Friday, June 10, 2011

Digital Overload Puts a Premium on Thought Leadership

"Thought leadership" is a great term. It might be a bit overused in today's social media marketing space, but it's important that we social media marketers, particularly in the B2B space, keep it in mind with our business goals.

Almost two years ago, when I began work in social media marketing and set out to define Perficient's social media strategy, I defined our goals in social media in this way:

  1. Develop a community and "center of knowledge" around what we do, proving our abilities and expertise
  2. Generate an interest in Perficient by prospective clients who seek us out as a result of our merits.

This has thought leadership written all over it, and there is no shortage of thought leadership within the company.

Last month, Mashable posted an article that proves this was the right approach, enabling us to capitalize on a key trend in online content consumption and purchase decision-making that has exploded over the past few years. Erica Swallow recapped a presentation by Steve Rubel, EVP of Global Strategy and Insights for Edelman.

Below are the key insights from Steve Rubel, highlighting a shift in consumers' trust from seeking out information and advice from peers, to seeking out the companies who provide:

  1. expert insights and technical experience
  2. good content curation: separating the art from the junk for people to understand it.

We now have over 30 experts across the company empowered to blog weekly or daily and tweet from company profiles. They are constantly curating the best content in their subject areas and contributing unique thought leadership in their space. View all of our active blogs and Twitter profiles here.

With limited time and attention spans, people are experiencing information overload as well as “people overload.
With the dot-com crash, though, publishing costs decreased, enabling almost anyone to be a publisher — thus, the era of “Democratization” (2002-2010). Cue the entrance of mainstream bloggers and Twitter fiends, accompanied by the shift of authority and trust from brands to individuals.
In 2006, during the pinnacle of the era of Democratization, the study found that people trusted their peers most when forming opinions about companies.

The 2011 Trust Barometer survey illustrated an essential shift in trust, with academics, experts and technical experts within companies rising to become the most trusted sources.
“Every company can be a media company.” This is the idea that every brand can create valuable content.
Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are driving increased engagement with brands and increased traffic to the other media spheres.
Find your company’s subject-matter experts and empower them to “cultivate new ideas and engage in meaningful conversation around them,
unprecedented opportunity for companies and individuals to gain authority and become thought leaders by being the ones who “separate art from junk for people to understand it.” Curation is just as important as creation.
People on the Internet do not read,” Rubel says. “They read 20% of a webpage before they move on; 57% never come back to that page; and we spend 15-20 seconds on a webpage before we move on.
The solution is to make data and information more visual and entertaining.
Publish your company’s content, such as slideshows and white papers, on hubs like SlideShare and Scribd, so that interested parties can access it and “go deeper” when they want to.
“Be a source of knowledge,” says Rubel. Social media is a great outlet for doing just that. Rubel recommends that companies empower all of their employees to ask and answer questions via social media, instead of putting a few people in charge of that responsibility.
The Internet is not just a playland; it is an extension of our offline lives, a place where individuals and companies can become highly influential and respected.


  1. Erin-
    Great blog post. I love the "center of knowledge" idea. I think that is what a lot of companies strive for with their blog/social media presence. I find the idea of "community" to be a bit more difficult. Without taking too much time, could you explain how (if at all) you measure community?

    Is it traffic to the site (the more views the more community)? Is it comments (the more conversation the better)? Or is it enough to just know that you're providing great content to the external/internal community whether or not they come back often or comment?


  2. You know, I also struggle with the concept of "community" as it relates to thought leadership. I see cases of other companies creating an online forum or a unique social networking site - but these are usually companies who have a strong fan base or companies whose customers have a very niche similarity about them. This does not apply to us right now, and more importantly, there are already thriving online communities in my space (IT Toolbox or SpiceWorks, for example). We choose to participate in these instead of creating our own. In terms of what we do measure regarding social media, I look at it in three buckets: 1) Visibility -- traffic, impressions, followers, etc. 2) Engagement -- comments, RTs, @ mentions, etc. and 3) Demand Generation / Conversion -- lead forms completed as a direct referral from our blogs, for exampole.


Thank you for commenting on my blog post! I really appreciate the conversation. -Erin

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