. Do you have people, to make it simple, do you have people that actually like and share your content? And are those the people that you would lean on to support your business? Maybe it’s not the answer you’re looking for, but this is 20 years of my experience, just on LinkedIn. I’m giving you the whole puzzle, to help anyone who’s listening. Because really, that’s what it takes.

Q – Once you’ve got the soft KPIs covered, how should one go about organically targeting those customers?

A – Social media’s all about being social, people do need to know your features and benefits, but at the end of the day it’s relationship development.

I have B2C clients, but that’s primarily on the PR side of my business. But on the social media relationship development, it is about that human-to-human connection, for sure.

Q – How can businesses leverage LinkedIn for personal as well as business branding?

A – Well, that’s pretty much what I do for a living on my consulting side, which is to help my clients build their personal brands, and synonymously support their company brand.

Sometimes, it just depends on the individual, and I do a lot of training on this subject, of social branding for individual executives. So, it depends on the individual. Meaning, I have a keynote, and it’s called Going From Zero To 100, as a social brand. Some people, they’re not as vocal, I guess. They don’t want their personal brand to be out there 100% to grow their company brand.

And some of my clients do. So I actually think that’s number one for someone else to … my clients need to figure that out, or who’s ever listening, needs to figure that out. But when it’s done in the right way, especially if it’s a small business, or a startup, or a lot of my clients are women that are running a women’s initiative at a law firm or something. Their own personal brand is truly important to drive sales, because people are buying from them, you know what I mean?

So, if you’re in that position, where you are “the salesperson for your company”, or an initiative, then the personal brand is really important. And yes, LinkedIn marketing for sure. This is what I write my books on, is instrumental in building a professional, personal brand, to help drive a positive image, or a positive reputation for a company, for sure.

But it just needs to be done in the right way, meaning you need to have a strategy behind your personal brand. What are you? What do you stand for? What industry do you support? What associations are you involved with? What’s your form of content communication? What type of content are you going to put out?

It’s very much like looking at a company brand, but in a personal way, to drive value. So yes, it’s extremely effective. This is my main staple keynote, so I can tell you that the people that understand that they need to become a thought leader, which to me, that my own two cents on this is that you are providing value to an audience. Meaning you are, depending on your industry, you are either an educator, or you are someone that curates content for a community, or you’re someone that … I do a lot of this, you’ll refer business, just because you can, through LinkedIn. I mean, that’s something that people should do, because it’s really a networking … it is a B2B networking social network, right?

So, anyway, yeah, I could go on about this, sorry, I’ve written two books on this subject. But at the end of the day, yes, if you are looking to become a thought leader, and what that means is that you’re going to commit to it, it’s not an easy job, it can definitely help you to support the visibility around your company. Because at the end of the day, you’re going to be that spokesperson.

And LinkedIn has evolved. Now LinkedIn video is more important than it used to be. The LinkedIn writing platform, I have more and more of my clients, I actually have to push them to do it, but more and more of them are contributing to the writing platform.

So there’s easy opportunities for someone that wants to become a thought leader in their industry to create and deliver content on the medium. So, absolutely.

Q – And also, there’s LinkedIn Learning as well, so you can even become mentors, like LinkedIn mentors, which is, again, if you’ve just started off as a thought leader, or you’re just trying to make it big, that’s also one place where you can find traction, or find new audiences there. And you can mentor the existing users of the platform.

Right, absolutely. Absolutely. It’s kind of like … to me, it’s similar to, because I’ve been contributing to Quora for I don’t even know how many years. And to me it’s very similar. It’s also similar to how LinkedIn used to have that, back in 2000 and … when I had my first LinkedIn book, whenever that was. 2011 or something. I don’t know if you remember, they had a … they had opportunities for you to mentor within groups, these communication tools that they stripped away. I don’t know, it doesn’t matter.

But so yeah, I think that, yeah, the mentoring is also a good piece of it, but I would guard against doing that without building your brand first on LinkedIn. Otherwise, you won’t have the credibility, do you know what I mean?

Q – What steps do I take to start building my personal brand on LinkedIn, if I’m starting out today from scratch?

A – The first place I have my clients start, the number one place I have my clients start, because a lot of my clients are … well, they’re all driven, but they’re usually … they come to me because they’re doing something significant, and they’re usually launching a new company, brand or initiative.

The keyword there is new. Meaning, they need to make a change. And a lot of times, their connections, their relationships, that they currently have, may or may not be suitable for where they’re going, if you know what I mean.

So, the first place I have them actually look is in their current network, to see who they want to be, once their personal brand is designed and built, who they want to announce that to in the right way, you know what I mean?

So that’s actually, for my clients, and our programs, it’s number one place to start. And then, once that is, because that’s your low-hanging fruit. It’s just like if you own a business, how much money does it take you to acquire a new client in marketing, versus asking one of your current clients who loves you, to refer a client.

Q – Do other platforms also offer the same kind of leverage as LinkedIn when it comes to branding?

A – First I’ll tackle it from B2B versus B2C, because I have experience on both sides. Mostly on the B2B, a long-term, B2C is just really short-term work. But on the B2B side, so on the professional services side, obviously LinkedIn is the number one beast in the network. We’re in the world of relationship development, right? And that’s what it’s about when you’re dealing with law firms or financial services clients, or technology, whatever.

LinkedIn, it’s going to be the place where you should be developing those relationships. However, all the channels themselves, have their own place. Now, especially because you brought up the previous question about the cross between the personal brand and the company brand, this is an important point to address.

So you have your personal brand, which is your profile. Then you have your company brand, which is your company page. Depending on your position with the company, I’m assuming that these are business owners, you need to support and nurture that company brand as well.

From a standard level, the things that you should be sharing on your company page, anything news, events-driven, awards that make sense, testimonials, company videos, whatever. So that’s on the company side. And obviously, if you’re hiring people, obviously that’s how LinkedIn makes most of its money through the recruiters and things, you’d be posting about jobs and that type of thing.

But on your personal profile and LinkedIn writing platform, and mentoring, as you mentioned, and videos, and all these other functionalities, all of those things matter for the development of your personal brand, to support your business. From a professional standpoint. And that’s why I say, LinkedIn, to me, for my clients, is their professional personal brand.

If we go to another channel, let’s say Facebook and Instagram, because Facebook owns Instagram, a lot of times you’re sharing between those channels. Sometimes you’re not. But that, on the B2B side, certainly has, definitely has its place. Definitely has its place, because that should be the side, and I have a lot of experience from that end of things, is in terms of creating a culture, and creating a community.

Companies that dismiss, like B2B companies that dismiss Facebook, I think are silly, personally, because Facebook is a great place for getting engaged in Facebook groups, and building communities. And so if you can do that in the right way on topic, because there’s so many topics that are covered, that’s where you’re going to have more success on Facebook.

And then, Instagram, obviously, it’s an image social network, and video. For me, Instagram, similarly to how I would advise somebody on LinkedIn, to write a series of content, as opposed to one piece of content, that’s the way that I would say to look at Instagram, is you’re creating a brand. I mean, it’s so visible.

Instagram definitely has a place for developing a visual brand, behind whether it’s going to be a personal brand, like the CEO has his or her own Instagram profile, or it’s a business account, it’s a business profile. It’s a sense of creating a brand that’s going to drive a visual community, for sure, 100%.

So the tone of the content, obviously, is different. I really, this is such a huge question, and I know I’m trying to make it short, but the tone of the content between LinkedIn versus Facebook and Instagram is obviously much different, and should be different, because, especially when you’re just starting out. So because LinkedIn is much more professional, Facebook you can be more social.

You might have people that would support you and your business on Facebook, certainly within the Facebook groups, that probably don’t spend a lot of time on LinkedIn. A perfect example that I can give you is, because I deal a lot with, because one of my missions is to support women in business, I deal a lot with women’s groups, offline, online, different networks, there are Facebook groups that I try my best to support on Facebook, in terms of content and sharing their content, the best I can with limited time, where some of those women, I can tell you they spend maybe one hour a week on LinkedIn. They’re not heavy users of LinkedIn.

So you have to know where your audience is, to decide where you’re going to spend your time with your content. But as far as the tone of the content goes, and what the use is of these networks, LinkedIn is certainly for networking and relationship development from the business side of things. It’s certainly great for recruiting and building relationships with influencers, even the media. Whereas Facebook is more, I think, the success is more about building communities through groups, and relationships there in more of a social way.

And I think, obviously Instagram, and any other, I mean these are only a few, there’s so many social networks. But Instagram or anything else that’s visual is really about story selling, and storytelling. That is 100% about developing a brand through a story. And you can do it in a great way through a personal brand, to support a company, especially if it’s a small business.

And then I’m just going to touch on the last one, because I know you probably have more questions, is Twitter. I still think Twitter has a really good place, as far as being a real-time interaction social networking and micro-blogging tool. 100%, it is fantastic for being involved in real-time conversations. So, if you’re a social media manager, you better be on Twitter.

So it’s great for what we do in terms of PR, online PR and events, to be involved, or even leading tweet chats, to build communities within Twitter. And the media who we, my agency, we do a lot of work with bloggers and online media, they spend quite a bit of time on Twitter. So, again, it all goes back to, you’ve got to be where you know where your audience is. That’s why it takes a proper social media strategy. That’s why, to just to answer this question is a little loose, because I do a lot of big strategy.

But I would say those are just some basic tips or advice that I would provide if you’re starting out with these platforms.

Q – How do I leverage my following, or my backing, or my branding, from one platform where I’m famous, or where I’m big, and channelize it to the other platforms as well?

A – Well, I’m glad you asked me that question, because with the podcast series that I run, the WonderWomen in Business Podcast, I have to think a lot through everything that I do as a business owner. And so I’ve had to make a couple of major decisions around that in terms of channel usage.

And I have found that women are social. It’s such a blanket statement, but even though I do a lot of video work on YouTube, and I’m a huge consumer of YouTube, and I support YouTubers, and I’m involved with YouTubers, and all that, my podcast, the impact and the importance and the delivery of it, has been more, for my audience, has been more around Facebook. Because that’s where my women communities are, and things like that.

So, just as an example, the delivery point of the video piece of the podcast is Facebook Live. But all of the follow-up video content goes to YouTube. So the point is, is that even if I grow a huge audience on Facebook, I know that YouTube is still an important element to it, and the content will be segments of something that was maybe full-on Facebook, right?

So it’s not too dissimilar, it’s just a different approach of recreating what we call making it evergreen content. Again, it always goes back to the same thing, which is what I said when I started this business in 2006 on a piece of paper, I swear. It all goes back to the same thing, for me, personally. It’s like, where is my audience? What do they care about? How much time do I need to spend there? Do I understand what that network needs? You know what I mean?

So the strategy is number one. Look, I enjoy giving tips, but I always caution tips with a little caveat to say you should have a proper strategy before you do these things. Otherwise you waste a lot of time and money.

Q – So, like you said, you’re also doing a podcast series. You’re educating people as well, with the keynote speaking. And you’re also helping clients, like B2B clients, or B2C clients. So, how do you unify all these different facets of your career into a unified brand? Your personal brand. How does A Sandler define herself as all three, a social media trainer, a keynote speaker, and even a branding specialist for B2B clients?

A – Well, I like that question, because my agency, JS Media, the former name of it was Agency, and I had that name for years. It’s a long story, but I realized, my point is I realized that, I started getting a lot of client testimonials from big companies, and small companies. And every time I asked them for a testimonial, they would … even if I had a large team, and I was just leading on a project, they wouldn’t, not really reference my company, they always would reference my name.

And I was like, okay, well, I guess I have a strong personal brand. I’m serious, you know? So for me personally, it just hasn’t been … because I’m an educator, and because I believe so much in the importance of anybody that wants to be a brand, that they have to have knowledge and experience to really be an educator, it hasn’t been so difficult to be able to support the different services that I and my company provide, under my personal brand. Because a personal brand is where I put my time and money. You know what I mean?

My own money, my own time. So I cross-share. So something that’s on WonderWomen in Business, I mean I’m the host of the podcast, but we put things out about Ivanka Trump, I mean I don’t want to get into politics, but she had a pretty good speech at the G20 Summit. And I thought it was cool. So I put it out, and I put it out on WonderWomen in Business social platforms, but I put my comment behind it. You know what I’m saying?

And this is what I tell my clients, you know what I mean? Just because you’re putting out content on your company page, if you believe in that content, you should have something behind it, like a comment, or something.

And I’ve been doing that type of work for a long time. People kind of know, through my commentary, through my messaging, and most importantly, through the design, the look and feel, of the things that I put out, across all of my properties, in fact, we are, at this moment, relaunching the Brand You website, with new coloration, to support the other brands. All the brands have to support each other, because it’s like when you look at your personal brand, you want to look at it as if you were a company. You have to have a certain color schema, there’s certain messaging behind it, you have a specific audience.

So, that being said, Pepsi has 300 products, something like that. Why can’t my personal brand have multiple products or services?

The #SocialMediaMarvels is a podcast series that invites digital marketing influencers from across the world to celebrate their journey and get a glimpse of their contributions to the field. Get actionable tips, learn directly from the practitioners, and imbibe it to help your business.

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Athirupa Geetha Manichandar

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