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Socializing Thought Leadership

  |  July 17, 2012   |  Comments

Making your thought leadership materials go viral.

At our agency we have a saying for B2B and other consumer companies that are engaged in social yet don't have the likability as say Skittles or Oreo cookies. That saying is, "You don't need a million fans."

The reality is most companies, and most likely your company, will never have a million fans. But somehow social media marketing still gets boiled down to how many Facebook fans you have. What that notion misses is that social media for most organizations is not about how many people connect to your Facebook page. It's about how many people talk about you positively and share your stuff. It's about getting people to incorporate your brand and content into their social and real-world dialogues and purchasing decisions.

So this is where thought leadership and social sharing come in. In thought leadership, the share (the act of someone emailing or posting your materials to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or other social sites) can be far more valuable than a Facebook "like." When people share your content they are a) endorsing it and b) weaving it into the very fabric of the web. It becomes popular and echoes out into blogs and mainstream media and pops more in the search engines. When this happens you not only embed your influence directly into the web - your social media marketing success starts to be realized via organic search. People search on terms related to your content and your content pops in results on other companies' sites. This is social success realized through search!

Below are two big sets of recommendations to help you with your social media thought leadership programs:

  1. Socially enable your content
  2. Implement best practices to the production of your thought leadership materials

Socially Enable Your Content

So often I see sites that "hide the share." When you go through the trouble of producing a great chart, image, checklist, guide, or whatever - celebrate the share. Make social sharing a huge, honking call to action! Let people look smart by promoting your materials!


Thought Leadership Material Best Practices

Following are a set of guiding principles and best practices we try to apply to thought leadership materials to increase their value, power, viral distribution potential, and ultimate success. Let me start by saying while I know the power of video and the age of the white paper is not over, content development can be risky. Videos, more often than not, do not get watched in any significant numbers (I mean, we all cannot produce Honey Badger), and who wants to read a 10-page white paper? Today, content has to be lightweight. That means easy to produce, easy to consume, easy to share, and easy to republish. Here are some thought leadership content development tactics and tips to make that happen.

  • Lightweight, quick, and easy:
    • Is this a 20-page white paper or study no one will read, or is it a "lightweight" checklist, guide, chart, or infographic that someone can absorb in an instant?
    • Lightweight content is easy to create, consume, and share!
  • Valuable, interesting, and educational:
    • Is this something that a) is truly valuable and b) really teaches someone?
    • I always say, "teach someone something valuable and your brand will stick in their brain forever."
    • Will people want to print this out to post on their wall or bulletin board or take it to a meeting?
  • Simple:
    • If your materials are too hard to understand for your target audience, they won't learn anything and they won't remember it, share it, or value it.
    • The mark of a true expert is not just a person who understands everything about a topic, but a person who can explain that topic to others so they understand.
    • True thought leaders take complex subjects and make them simple.
  • Portable, sharable, and printable:
    • Can the materials be easily shared via email, social media, and more?
    • Can it be easily printed on a single 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper?
    • Can it easily be a printed piece, displayed online as a graphic, put on a PowerPoint slide, and turned into a PDF?
  • Optimized for SEO:
    • Do you have a good landing page that is optimized for Google and the other major search properties?
    • As mentioned above, do you have share buttons prominently placed as big, noisy calls to action?
    • Again, if people cannot find the materials, what good are they?
  • Campaign-ready:
    • Can the benefit of what people will learn be communicated in an instant via email, word of mouth, paid search, banners, in print, outdoor, etc.?
  • Repeatable:
    • Can you create different versions and update the asset for years to come?
    • Version 1, 1.2, 1.3, 2.0, 2.1, etc.

I hope these tactics help you spread your good materials off the web! Any other suggestions - please add them as comments!



Harry Gold

As founder and CEO of Overdrive, Harry Gold is the architect and conductor behind the company's ROI-driven programs. His primary mission is to create innovative marketing programs based on real-world success and to ensure the marketing and technology practices that drive those successes are continually institutionalized into the culture and methods of the agency. What excites him is the knowledge that Overdrive's collaborative environment has created a company of online media, SEM, and online behavioral experts who drive success for the clients and companies they serve. Overdrive serves a diverse base of B2B and B2C clients that demand a high level of accountability and ROI from their online programs and campaigns.

Harry started his career in 1995 when he founded online marketing firm Interactive Promotions, serving such clients as Microsoft, "The Financial Times," the Hard Rock Cafe, and the City of Boston. Since then, he has been at the forefront of online branding and channel creation, developing successful Web and search engine-based marketing programs for various agencies and Fortune 500 companies.

Harry is a frequent lecturer on SEM and online media for The New England Direct Marketing Association; Ad Club; the University of Massachusetts, Boston; Harvard University; and Boston University.

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