Don't Be Stupid; Be a Thought Leader!

Forbes

Don’t Be Stupid; Be a Thought Leader!

By Davia Temin and Ian Anderson

Social media is the perfect venue for real thought leadership.

We've already established that too much crass marketing does not work on social media, but what if your company or brand are not conducive to games, contests, interactive ads and other somewhat cutesy stuff?

What if you have a serious product or service, and a serious message to impart?

To my mind, this is really what social media was made for. brand on social media.  Information is the coin of the social media realm, and providing great information is exactly what can distinguish your brand on social media.

Some professional services firms do an excellent job using thought leadership on social media, such as Deloitte, McKinsey and Gartner on Twitter. …  Others, however, seem to be at sea in knowing what will work, and what will not; what is impressive and what is, well, pedestrian… 

Since we work so intensively in thought leadership, I am trying to use my own small company as a laboratory...and learn lessons for our clients from our own successes and mistakes...(watch out for our new website, replacing our static one, later this month..)

We are a serious management consultancy, committed to helping create, enhance and save reputations for a wide array of global companies, services firms, colleges and universities and leaders.  The worlds we work in are usually corporate governance, leadership, crisis and risk mitigation at the very highest levels, brand building, women's leadership, and strategic marketing and thought leadership. I can not imagine a game or contest or give-away that would be suitable for our brand.  

BUT, as a platform on which to display thought leadership, ideas, case histories, and sound judgment, social media is perfect. 

So, since our “don't” today is "Don't be Stupid," here are a few suggestions for how to be smart on social media:

Thought Leadership, Not Thought Followership

Intellectual capital is in rare supply, even at our most prestigious organizations.  But its proper deployment as thought leadership over social media can prove a powerful brand differentiator.

It can help a company recover from serious crisis, as in Toyota’s "Ideas for Good" Challenge, which it launched after its unchecked accelerator crisis. It can establish the expertise of its consultants or faculty, as in Stanford Business School's  Closer Look Series or the Harvard Business Review.  And, thought leadership can also help a service organization, such as an accounting firm, management consultancy or law firm, become an employer of choice for the best young talent.

However much that is called thought leadership is really thought followership in disguise. So, if your company or brand decides to leverage its intellectual capital, please make sure that your ideas really are unique, valuable and first-rate.

Be innovative. Take some risks. Be a leader.  Both in the content you issue and the strategies you use in social media.  And, you do not have to be a services firm to benefit — take a look at the Pepsi Refresh Project .

If you can be innovative, you’ll attract buzz.  If you can connect with your viewers by providing high-quality content and engagement, you’ll help to create an superior reputation, loyal clients and ROI.

Excellent Writing

Along with excellent content comes great writing.  And that means much more than not confusing “their” with “they’re” and “your” with “you’re” (just look at a few twitter accounts to see how little command America has over its language).  Make sure to avoid grammatical errors, but more, express your ideas elegantly and compellingly. 

Keep your readers thinking and engaged.  People have short attention spans nowadays (on average 400-500 words is the most people read online)  so make sure you keep their attention with your ideas and writing. 

Engagement for services companies leans more towards producing the best written and most intelligent pieces. For product companies engagement often means interacting and conversing with your audience — though we emphasize both of these attributes are important for both types of firms.

Constantly Expand Your Circle....Make Technology Serve Your Relationship Growth

The best way to support a services company brand on social media is to first create a platform of influencers and personal connections — people who are really interested in your content and will do what they can to spread your ideas.

From here, with their help and an astute strategy, you’ll be able to expand your reach to the rest of the vast social media universe exponentially.  It is a word-of-mouth game, and great ideas are the currency.

For product brands, often you get a huge following without really trying, but the goal is to engage these “lurking” followers and make them love your brand by creating a unique customer experience and making an impression.  Both types of brands must do this in different ways, but for both, it is the path to ROI.

Choose Your Media and Messaging Carefully

Make sure that your messages and content are congruent with your brand essence.  To quote Marshall McLuhan, the medium really is the message…and you will need to stay facing true north.

For example, if your company is working on new biotech markers to pinpoint SARS outbreaks, you will not want to inject levity, or even casualness, in your social media presence.  However, if your product is a new relaxation technique, you will not want to be too serious…

Use Video (But Look Good On It!)

Video is only going to get more important on social media, especially as a way to encapsulate thought leadership. Talking heads never had such a good opportunity to shine. Take a look at BigThink, TedTalks, McKinsey's Leadership Project: Portrait of Women Leaders  and The Economist. However, if you do chose video, your production values need to be above average, and hopefully excellent. Even if you’re just using YouTube for Thought Leadership, the standard for thought leadership video is much higher than for viral videos of gurgling babies and cute kittens.

Make sure your content is exceptionally well put together and that everything is coherent. And, of course, make sure that your spokespeople, talking heads and lecturers look as good as they can!

We’re not sure if some salons will start offering a social media makeover, but TV anchors have always paid a great deal of attention to their appearance. This too might seep into the video landscape.

Other good places apart from YouTube to post thought leadership video include Fora and Vimeo.

Tomorrow: #7 Don’t Be Indiscrete or Illegal

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