Many companies in technology-centric industries like to believe that they employ lots of thought leaders, when in fact they don't. Why are they mistaken? They confuse product subject matter expertise (SME) with real thought-leadership. It's not the same. Moreover, informed people understand the key differences.
What is Respected Industry Thought Leadership?
According to Craig Bading, who wrote a book on the subject, "Thought Leadership is establishing a relationship with and delivering something of value to your stakeholders and customers that aligns with your brand/company value. In the process you go well beyond merely selling a product or service and establish your brand/company as the expert in that field and differentiate yourself from your competitors."
Are you still confused -- does your company employ recognized thought leaders? Let's consider some of the common characteristics of corporate SMEs who are likely NOT industry thought leaders:
- You are very knowledgeable about your own company's products or services but you don't really understand the macro environment of your target customer segment. You offer naive perspectives.
- Your name is on lots of white papers and blog posts, but a ghost writer produced all the meaningful content. You speak in sound-bites, but there's little substance in your point of view.
- You frequently attend internal company meetings to increase your exposure, but people in the marketplace never come to you for guidance. In summary, your market influence is insignificant.
Thought Leadership and the Role of Content Curation
Creating, finding and sharing compelling content can prove to people that you know your marketplace, you're a true thought leader in your industry and can help customers prepare for important new developments.
Why are real thought leaders in such demand, and how do they actively benefit their employer? eMarketer reports that marketers are placing an ever-greater emphasis on content marketing's ability to add value for targets and prospects.
According to February 2011 market study by HiveFire, nearly half of U.S. marketing professionals surveyed are now curating content as part of their strategy, and another 42 percent are familiar with the practice but not participating.
Even among that group, 85 percent had done at least some content curation -- for example by sending an article or other content to a prospect. The main objectives of content curation, according to the survey, were establishing thought leadership and improving brand buzz.
Earlier research conducted by Junta42 and MarketingProfs in May 2010 found that brand awareness was the top goal of content marketing for business-to-business marketers in North America -- cited by 78 percent of respondents.
And while lead generation and search engine optimization were lesser objectives in the HiveFire study, content marketing is proven to improve results in both areas. Besides, HubSpot has also reported on the effectiveness of blogging -- and how content created for social media efforts can boost search rankings.
How Content Curation Helps You Attract Followers
Effective content curation is rare, and perhaps relatively unique. According to HiveFire, the greatest challenges are creating content that is original and compelling, and finding the time to do so. However, it's less challenging to find quality content from third parties. Regardless, nearly half of marketers reported that it was still difficult.
The survey results also found content curation was growing in importance, with nearly seven in ten respondents saying that finding, organizing and sharing content was more important than it was last year. The same number believe it will be still more important in 2012.
Once again, it helps to list the characteristics of companies that are likely NOT good content curators. Your blog posts are always about your products and services and you hardly ever link to outside resources. Your twitter stream is mostly about your company with the odd mention of customers -- it rarely includes links to content with meaningful insights for your primary stakeholders.