If your business has ever published on social media, you’ve likely discovered that success on social isn’t just about throwing content at a wall; it’s about developing a content strategy that supports your specific marketing objectives. Whether that objective is brand awareness or conversion, your brand may be missing out on a lot of engagement if thought leadership isn’t part of your content rotation.
Despite what many assume, thought leaders don’t have to be social media celebrities with a multi-million dollar company or thousands of LinkedIn followers. In fact, a 2020 survey from SurveyMonkey revealed that 77% of people don’t think a thought leader needs to have a large social media following. In other words, the barriers to entry are low: all you need is experience in your field and a fresh perspective. (And as a small business owner or entrepreneur, you already have both in spades.)
From getting your foot in the door to creating brand loyalists that will stay with you forever, here’s why thought leadership should be a part of your social media content strategy.
Brand Awareness and Credibility
Thought leadership accomplishes two goals for your brand: First, when you post branded content on social media, you increase the chance of new audiences discovering your business (brand awareness). Then, when that content provides valuable insights on an industry topic, your brand builds some cachet (brand credibility). Social media users no longer view you as “just another brand,” but as an authority in your field.
In fact, thought leadership plays a crucial role in shaping brand perception. In a 2021 report from Edelman and LinkedIn, 64% of people said a business’s thought leadership was “a more trustworthy basis for assessing its capabilities and competency than its marketing materials.” Sixty-five percent even reported that a piece of thought leadership “significantly changed” their opinion of a company.
Today’s consumers are savvy. They recognize that while any brand can make impressive claims, only the truly competent ones can produce insightful content. So don’t just tell your audience that you’re great; show them.
Web Traffic, Lead Generation, and Brand Loyalty
By boosting your brand’s image, thought leadership sets off a chain reaction that can lead to website visits, leads, and even purchases. Seventy-one percent of marketers told SurveyMonkey that web traffic has benefited from thought leadership, and 62% reported the same for lead generation.
Meanwhile, 48% of B2B decision-makers said that after consuming a piece of thought leadership, they gave their business to the organization responsible for it (Edelman). Fifty-four percent of those decision-makers even made a purchase that they had not previously considered.
And for small businesses, this type of content isn’t just a “nice-to-have,” but a “need-to-have.” According to Edelman, 53% of buyers agreed that “it's important for new and small companies to produce thought leadership if they want buyers to consider working with them.” In other words, when you don’t have a robust brand legacy to lean on, thought leadership becomes even more instrumental in winning new customers.
The ultimate goal of thought leadership isn’t just brand awareness or conversion, but brand loyalty: When consumers and business leaders reap value from your content and believe that you provide higher-quality services, they’ll grow to favor your brand over all others.
How To Do It
The sheer volume of thought leadership content on social media means that small businesses need an airtight strategy in order to stand out. Here are some best practices to implement:
- The more specific your content, the more valuable and actionable it will be. A 2018 survey from Grist even reported that 39% of business leaders are uninterested in thought leadership that is too generic. So, instead of taking a macro view of your subject, zoom in on just one aspect at a time. The content will be more practical, and you'll be able to get more posts out of a single subject.
- “Fresh thinking” and “opinionated insights” are some of the most valued qualities of thought leadership among the C-Suite (Grist). However, 58% of respondents also expect those insights to be backed up by data; otherwise, they’re likely to move on. Original research lets you quantify your opinions, and it’s arguably one of the most authoritative forms of thought leadership out there.
- If you haven’t conducted any research or built a robust content library yet, you can still add value to your audience’s feed by curating content from trade publications and news sources. Sixty-six percent of business leaders use thought leadership to keep up with industry trends, and yours can be the account they turn to for their weekly fix (Grist). You’ll look like a business with its finger on the pulse of what’s happening in your industry–plus, you can always contribute your own opinion when you share the article.
- True, frequent posting on social media does expose your brand to more people. However, thought leadership doesn’t add value by simply existing, but by providing quality insights. Interestingly, 71% of decision-makers in Edelman’s survey agreed that most of the thought leadership they see is not high-quality. It’s far more strategic (and less time-consuming) to put out a few first-rate thought leadership posts a month than to publish one mediocre post every day.
Remember: thought leadership isn’t just for social media celebrities or famous CEOs. When you integrate insightful content into your social media strategy, you’ll reap the benefits at almost every stage of the customer journey, from brand awareness to conversion. A mixture of fresh opinions, published research, and curated content will position your small business not only as an authority in the field–but as a competent brand worthy of someone’s business.