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Welcome back to the MPN Podcast, where we speak with industry leaders and Microsoft Partners about the big ideas shaping business and technology today. Past episodes feature interviews with inspiring speakers such as David Meerman Scott, Jo Burston, Carol Roth, and Tim Hurson, about everything from marketing to management and the future of the Intelligent Cloud.
In today’s newly released episode, we sit down with Microsoft’s own, Jen Sieger, about how to make the best use of your personal branding and social selling efforts to help drive business growth.
6 Steps to Leveraging Social Media for Personal Branding
Jen has been teaching Microsoft partners how to turn their brand into better sales for a number of years now. Through her work on partner profitability strategy, she has established herself as an industry thought leader on the topic of cloud and social selling. When asked where a good starting point would be for someone looking to expand their reach with limited time and resources, she suggests these 6 steps.
Step 1. Define your brand and your goals.
To define your personal brand and your goals for engagement online, Jen recommends asking the following questions:
- What do you want to be known for?
- What are you passionate about?
- What do you want to accomplish?
Step 2. Establish your presence.
In order to really establish your presence online, Jen says it’s helpful to limit your focus.
“For me, I found that I can’t be on too many channels. I needed to focus on a few. So, I ended up focusing on LinkedIn and Twitter as the primary places where I would share my message.”
-Jen Sieger, Director of Business Strategy, Microsoft
To create a really effective LinkedIn profile you should make sure your profile is complete, that it clearly defines your role and your expertise, and includes a professional picture. On Twitter, provide a brief description of your role or “brand”, include your interests and focus areas, and also include a professional picture so your audience can put a face to your name.
Step 3. Build your network.
To build your online network quickly and effectively, Jen recommends the following best practices:
- Connect with partners and customers on LinkedIn prior to meetings.
- Join industry and other networking groups.
- Follow key thought leaders, showcase pages, etc.
- Use tools like Crowdfire or Owlead to “copy” followers of others like yourself.
- Use tools on LinkedIn and Twitter to identify people you already know.
Step 4. Build and share relevant content.
Jen says that when it comes to content, aim for a blend of authentic professionalism.
“Certainly, as a Microsoft employee, I want to make sure that I’m telling the Microsoft story through the work that I do. But I also want to try to bring authenticity to that by sharing my own unique experiences.”
-Jen Sieger, Director of Business Strategy, Microsoft
She recommends leveraging social tools such as Sociabble and Klout to identify interesting content, then adding your own personal spin or commentary when you retweet to add value for your followers. Save time and effort by scheduling content with tools like Hootsuite, TweetDeck, or Buffer.
Step 5. Listen, engage, and respond.
One of the most important steps in building your brand is interacting with your followers. This requires you to monitor and comment on your contacts’ posts, add value and insight on topics of interest. If you receive inquiries via your social channels, respond within 24 hours. And always thank people for their feedback.
Step 6. Measure results and refine your approach.
To make sure your social selling efforts are truly making a difference, you need to measure your results and constantly refine your approach. On Twitter, you can review the demographic details of your followers, and analyze the results of your tweets. Klout helps optimize when you share your content based on activity level of your audience and provides a score to help you judge how you’re doing. You should also monitor your social selling index and follow the provided guidance for improving your presence.
For more tips on how to turn your personal brand into greater sales, tune into the latest episode of the Microsoft Partner Network Podcast. This and past episodes are available for download on iTunes, SoundCloud, iHeartRadio, Google Play Music, and LibSync. Click the subscribe button for easy access to the latest episodes as they are released every week.
For a full transcript of today’s podcast, please see below.
Host: Welcome to the Microsoft Partner Network Podcast. Every week, we bring in industry leaders and Microsoft partners to talk about the big ideas shaping business and technology today.
In today’s episode, we speak with Jen Sieger, Director of Business Strategy at Microsoft about how to use personal branding and social selling to help drive business growth. Hey, Jen.
Jen Sieger: Hi.
Host: We’re excited to have you here today.
Sieger: Yeah, thanks for inviting me. I appreciate it.
Host: So, tell me a little bit about your experience being with Microsoft nine years.
Sieger: That’s right.
Host: How did you get started in technology?
Sieger: Yeah, so when I joined Microsoft about nine years ago, I started working with ISV partners, spent about 4 ½ years really helping partners to build their business as ISVs. I did a lot of work on channel development, helping them understand how to go to market, those kinds of things. And then, about 4 ½ years ago, I joined the Worldwide Partner organization or One Commercial Partner, which is now what it’s called. And in that role, I was actually responsible for the cloud programs at Microsoft when they were in incubation. So, I spent many years just kind of understanding what it takes for a partner to build their business, how to grow profitably. And that is really where I started working on social selling and thought leadership as a part of my role.
Host: Jen is responsible for some incredible partner profitability work and some of the Modern Partner e-book series that we have on the portal, and the Cloud Practice Development Playbook, so she really understands the minds of our partners and their customers. And I think something you got really interested in was social selling because the social selling is kind of the way to reach customers, right, because of the most buying decision at this point, 60-70%, is made before there’s even any conversation.
Host: And so, I’m curious, social selling is really about building your personal brand first.
Sieger: That’s right. I think it’s important for people to think about what is the voice or the image that you want to portray to the world both individually as people who work for companies and then also for your company? And so, that was really the starting point for me and I think I shared with you a little bit about kind of my own journey. I could go into some details if you like.
Sieger: Yeah, so probably about 3 ½ or so years ago, there was a new role that opened up to lead partner profitability strategy. And my corporate vice president at the time came to me and he said, look, Jen, I think this is a great opportunity for you to take a new role and do something a little different than what you’ve been doing. And so, I was excited about that because at the time, this topic of partner profitability was really an important one for the cloud business and Microsoft and for partners. Partners were always saying, okay, in moving to the cloud, how do I make money? And so, it was really incumbent on me to come up with the story for Microsoft about that.
So, in this conversation with my manager, he kind of said, well, you know, I think go out there, do some presentations, tweet, get out there. And so, it was one of those things as a career marketer—I spent many years in the software industry prior to coming to Microsoft—and I was interested in social and I had done it in previous roles even at Microsoft. But this was really going to be a main part of my role and so, I needed to kind of rise to the challenge. Now, I’m going to tell you, I’m a pretty introverted person and so to think, okay, I’m going to go out there, what am I going to talk about? Like, does anyone care what I’m discussing here? So, the starting point was really to just think about what is that brand that I want to have? What do I want to be about? What do I uniquely bring to the table that I can share with the world? And so, what I started to do was just think about what are some of my skills and what are some of the experiences I’ve had as a marketer in the technology space?
I then started to think about what is this social presence going to look like? And for me, I found that I can’t be on too many channels; I need to kind of focus on a few. And so, I ended up focusing on LinkedIn and Twitter as the primary places where I would share my messages. Of course, we have some videos and things for YouTube and other channels. But those were my two primary ones that I was leading. And then what I did is I also worked closely with, honestly, with your team in building out a blog and kind of sharing insights through that forum as well. So, I kind of picked my channels. And then I did a lot of listening, social listening; that’s a really important thing to do is not just start engaging and throwing information out there but listening to what was top of mind for people.
That ended up transpiring into doing a lot of research. I partnered with IDC on a number of studies over the time that I worked on partner profitability, really to understand on a worldwide basis, what’s interesting to partners? What do they wonder about? What are they doing? Spent a lot of time one to one with some of our top performing partners gathering insights. And so, what I was finding as I was doing all of this was I was coming up with lots and lots of content that I could share through the different channels.
Host: And how did you differentiate building your personal brand, making people understand Jen Seiger from the business side that this is Microsoft?
Sieger: Yeah, that’s a good question. So, I think certainly as a Microsoft employee, I want to make sure that I’m telling the Microsoft story through the work that I do. But I also try to bring authenticity to that from my own unique experiences. So, an example I’ll give you of that one is last year at the Microsoft Inspire conference, I was on stage in a general session and I told a story about my son and competition and how that’s so important in this space as competition is heating up. Now, instead of just talking about competition and throwing numbers out there, I told a personal story about my son. If anyone knows me personally, you know I’m very family focused and I like to tell stories that make things real and so, that’s one way. I think there’s sort of rules of thumb out there in terms of how many times you should share about personal things or company articles and company kind of information versus broader sort of trends. I’ve heard about the 4-1-1 rule—you can share sort for interesting pieces of information about industry trends, might be digital transformation or technology or whatever, to one sort of product or company specific update and then you have to throw in that last one is more a personal thing. Could be you love cats or you love baseball or you’re a fan of the Seahawks and you want to talk about that. So, trying to like balance that out I think is something that’s important because at the end of the day, we’re all people and you want to be interesting to the world.
Host: Yeah. You talked about storytelling, storytelling as a key way to connect with people. Did you get any help in trying to build your brand? Coaching? Or what some other things that you did to build your personal brand?
Sieger: Absolutely. So, I sought out mentors within the company and outside the company who I thought were good storytellers. I got coaching from them, one to one sort of training on how to tell a good story. There’s a real art to telling good stories, I think. It’s something I’m on a journey. I’m always learning how to tell good stories, but I think that if you really want to grab somebody’s attention and you want to bring them into your presentation, a great way to do that is to tell a story at the very beginning. And that’s really what I did. At the conference this last year, I walked on stage and I started with a story and it felt awkward.
Sieger: I practiced it. But it felt awkward to just jump right in, but that’s actually a very effective strategy to get people away from their phones or their computers and get them to pay attention to what you have to say.
Host: That’s super helpful. When you go into these presentations, you kind of start with a story. Do you use any other structures in helping tell your kind of presentations? I would imagine a lot of our partners they’re in front of people. They’re doing this and trying to build their brand and connect on a business side. Is there’s some secret sauce that you think about?
Sieger: Yeah, I mean a lot of times I like to share some interesting data points—things that might not be things that they know about, something compelling to kind of I don’t want to say put fear in their hearts, but sort of say, look, this is – – a lot of times, I would share insights around the cloud opportunity and how big that was or where customers are looking to buy and kind of get their attention and make them think, gosh, am I doing the right things? Or am I missing the boat with my strategy? So, I try to use data to kind of draw people in as well. Now, you don’t want to take that too far because just throwing out numbers all the time, it’s not very interesting. But if you can put some really salient points in there to get their attention and make them realize that maybe they should be listening. I think it’s a good strategy.
Host: Yeah. So, how do you actually turn the brand into a way to make money and to actually get customers? Can you talk a little bit truly social selling?
Sieger: Yeah. So, I think there’s a lot of different ways to do this. I think from a social selling perspective, there’s a couple of key principles. I think one is that you need to engage in social listening and paying attention to what’s happening. So, for example, let’s say you have LinkedIn network. Instead of just going out to LinkedIn and sharing lots of content.
Sieger: You will want to pay attention what other people are posting. So, take a look at there’s lots of moments that happen in a day that would give you an opportunity to reach out. Those could be things like someone’s birthday. Someone changed jobs. Someone posted an article about digital transformation, maybe one of your customers. Those are all moments and opportunities for you to engage. And I think people feel good when people reach out and comment on their articles or comment on their posts or say, hey, I’ve noticed that you changed jobs. I’m so excited for you and this new opportunity. I think you’re going to do great. Those kinds of connections, you connect with people on a personal level in those cases. So, I think part of it is engaging in that social listening piece.
And then as you start to build those relationships, it could mean that you’re sharing really relevant content with people. So, maybe they’ve posted this article on digital transformation and you have some really great information about how your solution can address some of the challenges that they’re talking about in their article. It’s a great opportunity to kind of share some additional information with them.
Now, that is a difference I think – – I was at a presentation earlier this week by Jill Rowley, who’s a sort of social selling strategist and she talked about this mindset change that needs to happen between selling and helping. So, sellers need to think of themselves as helping their customers. And I think that that was a really great way of thinking about this because if you’re helping your customers, they’re not feeling like they’re being sold to. So, those are just a couple of examples I think to answer your question.
Host: Yeah. As you were talking about this, I was thinking about LinkedIn and I was thinking about Sales Navigator and that’s a great tool to do social selling.
Host: And what you’re also talking about is that this takes thought.
Sieger: Yes, it takes a lot of time and effort. So, you might have a lead and instead of just calling up and dialing on that lead, if you’re in a sales position, you could be leveraging Sales Navigator to understand who that person is and to understand the people that they know and how you might be connected to that person, potentially leverage someone within your network to get you a connection into that person who happens to be a lead.
Host: Right, get an introduction really organically.
Sieger: That’s right. Or, you could be going out to let’s say Twitter and you could find out that that person posts a lot of pictures of cats and so they’re clearly like really into cats. So, instead of maybe you bring cats up in the conversation when you do connect with them and try to form that personal connection with people. So, there’s a lot of tools to do this and I think we see that sellers who are leveraging social selling are much more effective. They’re much better at actually closing deals and filling their pipeline. They’re always filling their pipeline because, remember, all those moments in LinkedIn, all those times when you’re connecting with people could be potential opportunities down the line that you could be fostering.
Host: Right. What about Facebook and blogging. You use Twitter and LinkedIn and I agree. I think for social selling and that business standpoint LinkedIn and Twitter are really great. Do you think there’s a time and place for Facebook and what about blogging?
Sieger: I mean I think Facebook, I personally don’t use it for business. It’s more my sort of friends network, where I share pictures and probably too many videos of my son playing basketball to be honest, but I will say it’s a source of information. So, as a seller, just because you’re not going to connect with your customer on Facebook doesn’t mean that you can’t take a look at their Facebook profile and just it’s an information gathering exercise. And there are Facebook groups, obviously, that are very business oriented. And so, I think if you’re thinking about this from a business perspective, the general rule of thumb I think is you go where your customers are. So, your customers are on Facebook.
Sieger: I mean we do work as Microsoft on Facebook all the time because our customers are living there.
Host: Microsoft Partner Network’s on Facebook because we know they’re there.
Sieger: Right. So, I think from a company perspective, if your demographic is in that area, it would behoove you to kind of take a look at that as a channel. But more on a personal level, I’m not seeing a lot of at least in business to business a lot of direct uses for Facebook on a more personal one to one basis.
Host: Right. Right. And then you blog with us, of course.
Sieger: Mmm hmm. Yes.
Host: So, blogging is an important mechanism – –
Host: – – to kind of build your brand.
Host: Do you have any tips and tricks for those that haven’t started blogging or maybe want to start?
Sieger: Yeah, so that’s a great question. I get that a lot from partners. They’ll say, well, what am I going to talk about? How do I get out there? And that’s again it comes down to unique experiences and things that you bring to the table. I think one strategy that has worked really well for a lot of partners is actually to go out and get a lot of people, individuals within their company blogging, so they have a lot of new content to put out all the time. I’ve seen in certain cases they’ll even put an incentive in place, say, hey, if you have your maybe your developers or it could be your engineers and they’ve just come off of a really exciting project they did with a customer, who better than to write about how they leverage technology? It’s a fantastic idea, right? I’ve even seen pay them $100 or they’ll do pizza parties for their team to kind of motivate people to talk. I think customer interactions or you can talk about industry trends. You can talk about how you meet the needs of line of business decision makers. So, I suggest as a starting point just brainstorm. What are all the different kind of potential topics that we could talk about? What do we want to be known for both as a business and then how do we want to establish our own employees as thought leaders? And they may all come to the table with a very different perspective. I mean you were having me blog as a partner profitability expert. We bring in guest bloggers all the time that are partners bringing their perspectives to the table. Others, Gavriela would have a very different perspective. So, I think it’s just leveraging everyone’s strengths and thinking about what could they be sharing?
Host: That’s super helpful. What do you think are some obstacles or don’t do this is you’re going to start being on LinkedIn or Twitter and start building your presence?
Sieger: I think one thing that a lot of people do mistakenly is they only share information about their own company or their own details of their product. And so, it’s not very interesting. It doesn’t capture people’s attention. So, it’s important to share information that’s topical for everyone else. I talked about the 4-1-1 rule earlier; that’s important to think about. And you don’t have to feel like you have to build all the content because we will retweet articles and content from IDC or Gartner or other firms. You can reshare that kind of information and you’re also showing value by doing that. So, I think that it’s not feeling like you have to be the one creating and pushing all of the content.
Host: And it’s funny because Jen and I were talking about our social selling index on Sales Navigator, which is the LinkedIn product to help with social selling and really find leads, and the social selling index is really an indicator of how well you are connecting with others and it’s based off of your likes, how many shares you have, how much you’re liking other people, commenting on other people. So, it really is a function so much of how you’re interacting with others more in most cases actually than what you’re just putting out there from yourself.
Sieger: That’s right.
Host: So, that makes a lot of sense. Okay, so if the partner was going to walk away today, what is the best advice you can give them in terms of leveraging their personal brand and doing social selling, using social media?
Sieger: Yeah. I think as a starting point, it’s figuring out what is that brand that you want to portray to the world? Sit down, think about that, then kind of formulate a plan. Think about what are the channels that I’m going to be present in? And don’t pick too many because it’s hard to spread yourself really thin. I think that as a marketing organization, as an individual who is sharing content, kind of think about strategically where are your customers and then your decisions about where you want to be present should follow that.
The next step is to build your network. So, before any meeting that you have with somebody, connect on LinkedIn prior to your meeting. After your meeting, fine. If you forget, great. But before your meeting, take the time to read through their profile and understand something about that person. Where did they graduate? Maybe you graduated from the same college. Maybe you worked at the same company and you have some of the same people in your networks. Having that information and having a little bit of personal sort of insight when you come into a conversation is huge. So, making sure you’re always being mindful of building that network of people. And don’t be afraid to ask people for introductions. I mean that’s part of the purpose of LinkedIn is to figure out how you’re connected with everybody in the world, right?
Sieger: I spend time as well looking for thought leaders in the industry. Who do I want to connect with? Who do I want to know and follow? Because I follow a lot of social selling strategists, a lot of marketing organizations. I follow a ton of partners. I have lots and lots of connections out there on LinkedIn. That’s just lots of new content that you’re always kind of gathering and you’re learning all the time from your network. So, that’s really important.
I think then it’s taking the time to build and share content and be really dedicated to it. Take time each week. For me, when I was getting started with all of this, I set 30 minutes on my calendar and I said that is my social hour or 30 minutes every day and that got me into just the practice of doing it every day. And so now, I don’t have a 30-minute calendar notice every single day to remind me to jump onto Twitter and LinkedIn; I’m just doing it between meetings or I checked my Twitter before I walked over here this morning to do the podcast. So, always kind of going out there.
And I think the next thing would be making sure that you’re really engaging with people. So, it’s not just about, again, sharing your content but coming back to them and liking their things, retweeting, giving back a little bit. And when you can, making connections within your network I think is really important as well, even if you don’t get something out of that situation, that goes a long way I think in the future.
Sieger: Will be willing to do you a favor I think if you do that.
Sieger: And then finally, measurement. I spend a fair amount of time measuring my success. You mentioned the social selling index, a little competition that we’re going to continue from here, friendly competition, of course.
Sieger: But it’s fun to kind of do that. I look at my analytics on Twitter. There’s a lot of like really good data in there about who’s following me, how many new followers I have, what kinds of content is interesting. So, that’s actually one of the most important things is when I share something, what kind of content gets retweeted the most?
Host: Right. It’s a good indicator.
Sieger: It’s a good indicator of what your audience wants to hear about and what they respond to. So, I spend a lot of time looking at that kind of analytics. Spending a little bit of extra time sometimes when you do a tweet to just find a picture that might grab somebody’s attention, that’s kind of a nice best practice in getting more retweets and likes and that kind of thing. So, measuring your results and refining your approach, I think is an important kind of last step that’s just an ongoing thing.
Host: Right. And it’s always changing.
Sieger: It is always changing.
Host: Always changing and you’ve just got to keep going with it, watch other people, and stay up to date.
Sieger: That’s right. That’s right.
Host: Well, thank you, Jen.
Sieger: Yeah, sure. No, thank you for having me. I appreciate it.
Host: Thanks for coming in.
Host: Thanks for listening today and check out the podcast description for show notes. Be sure to subscribe and keep in touch with us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter at MS Partner.