Online Thought Leadership

If you have been blogging, emailing or publishing whitepapers you may be participating in the strategy of Thought Leadership and you didn’t even know it.

What is a “Thought Leader”?

A Thought Leader is a “person who is recognized for innovative ideas and demonstrates the confidence to promote or share those ideas as actionable distilled insights”. (See Wikipedia for the full definition. )

When I think of examples of thought leaders, Seth Godin (I often use the phrase “Meatball Sundae” in conversations) or Guy Kawasaki come to mind. I would also list John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing fame. All of these examples come to mind because of their ability to teach what they know and their willingness to share their knowledge.

I think the key characteristic to becoming a Thought Leader is sharing. I know there have been more than a few times this past quarter where I wondered if I had given away too much information during a sales consultation. But if I don’t position myself as open to questions, what happens when the question becomes “can your company do this”? I don’t want to shut down the conversation.

How do you practice “Thought Leadership”?

First of all, to be successful at this, you need to take off your sales hat. Your purpose is to teach what you know and help your target customers solve a problem. To become an Online Thought Leader, you will need to master the online distribution channels. Typical examples might be:

  • E-mail newsletters
  • Podcasts
  • White papers
  • Webinars
  • Website Content – Downloads, Interactive Features, Case Studies
  • Wikis
  • Video content, vodcasts, and vlogs

I would also add a Facebook page to this list if your Facebook page is an industry topic fan page and not just a page about you or your company. Depending on how you are using them, you could throw Linked In and Twitter into the mix too.

What are the benefits of Thought Leadership?

I think it boils down to, if you put yourself out as a resource, then when someone has a question or a problem to solve, they will go to the resource that first comes to mind. You and your company want to be that resource.

From an online perspective, all of this content you are creating is food for search engines. You are creating more content which gives you more opportunities to rank for more keywords and show up in more search results. The end result being more traffic to your website which should result in more business for your company.

Based on some of the discussions I have read online (I re-tweet articles to @cybervise everyday), it is estimated that a return on this investment may take any where from a few months to at least one year. Online Thought Leadership is a good online strategy, but it is a long-term strategy.