Data-driven 10X Digital Marketing

Thought leadership content—it’s an executive’s dream and the perfect way to make your business stand out from the crowd…or is it? According to Edelman’s 2021 B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study, “a pandemic-induced glut of low-quality thought leadership content is diluting its perceived value among B2B decision-makers.”

Don’t worry—content consumption remains high. According to the study, 51 percent of executives spend more time reading thought leadership content now than before the pandemic (more than an hour per week for 48 percent of executives). But in a crowded marketplace, how can you make your thought leadership stand out? Our team at 10x digital recommends the following strategies when tackling thought leadership:

Do: Take a Different Stance

According to Edelman’s study, if a piece of thought leadership doesn’t pique interest in the first minute, 55 percent of decision-makers will move on. So how can you grab interest and create thought leadership that’s smart, powerful, enjoyable, and fun? First, take a different stance, and challenge your audience by:

  • Being yourself: this may seem redundant, but when you’re coming up with your thought-provoking idea, you must be yourself. Don’t say something you don’t believe in, and don’t stir the pot simply because you can.
  • Being prepared for criticism: when you succeed in a social space, you’re going to get a lot of positive feedback—and negative feedback, too. Respond to positive and negative comments, acknowledging the commenter’s opinion and thanking them for engaging in the discussion. Resist the urge to continue the conversation further in any comments sections.
  • Looking for examples: identify other examples of strong thought leadership in your industry. Who is doing it well? How could they be doing it better? If you’re struggling for ideas, consider replying to a thought leadership piece that someone else has created while formulating your own ideas.

Don’t: Make Unsubstantiated Claims Without Data

If you’re going to rock the boat, be sure to do your research. Facts and research are essential when building your reputation as a thought leader. When considering your hot take, turning to facts and analysis should be the first places you go.

Do: Choose a Niche

Thought leadership is essential to building brand trust. According to Edelman’s research, “64% of buyers say that an organization’s thought leadership content is a more trustworthy basis for assessing its capabilities and competency than its marketing materials and product sheets.”

The best way to build trust is to show your audience that you are an expert in your field, and the easiest way to establish yourself as an expert is by choosing a niche. So how can you choose the right place for your thought leadership goals?

  • Consider what you’re good at and what skills you bring to the table: What would you say to another company in a job interview? Leaning into what you’re good at is one of the best ways to identify your niche.
  • Consider what you’re interested in: in the same vein, consider where your interests and passions lie. For example, thought leadership is a passion project, so choose a niche that will allow you to devote the time and energy. 

Don’t: Promote Yourself

When it comes to personal promotion, a little goes a long way. According to research from Influence & Co’s State of Digital Media report, 79 percent of editors say that over-promotion is the most significant problem they see with contributed thought leadership content. Instead of thinking, ‘how can this piece help me,’ think, ‘what kind of writing would I want to read?’ This mindset shift can help professionals who feel too sales-like.

Do: Engage with Your Community

When you’re creating content, you are simultaneously creating an active, listening community. You shouldn’t just shout into the void, and engaging can help you build your audience. Our best tips for engagement include:

  • Reply to comments: always reply to comments on your thought leadership pieces! Replies are easy ways to build your online following and interact with your audience.
  • Engage with other thought leaders: one of the most efficient ways to build your following is to engage with other thought leaders on their posts. Starting a thoughtful discussion or even just commenting on how much you enjoyed their piece is a great way to engage.

Don’t: Use Content Once

Many of our clients struggle with thought leadership content because they don’t realize how versatile it can be. Every piece doesn’t need to be a 10,000-word blog post. When creating content, make sure to break it up into smaller chunks that you can reflect different areas of your business. For example, a long thought leadership piece in a publication could be a two (or three) part blog series on your company website. Then, pull out quotes from the article, and post them on social media. Using content this way can help you get more bang for your buck regarding thought leadership.