winter / 2014

The magazine of branded content
LinkedIn’s senior manager of content marketing writes the book on leveraging digital chops to career success
Jan 21, 2015

It was four years ago, but for Jason Miller the memory of the day remains like a handprint in concrete: after an album from the music group Cake had debuted at #1 on the Billboard Chart, Miller, a 10-year employee in the Sony Music marketing department, did the unexpected and quit his job.

The problem, ostensibly, was that the album had sold only 44,000 copies, the lowest tally for a top-seller in Billboard history. The music industry was clearly sinking. But the bigger problem, in Miller’s view, could be found in the industry’s unwillingness to adopt content and social marketing tactics to help bail themselves out.

“I try to reach the marketer who’s using content and show them how they can use LinkedIn as part of their integrative strategy to drive business.”

“I had all these ideas for social and blogging and content,” says Miller. “And they wanted nothing to do with it. It was like an ivory tower, because they would be sitting in New York, where they couldn’t see what was going on in the real world or in the street. They relied on radio stations and radio stations were dying right alongside them.”

Fortunately, Miller had the foresight while employed at Sony to enroll in SEO and digital marketing courses at UC Berkeley, where his path to re-creation would begin. “I call it becoming the ‘hybrid marketer,’” he says, “you don’t have to be an expert in any one thing, but you have to understand how all these things work together. So, am I an expert in SEO? No, but I understand how SEO plays with content and social. Am I an expert in demand generation? No, but I understand how it works with social content, SEO and market automation.”

But the real learning, figuring out how to optimize and promote, to become his own media channel, to empathize with an audience, came from the actual “doing,” which started with the live music blog and a supporting Twitter feed he had started. “I found that if I had a problem and I solved it, and I wrote a blog post about it, and just from basic optimization on that blog, it seemed to catch fire,” he says. “It’s very simple. The more problems I solved myself the better I became at what I did, but along the way I built the reputation for knowing, becoming this guy who knows marketing, based on a tremendous amount of trial and error and research.”

“Move beyond the ‘you’ve got to think like a publisher’ idea, and instead publish like a publisher.”

A job at digital startup Market Tools followed, and then a position as senior manager of social media strategy at Marketo. In July 2013, he accepted a position as senior manager of content marketing at LinkedIn. “I was hired to build this global content engine to tell the story of the marketer on LinkedIn,” says Miller. “I try to reach the marketer who’s using content and show them how they can use LinkedIn as part of their integrative strategy to really drive business.”

When he first arrived at LinkedIn, he quickly identified a problem when he typed into a search engine the phrases “how do I market on LinkedIn?” and “how do I market successfully on LinkedIn?” “You would get third party posts from the Social Media Examiners and Social Media Explorers, all the way down the line, page after page, answering the question and then reaping all the benefits of the traffic. I think our post was on page 60. So I did what I had done at Marketo: I decided I needed to own the conversation.”

“Owning the conversation” manifested itself in literally “writing the book” on the subject. “I had to move beyond the ‘oh you’ve got to think like a publisher,’ idea, and instead publish like a publisher,” he says. “Publishers write books to own conversations. The conversation I want to own is ‘how do I market on LinkedIn?’ So I wrote the book for sophisticated marketers at LinkedIn.”

“You don’t necessarily need more content, you need more relevant content.”

Four months of work—he outsourced the writing—yielded a 56-page PDF called The Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to LinkedIn, explaining everything you’d want to know about amplifying your brand or service on the platform. “I’ve written strategically, instead of instructionally,” says Miller, who called on the content and social marketing influencers he had befriended while at Marketo to contribute to an “Ask the Experts” series.

The Guide launched in January of 2013, and Miller’s strategic approach allowed him and his team of four to re-purpose it into 56 pieces of “small slice” content. “Every time it touched somebody we would track to see where they found it, where they came from and whether or not they turned it into an opportunity and a close,” says Miller, who details this approach in his recent book, Welcome to the Funnel.

To date, by deploying Eloqua and a proprietary LinkedIn marketing solution, the Guide has proved to be rocket fuel for inbound, driving $4.6 million worth of business for LinkedIn.

“I call it becoming the ‘hybrid marketer’—you don’t have to be an expert in any one thing, but you have to understand how all these things work together.”

“It just goes to show that you don’t necessarily need more content, you need more relevant content,” he says. “And if you know your audience you can target them with social and turn them into qualified leads.”

Makes sense. For this refugee from the music industry, who continues to blog at Rock N Roll Cocktail, and whose journey of re-creation has landed him as a content marketing savant for one of the world’s biggest social media platforms, Jason Miller has always seen reward in the idea of amplification.