27 Oct What is Executive Thought Leadership (and Why it Matters)
You may have come across this term on social media: “thought leadership.”
What is it and can your company benefit from it?
Below, learn about what makes thought leadership unique, its advantages for your executives and business, and ways to effectively demonstrate thought leadership online.
What is “Thought Leadership”?
Thought leadership is the practice of positioning individuals and organizations as influential figures and experts within their particular industry or niche. For the purposes of this article, we’ll be focusing on executives and how digital marketers can support their company leader’s thought leadership strategy on social media.
Strategic thought leadership is more than just posting on social media as an executive. It’s about sharing valuable content that engages the audience, conveys the executive’s unique perspective, and is situated within the executive’s particular industry.
What’s the Difference Between Thought Leaders and Influencers?
Both thought leaders and influencers work to position themselves as prominent individuals. There are other overlaps between the two groups as well, especially since both use social media as a way to gain influence. However, there are some distinct differences between the two groups, which we outline below:
- Can be considered experts in a particular field.
- Focus on sharing valuable, informative information. They create meaningful discussions and want to be known as knowledgeable.
- Tend to have more niche audiences based on their industry.
- Are motivated by a desire to contribute to the field, share knowledge, and advance the industry.
- Often have more long-term goals and are committed to building their legacy.
- Measure success by the impact their ideas have, their contributions to the field, and recognition by their peers.
- May be known for a particular niche, but may not be considered “experts.”
- Focus on creating engaging, entertaining content to build their following. They want to be known as authentic and relatable.
- Have a broader and, oftentimes, more diverse following built on shared interests, rather than job titles or occupations.
- Are motivated by sponsorships, partnerships, and opportunities for brand collaborations, such as promoting products and services.
- Have a mix of long-term goals (positioning themselves and building a following over time) and short-term goals (securing brand deals).
- Measure success with metrics like follower count, likes, brand partnership revenue, etc.
Why Does Thought Leadership Matter on Social Media?
Strategically positioning your company’s executives on social media as an expert within their industry can yield several benefits:
Strengthening company branding and competitive advantage
A company’s social media page often drives towards different goals compared to an executive’s online presence. By leveraging both, digital marketers can build a stronger, more strategic marketing program. An executive positioned as a thought leader can help strengthen their company’s branding and influence, giving their company a competitive advantage over others in the industry.
Improving network and lead generation opportunities
Executives who strategically leverage social media can use these digital platforms as a way to grow professionally by improving their network and opening themselves up to potential business opportunities. While in-person conferences and meetings can be an effective way to meet new industry peers, sites like LinkedIn offer executives an easy way to connect with like-minded individuals. Potential customers and partners want to know they’re doing business with a reliable company — an executive’s strong positioning and show of expertise can help tip the scales in your company’s favor.
Building credibility, trust, and respect
As thought leaders, executives help shape industry trends. They become inspiring figures for other social media users, and gain respect and trust from their peers. Social media is a public forum. Compared to a company’s social media page, content that comes from an executive is seen as more authentic and relatable.
Increasing engagement on their social media content
As an executive’s social media follower grows, their content may receive more engagement. It’s not always a 1:1 growth (i.e. if you grow your executive’s following by 100, your posts aren’t suddenly going to get 100 more “likes”). Instead, impressions is typically the metric that sees faster growth.
Increased media appearance invitations
Once an executive becomes well established as a thought leader within their industry, they may be invited to share their thoughts with publications and news outlets like CNBC. Getting media appearance invitations shouldn’t be the primary goal for an executive’s social media presence. Digital marketers should consider this as a potential bonus.
What are Ways to Demonstrate Executive Thought Leadership?
Now that we’ve explained what thought leadership is, how thought leaders differ from influencers, and ways thought leadership can benefit both executives and their companies, it’s time to talk about how to actually demonstrate thought leadership on social media.
Share social media content
Executives can share valuable insights, expertise, and innovative ideas that contribute to the industry they’re in. Examples include linking to a third-party article and making an original comment, sharing a text-only post about their thoughts on the latest industry trends, or posting a video featuring them in an interview.
Write long-form articles
Long-form content is an excellent complementary piece to traditional social media content, which tends to be on the shorter side. Articles allow executives to take a deeper dive into a particular topic. There are many areas where these articles can be published, such as on LinkedIn, the company’s website, or even through a publisher like Forbes.
Even if an executive isn’t speaking in a panel, sharing a few photos from a recent conference and their industry thoughts can be effective in positioning executives as thought leaders. It shows that they’re staying active in the community and that they’re well-positioned to speak about a particular topic.These are just some ways executives can showcase their thought leadership. We’ve discussed what it is, but what about what it isn’t?
Posts that are overly promotional aren’t considered thought leadership if the primary message is about selling a product or service. Readers want to see something valuable, such as an insight, rather than what feels like an ad.
While thought leadership can be a part of an executive’s overall personal branding, they’re not quite the exact same. Thought leadership is more about conveying knowledge, while some personal branding activities may focus more on positioning the executive based on their personality or public persona. The focus of thought leadership is often on building credibility, while personal branding tends to focus on how executives present themselves.
Launch Your Executive Thought Leadership Strategy in 2024!
As we get closer to the end of 2023, many marketers are considering ways to strengthen their existing digital marketing program. That’s where their company’s executives come in. As more top companies position their CEOs and executives online, 2024 is a great time to start doing the same at your company. Click the button below to connect with one of our executive social media specialists and learn how your company can benefit from having its executives on platforms like LinkedIn.
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