Thought leadership without social media -- is it still possible?

Thought Leadership and Social Media

A lot of people – including some of us at AMI – have been talking and writing about thought leadership lately.  What it is.  How to establish it.  What content is needed to demonstrate it.  Where that content should be placed.  And what role, if any, social media should play in developing it.

Most conversations about thought leadership tend to focus on a company’s willingness and ability to demonstrate some sort of competitive edge within their industry.  Some have developed superior engineering and software that drive their products.  Others have refined their manufacturing process to assure industry-leading product reliability.  Perhaps you look beyond individual products to identify total solutions to customer needs.  Whatever the approach, establishing a thought leadership position is simply a matter of having enough subject-matter expertise to understand your customers’ problems and demonstrate how your products and services can solve them, right?  Well, not entirely.

Today, people source their information in more ways than ever before, and they do so according to their rules, not ours.  At one end of the spectrum, some of your customers probably still rely on traditional sources such as print media, online directories and trade shows.  At the other end, others may be fully engaged in social media, be it with the popular social channels or by participating in user forums and following blogs.  Most of your customers will fall in the middle.

So how do you position your firm as a thought leader in this new world of media options?  Well, you don’t do it by pretending that social media doesn’t apply to your industry.  That day is gone.  Facebook or Twitter may not yet matter to your customers, but I assure you, some form of social does.  As an industry leader, you need to find out which forms are being used and then develop a plan to own those spaces, or at least actively participate in them.  

According to BtoB Magazine’s Emerging Trend in B-to-B Social Media Marketing study conducted earlier this year, more than half the respondents indicated their firms are at least moderately involved in social media.  Just 9% indicated their company had no involvement.  If you want your company to be perceived as a thought leader by your customers and prospects, you can’t be caught in that 9%. Even if they aren’t fully engaged in social media, seeing that your company is will reinforce your position as a forward-thinking organization.

It’s no longer enough to have industry-leading ideas.  Maybe it never was.  You need to convey those ideas in industry-leading ways.  You need to participate in customer conversations wherever they are taking place.  You need to use social media not only to speak, but also to listen.  You need to develop content that speaks to the problems your customers face and provide the tools to help them solve those problems.   Any finally, you need to make those materials available to customers regardless of where or how they come looking.

If all this seems daunting, give me a call.  I know a good agency that can help you get started.



Jude, you raise some very valid points. The key one of course is the customer or client and what, how and where they consume information.

Any thought leadership initiative that does not have the customer as its primary focus is. at best, bound to fall a bit flat and at worst result in a monumental waste of time and resources.

If you’ve done your research properly, you will have a good idea of your clients’ issues and challenges (the source of your thought leadership material) and what they consume, when and how (the delivery mechanisms for your thought leadership material).

It’s difficult to imagine social media not playing some role if not a major role in this delivery these days.

Thanks, Craig. I agree. The key to any content marketing effort is doing your homework up front so you not only develop timely, relevant content that resonates with your customers and prospects, but also then deliver it in the manner best suited to them. Naturally, social’s adoption varies from person to person and market to market, but it certainly appears we are all trending in that direction.
Thanks again!


Adventive Newsletter Sign Up

Thanks for your interest!

Please give us your e-mail address to begin receiving our e-Newsletter.