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Does Thought Leadership Need Social Media?

The natural reaction of most business people and certainly anyone in marketing, communications or social media these days is to label those companies and individuals not using social media as dinosaurs.Does Thought Leadership Need Social Media

But are they?

Thought leadership is content on steroids.  It stands out from the crowd because it is different; it offers something new and the good campaigns deliver information or insights that address a client’s challenges or issues.  In some cases really brilliant thought leadership shifts paradigms of an entire industry.

Thought leadership is no ordinary content but rather content that sets one brand apart from the competition and, in the process, leverages a phenomenal platform for trust and engagement.

Good thought leadership content is sophisticated and intelligent and should be packaging and delivered appropriately to a defined audience.  And herein lies the key.

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Do you know where and how your audience consumes content?

In our recent book on the topic #Thought Leadership Tweet 140 Prompts for Designing and Executing an Effective Thought Leadership Campaign, co-author Dr Liz Alexander and I  ask in tweet #32:

Have you clearly defined who you want to reach with this thought leadership campaign and why?

If for example your market is a small universe of 30-50 senior decision makers at listed companies in a certain sector and they are not using LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube, blogs and the like, why on earth would you need to be on social media?

Great thought leadership goes to the very heart of your markets’ issues – think

  • Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty
  • IBM’s Smarter Planet
  • GE’s Ecomagination
  • Phillip’s Health and Wellbeing campaign
  • Booz&Co’s Global Innovation 1000

The planning for these campaigns had a very clear why, as Simon Sinek says in our tweet# 26:

It doesn’t matter what you do.  It matters why you do it.

Why are you embarking on a thought leadership campaign?

I have been in the public relations game for 23 years.  There was an industry expression back then – “Spray and pray” – it meant sending a press release to as many media contacts as possible hoping to generate coverage.  Of course the results were always poor because three critical questions were not clarified up front:

  1. Why are we doing this?
  2. Who are we trying to reach?
  3. What do they read?

Content planning today is no different. We merely have a host of other channels to use and social media is one of them.

Social media is a conversation

Let’s skip ahead.  You’ve done your research and you know that a lot of your market is consuming social media.  At this point it’s probably worth considering SKM’s Dale Bryce’s question in tweet# 120:

Are you ensuring your thought leadership facilitates a dialog?  Think of it as a conversation.

One of the most critical aspects of any content is whether it facilitates customer engagement and acquisition.   I am singularly and cynically commercial in my view of thought leadership and content – if it is not driving engagement or acquisition why do it.

Tips to succeed with social media as a thought leader

If you are using social media platforms to share your thought leadership content you may want to consider the following to ensure its success:

1. Identify your prospect’s buying cycle

Have you identified the various stages of the engagement and customer buying cycle and are you modifying your content for each stage and using the appropriate channels at each stage? For example what formats do your customers/prospects want – are you offering more than one option e.g. a powerpoint, a pdf, audio, video, etc

2. Leverage your content

Do you have a process to make sure you’re sharing your content and leveraging it appropriately across all the relevant social media channels and are you optimising your content.  Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) has changed and now it is all about targeted content using the key words people search for when looking for information on your topic and, more importantly, gaining links from authoritative influencers.

3. Go visual

All trends indicate that the visual mediums of YouTube, Slideshare, Pinterest, Instagram and using things like Infographics is the way people are trending in their consumption of content.  Are you graphically interpreting your content to take advantage of this trend?

4. Gear your content for earned media

Are you paying enough attention to making your content shareable?  One of the greatest powers of social media is the ability for people to share your content.  Are you designing your content to be shareable and to make it easy for people to link to it?

5. Quantify the revenue impact

There is tons of content on this topic but one stands out – businesses will only allocate big money to your social media campaign if they understand which of your social media channels is truly working.  This means you have to find ways to gather feedback and data that better informs your understanding of your prospects at the various stages of the buying cycle and then critically what impact your content is having on them.

Your metrics may show how many back links you have, how many eyeballs you attracted, how many retweets you received, how many downloads you had, your click-through rate but the bottom line is whether your content enables you to capture these visitors, convert them into leads and ultimately nurture them into customers?

A thought

I leave you with this thought.  Research in a report by KPMG in 2011 “Going Social: How businesses are making the most of social media” found that regardless of industry group or ownership structure, business adoption rates for social media now average around the 70% mark around the world.  Perhaps even more tellingly, the report found that a high proportion of consumers now use social media to inform their purchasing decisions.

Guest Author: Craig Badings is a director at Sydney-based, Cannings Corporate Communications.  He is the co-author of  #THOUGHT LEADERSHIP Tweet: 140 Prompts for Designing and Executing an Effective Thought Leadership Campaign.  You can connect with him on Twitter @ThoughtStrategy or LinkedIn


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