One of the buzziest phrases in marketing today, thought leadership, is a kind of content marketing that leverages your skills and experiences to consistently answer questions and solve your target audience’s pain points. If you’re a thought leader, you provide the best and deepest answers to your targets—often before they even have to ask for it.
Why is that so important? Cultivating thought leadership means proactively establishing yourself as an expert in your industry. Providing valuable content to a large audience at a consistent rate shows that you represent the kind of brand trustworthy enough for potential leads to consider buying from.
Let’s say you’ve got the knowledge needed to be a thought leader, but don’t know how to disseminate your insights to gain the recognition. How and where do you establish yourself as a leading voice in your field?
Social media platforms are a great avenue, but it’s a competitive space: Today, 84 percent of B2B companies are using some form of social media marketing in order to reach new leads and share their thoughts on prominent topics. How can you cut through the noise and establish yourself as a go-to resource on social media? Here are three ways.
All thought leaders provide their audiences with valuable information, but the best ones go above and beyond to couch that information in compelling stories. On social media, thought leadership isn’t just about what you say: It’s about how you say it. No matter how great your information is, it needs to be communicated clearly and in an engaging manner. Take advantage of the capabilities of different social media platforms, use video and graphics to illustrate your expertise and tell a story about how and why you’re someone worth hearing out.
The construction and mining equipment provider Caterpillar is a great example of a B2B brand that’s been able to create meaningful thought leadership on social media. According to their digital marketing manager Kevin Espinosa, Caterpillar designed their social media strategy to do two things: learn what people are saying about their products and distribute valuable information through engaging avenues and real-world stories. On their Twitter feed, they celebrate local Caterpillar employees’ and partners’ accomplishments across disciplines and feature the innovations they’re creating. They also feature prominent members of the company, including the CFO, to talk about how they’ve progressed in new markets and what they’ve learned over the years. As a result, Caterpillar has garnered over 74,000 followers on Twitter, and their corporate blog has been named one of the best in the world due to its level of thought leadership.
Follow Caterpillar’s lead and tell a story that shows who you are, what you do and why you’re the expert on the topics your target audience is seeking answers to. Share with your followers how you’ve come to be a thought leader and why your actions make you so knowledgeable.
Take stock of what’s currently being talked about on social media platforms and consider where you can insert yourself into this conversation. Is there a lively discussion around your area of expertise? Who’s doing most of the talking? Are there Twitter chats or events in which you can participate? Look into these options and identify key influencers. With this in mind, bring your thoughts and unique perspective to the table and expand the conversation.
Building relationships is an essential part of establishing yourself as a thought leader on social media. Targeting key influencers in the conversation allows you to reach larger audiences and make your voice heard. But don’t feel that you should only be conversing with those who already have a large following. Take the time to research potential prospects and buyers and make the effort to engage them. Catching these potential buyers at an early stage allows you to educate them and establish your brand as a trusted advisor that understands their problems and how to solve them.
Track, analyze and revise.
What content do you share that gets the most interaction? What gets the least? In order to create consistently good content, it’s essential to track your social media actions and determine what’s most successful. Use Google Analytics and True Social Metrics to take note of how content has performed on different social media channels, and identify trends for not just what’s popular, but with whom and when. Don’t give up on your strategy if you’re not seeing great results right away. Building up a social presence takes time, and especially when starting out, you need to keep building slowly but surely. Switching tactics can erase the work you’ve already done.
However, if you’re consistently finding over time that certain tactics are consistently not working, revise your content for success. When you use data to drive your work, you gain a better picture of which of your thoughts people respond to—helping to build a strong, stable thought leadership brand.
For B2B marketers, thought leadership can’t just be a buzzword. It’s essential to use social media to prove your knowledge, reach new potential customers and allies, and build your brand to demonstrate your abilities in the field.
Avi Levine is the executive director of the Digital Professional Institute (DPI), a Chicago-based programming and digital marketing school setting the standard in digital skills training and education, serving corporations, universities, high schools and individuals to provide the best online and mobile marketing courses and develop the next generation of digital talent. He has more than 10 years of experience growing successful business, including PhilterIt.