A number of months ago, I published a piece on how I generated five million views on LinkedIn in 60 days. At the time, it was an exciting development for me and brought in solid revenue for my business. Some 95 million additional views later, I've realized that this is part of something much bigger than me or my company.

Marketing has changed while no one was looking, and now we're living in a new world. One of the keys to that new world is influencer marketing--but not necessarily the format that most people are talking about today.

We are living in the age of the in-house influencer. Here's what that means, why it matters, and how you can capitalize on it.

The Personal Is Profitable

At this point, I've racked up well over 100 million views on my LinkedIn content. I've also gotten write-ups on sites like BuzzFeed and The Daily Beast--and, of course, I write for Inc.com.

All of this visibility has brought in countless inbound leads for my agency, translating to hundreds of thousands of dollars in new revenue--all completely free of marketing dollars. My personal brand has become one of our most powerful lead magnets and highest-ROI channels for new revenue.

There's one key thing that all of this has made absolutely clear to me: Personal brands convert better than company brands. There are no two ways about it. People identify with people. Berkshire Hathaway may be the legal entity, but it's Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger that people trust with their money.

The same thing played out with my business. People don't engage us because they think our website looks good or because we've worked with Snoop Dogg. They've started coming to us saying, "I want to work with Ben Lee."

This trend has been so dramatic that I've actually changed my title. Instead of CEO, I'm now Chief Revenue Officer. In other words, I'm our in-house influencer. And if you don't have one of those, it's time to get one.

The simple fact that personal brands convert better than company brands means that every company should have an in-house influencer, period.

You don't have to take over the internet: the same principle applies whether you have 5,000 followers or 500,000. The point is that to compete in the digital landscape of 2018 and the 2020s, you must effectively monetize personal brands to grow your organization.

So how do you do that? It's all about the content.

Write from the heart.

On LinkedIn, and with most human-based social networks, drama is what grabs people. That means being emotionally vulnerable, being willing to talk about your failures and crises, and, yes, writing from your heart.

Make your stories concrete by charging them with personal anecdotes. Tell real stories with detail and drama, and don't be afraid to get emotional. While it can be nerve-wracking to leave the detachment of professionalism behind, the truth is people want vulnerability.

If you're willing to show it, people will connect with that. That connection builds trust, and that can eventually lead to a business relationship.

Don't forget Quora.

LinkedIn is a rich network for building your profile through content, but it's not the only arena--and at this moment, Quora is one of the best places on the internet for visibility. One of my recent Quora answers went viral to the tune of 220,000 views - and my biggest hit before that one had only 20,000.

It takes a while to get the hang of it. Once you do, Quora is ripe ground for scoring your first viral pieces, which makes it a great place to start building your personal brand.

Get the whole team involved.

The real takeaway here isn't that you should go try to get millions of views online. The point is that personal brands outperform company brands, and if capitalizing on personal brands isn't part of your company's strategy, you're leaving money on the table.

You don't need everyone in your business to be a superstar. But the more people are willing and able to put themselves out there, write engaging, emotionally vulnerable content, and build their brand as a lead magnet for your company, the better.

At first, it will likely feel strange and unfamiliar. But that's also how Facebook felt in the early days. The businesses that leaned in, got over their reservations, and started on Facebook early were the early adopters of a paradigm shift in marketing.

I'm not saying that this is the next Facebook. I'm saying it's a phenomenon that's only going to grow.

And in a few years' time, it'll be the people who lean in, get over their reservations, and jump on this trend early that win.

Published on: Jun 29, 2018