Thought leadership strategy in social media

For professional services businesses it is important to demonstrate value. Clients demand to see return on investment, and the demand from the market place for what you offer determines how much you can charge for your time. Developing a thought leadership strategy is an extremely effective way of demonstrating to the marketplace how valuable you and your team are. Social media, combined with some careful strategic planning, is a perfect channel for developing a thought leadership marketing plan. And if you get it right it can be transformative.

Before you can begin a thought leadership strategy there are a few things to consider: who are your companies thought leaders, who are the influencers in your network, how often can you create content and how will you distribute it? It is necessary to start to document each of these points. They will evolve over time but let’s look at the starting points.

Every professional service company has at least one thought leader. If you are a small consultancy you may be the one and only. If the company is bigger then it is best to try and get more than one person being a thought leader. This will put less pressure on one person and will exponentially grow the network you have influence over.

You then need to think about who the influencers in your network are. If you use LinkedIn it can be relatively easy to do this. The ones that have the most connections and are most active tend to be the most influential. It can get more complicated than this but in general that’s a great place to start.

It is important to try and plan regular updates to the thought leadership strategy. The first place most companies start is writing short pieces for their own blog. Creating a content roster for this activity is one way to make sure that everybody is participating in the thought leadership process. Try and avoid a flurry of activity followed by a long silence. If you develop a following and then simply stop because you get too busy then you run the risk of disappointing your market.

If you do develop a strategy around your blog you then need to think about distributing your content so it gets in front of more people. One mistake that is easy to make is assuming that people will keep coming back to your site or blog. Chances are they won’t as most of them are as busy as you are. Make sure you employ tools and techniques that automatically send your intent to various social platforms while also making sure you content is easy to share.

The ex CEO of Sun Microsystems, Jonathan Schwartz, is a great example of a business leader who developed a thought leadership strategy. He had a blog where he openly discussed what was on his mind. And he invited comments from the public. Importantly, he tried to answer as many of those comments as possible, especially the negative ones. Over time this created a culture of honesty and a focus around customer service.

This is what being a thought leader is all about. You know a lot about your particular speciality – that covers the thought. How you express that, and how you communicate with your market as you do so is where the leadership part come into play. If your up to the job your market is looking for a leader.

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