Community Management: One of the core ways to build a following is cultivating community. At the center of this is replying to each comment and dm in a meaningful, humanistic way.

We often use the term “Influencers” to describe people with significant social media followings on platforms like Instagram, Twitter TikTok, Youtube, Linkedin and Facebook. Influencers have become today’s media titans, sought after for everything from product placements to timely trends. What’s the difference between influence and impact? Fans and followers? Sizzle versus staying power?

In this interview series, called, “How To Cultivate Community In A Click to Connect World” we are talking to influencers about how they define success and what we all need to discover about the true nature of influence. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jesse Mills.

Jesse is the founder of Brand Vista, a multicultural social media and experimental branding agency headquartered in Atlanta, Jesse prides himself on being a value-added partner in the branding process. Skilled in corporate communications, marketing strategy, social media, and sponsorship positioning, he is an entrepreneur, speaker, teacher, and fashion/lifestyle influencer. He has managed campaigns for some of the nation’s leading brands including Combs Enterprises, a portfolio of businesses and investments built and cultivated by music legend and mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs; Belvedere; STK steakhouse; Morgan & Morgan attorneys; W Hotels; Heineken; Southern Company utility; Complex culture and style publication; as well as fashion labels and boutiques. He is currently spearheading Bar Vegan and STK in Atlanta.

Thank you for making time to visit with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. How did you discover your career path and what got you to where you are today?

Thanks for having me! I’m from Columbia MD, came to Atlanta to attend Clark Atlanta University and pursue my Marketing degree. What drew me to Atlanta was the culture, entrepreneurial spirit and penchant for creativity. It was one of the best decisions of my life. Working in the creative fields: branding, social media, and event marketing have allowed me to work with some really dope and resonant brands. I work to interweave their brand stories to illustrate the beautiful cultural DNA of Atlanta with authenticity and a good dose of panache.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned along the way that influences how you operate now?

Never assume the client you have today will be there tomorrow, and while you’re working with them make sure your agreements are soundly made and scope of work is clearly understood. One of my best investments was getting a business lawyer to help me do this properly and protect myself and my clients in our contracts.

We’re all searching for some good news. How are you using your platform to make a positive social impact?

I’m a dedicated mentor to emerging marketing professionals, teaching masterclasses, speaking to youth and other motivational-minded groups, and hosting quarterly seminars to empower others to succeed. I also provide daily thought leadership and lifestyle motivation through my social platforms to help push the culture of branding forward.

This is the vocational aspect (my why) behind what I do.

Many of our readers are influencers as well. Others have tried and have yet to succeed. What words of advice would you offer to aspiring influencers, knowing what you know now?

Influence and all social interactions should be firstly rooted in authenticity.

Then from that standpoint make sure there’s a proper behavioral/demographic fit.

Once authenticity and fit is aligned the next step is developing a stylistic trademark: delivering the content in a unique, personalize & differentiated way. That could be through your tone (using humor or precision), delivery of content (using video/photo), or just any wrinkle that you have that’ll make your content look different than other brands and Influencers.

Next step, once you post, is to do community management and actively respond to comments from ppl that engage with your posts and stories. Building an organic convo drives brand intimacy, humanizes your content and is the key to reciprocity on social.

And as a bonus, share a recap which outlines the impact of your work back to the brand. Typically they’ll provide KPIs on the Influencer project. It’s important that you show these insights along with any value added metrics that go above and beyond.

Influencer work is 2 parts: Brand to Consumer (followers), and Brand to Influencer. Internal and external. Excellent customer service should happen both ways. You need to stand out internally as a great vendor for hire as well as externally as a resonant, conversational content Creator.

Success is often a matter of perspective. I’ve always resonated with Henry David Thoreau’s quote, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” How do you see success — or define success — for yourself now?

Success for me, is based in the proper alignment of mental, physical, and spiritual health. These things working in harmony create the framework for amazing things to be contributed to yourself and others. And in the spirit of contribution is vocational and altruistic efforts. If you’re aiming to solve tough problems and help others you’re indispensable. I want to continue to help clients innovate and be a partner in their success. Committing to this daily creates an ecosystem for long term, consistent wins. Next success steps for me: I want to take what I’m doing on a regional and national level and achieve global impact.

What are your strategies to make room for who and what matters most?

Prioritization and discipline need to be our best friends. I’m working on a closer relationship with them, and as I am, it’s leading me to to be more freed up for the most meaningful work I can produce.

Also, knowing what to say No to helps define and carve out more time for more meaningful and fulfilling endeavors (that usually pay more to :). So, say No to things, projects, and people that devalue you or don’t adequately represent your trajectory. Don’t just think how an interaction will benefit you now, but how will it have bearing on the future, more evolved version of yourself.

How do you reduce or mitigate stress?

Morning prayer and meditation, then setting reminders to commit on the things I prayed and meditated on later in the day. Some of these reminders are electronic, on my phone notifications and sometimes they’re written. It’s important to make these things visual and revisit a sound place of peace during the most hectic times of the day.

Moreover, when faced with stress, try to take a second before responding, then breathe and come back with a less emotional/impulsive answer.

I’m going to try a few of your tips, and I’m hopeful our readers will, too. Now it’s time for the big reveal — the moment our readers have been anticipating. What are your “five strategies to cultivate a large & engaged social media community?’ Please share a story or example for each.

Community Management:

One of the core ways to build a following is cultivating community. At the center of this is replying to each comment and dm in a meaningful, humanistic way — Brand Vista client example:

Repost User Generated Content:

User generated content are posts and stories from your clients that have experienced your product or service and shared it to their pages. It’s important to reward them and shout them out to the heavens! This is great when it happens and invaluable third party validation on your stuff. One cool way to do this is with a carousel of a weekly round-up of posts — Brand Vista client example:

Connect online with offline:

Create a strategic pathway to use social media and email marketing host physical or digital (covid-friendly events). Nothing drives brand intimacy more than in-person interaction. Social media can be a strategic key driver for that. Example of Zoom Masterclass I hosted:

Share social proof:

More than anything ppl want results. If you have a great product or service you definitely have clients that love what you do. Chronicle those results with reposts and shares. This also drives FOMO for those that couldn’t make it, and for an added chip on your shoulder, it’s great fuel for the Haters that ain’t think you were gonna pull it off ;). After my Zoom MasterClasses I download post the great feedback from class attendees in a carousel:

Share BIG wins & Milestones:

Along with social proof overtime you’ll accumulate achievements that might be captured from a news medium or from your employer or industry authority. Sharing these wins show your audience you’re on the right track. They’re also great third party validation for you. Don’t be shy about sharing these. You did the work, and you deserve the credit. Here’s a client example we designed, managed, and posted:

What do you do to create a greater sense of connection and community among your fans?

I’ve shared some of my mentoring, coaching and public speaking efforts above. I’d also ad to read and reply to every comment and dm with a personalized response. Social media is SOCIAL, focus on and remember that. This means not just replying to a comment with a like or an emoji, but really responding with a thought out reply, question, or using conversational words/thoughts.

As an influencer, you are, by definition, a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Eliminating college debt is a BIG thing for me. The toll it takes, it’s effect on credit, and debt to income ratio starts our most educated and likely productive people of society behind the eight ball before they even get their first job. If I can inspire a campaign or support an existing one to lessen that burden would be amazing. Also, being a part of a moment for more diversity within senior to executive level marketing roles in corporate America. Sameness and nepotism makes brand outputs dull and less culturally resonate. These are both huge pain points for the creative community.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you’d like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He, she or they might just see this. 🙂

I’d love to sit down with Brendon Burchard or Marie Forleo. They are the foremost leaders in my opinion on lifestyle management, business proficiency and wellness. Let’s skip coffee, lunch and dinner — that’s so normal, I’d jump at the chance for a bottle of champagne and a good talk with them when we’re both off the next day. Let’s vibe and build! Besides, the champagne line is always less crowded than the coffee line ;).

What is the best way for our readers to further follow your work online?

Let’s connect on IG: @Jessebuildsbrands / @Brandvistasocial

Or Linked In: Jesse Mills

Thank you for these thought provoking insights. Here’s to your continued success!

Thank you for having me on your platform. I’m very grateful and it’s an honor to contribute.