“Come as you are, as you were. As I want you to be, as a friend, as a friend. As a known enemy” Kurt Cobain
Thought Leadership is the new battleground for B2B marketers fighting to differentiate their brand from the competition. By utilising new intellectual territory, a company can open up new commercial conversations. But in our experience companies see social media and Thought Leadership as both friend and foe.
As companies invest more money and time in both Thought Leadership and social media, they risk missing a great deal of potential benefit they can achieve by bringing the two together in an integrated way.
All too often, at least in our experience in the tech sector, marketers investing in Thought Leadership view social media primarily as a channel for disseminating content. They understand that social media is important, and that relying on traditional media channels (including email and websites) to promote their ideas is no longer enough. As such, they’re putting Thought Leadership content into blog posts, tweets, videos, and the like — and use the plethora of platforms to promote that content as widely as possible in the social sphere.
This all good, but we think it’s far too limited a view.
In fact, this is a more refined version of the same old one-way broadcast mentality. Wrap a cold towel around your head,confine yourself to a dark room and COGITATE! Do some research, produce a presentation or white paper, and then release it to the world and wait for the acclaim and customer/client inquiries to come rolling in. We did this very successfully at the end of the last century and early noughties.
“Going social” with content gives it a better chance of being seen, but a more collaborative approach to understanding stakeholder issues and creating new Points of View before even creating any content greatly raises the chances that stakeholders will actually be interested.
Socializing every aspect of the Thought Leadership process requires a more fundamental shift than just reformatting content and creating a longer checklist of places to publish. It means a fundamental sea change in attitudes. You have to abandon the thought that you own all the good thinking yourself, that you shouldn’t publish anything until it provides all the answers, and that Thought Leadership is about you talking and stakeholders listening. It is not, social media is all about listening, sharing and collaborating.
The reality is that a lot of great thinking and experience lies outside your company. Stakeholders want to collaborate in developing new approaches and solutions, and the best way to demonstrate expertise is to ask the right questions and facilitate ongoing conversation.
The virtuous circle of social media and Thought Leadership includes five main elements, demonstrated below:
Stakeholder and market insight: Tapping social media and networks to dig deeper (and often faster) into the issues your stakeholders and prospects really care about. You can access the many channels now available but can also build your own stakeholder communities to ensure a steady flow of insight.
Collaborative POV: Don’t rely on a single expert or an internal team. Work with all stakeholders to craft a more relevant and compelling POV to underpin Thought Leadership content. Executive interviews, client roundtables, external working groups, academic and think tank partnerships can all be part of the thinking process, not simply vehicles to disseminate finished products. Social tools make these collaborations far easier and more affordable to manage.
The best routes to market:This is the area marketers are already digging into, and with good reason. If you’re NOT taking advantage of social tools and networks to disseminate your Thought Leadership content, you’re missing an enormous opportunity to reach key stakeholders where they are increasingly spending their time searching for new ideas.
Viral leverage:Your stakeholders and prospects trust independent experts far more than company spokespeople, and gaining their support is far more likely to trigger social media sharing than anything you do directly. Identifying and reaching out constructively to the new influencers in your markets (bloggers, analysts, community managers, etc.) is now essential to Thought Leadership success.
Conversation and community:The old broadcast mode of Thought Leadership assumed a straight line from publication to customer inquiry to sales presentation. In a few cases of rare brilliance, this may even have occurred. In our vastly more networked world, stakeholders want to consider, analyse and debate your ideas at length — and often without you even being present. Inspiring, facilitating, and participating in the conversation is the right goal for Thought Leadership marketing, and using social platforms and communities is the best way to make this possible. It is also the best way to gain deep and ongoing stakeholder and market insight, which keeps the whole circle going.
DVC Consultants is a market leader in transformative consulting. It creates and consults to disruptor, disrupted and challenger brands.
It is clear that brands and their owning companies have no room for complacency, and need constantly to evolve, or risk becoming extinct.
DVC Consultants has therefore developed LOAF (Leadership and Organisation in Anarchic Flux) as a proprietary consulting process for supporting our clients in being disruptors and challengers, rather than being on the receiving end of companies more innovative.
Challenger and Disruptor brands succeed because they emerge from developments not properly observed by market incumbents.
LOAF works because it builds on DVC’s expertise and experience in an eclectic and wide range of sectors and disciplines, including branding, economics, politics, government affairs consultancy and new technologies.