In 2020, three respected organizations – Orbit Media, a content marketing and web design company, Mantis Research, specialists at conducting online surveys, and SurveyMonkey – asked 481 marketers a variety of questions on Thought Leadership. Among them were the following:
- Can a brand or organization be a Thought Leader?
- Which qualities are most essential to be a Thought Leader?
- How important is educational content to Thought Leadership?
- How important is social media to Leadership marketing?
What is most interesting about this study is that it is one of the few studies looking into this topic. While some of the findings were to be expected, others proved to be a bit surprising.
For instance, when asked if a brand or an organization can be a Thought Leader, 70 percent, the overwhelming majority, believed brands can be Thought Leaders. This might come as a bit of a surprise because most people think of Thought Leaders as individuals. Steve Jobs is a perfect example, as is Bill Gates.
However, if you step back for a second, you will see that the companies they founded – Apple and Microsoft – have become Thought Leaders in their own right. Apple and Microsoft still set the pace in technology; they are the brands people watch and pay attention to, which is exactly what a Thought Leader – person or organization – is all about.
Other findings include the following.
Which qualities are most essential to be a Thought Leader?
For those people or brands working to become Leaders in their respective fields, this might be the most important question in the survey. They were asking what the key attributes of an effective, and we must add, successful, Thought Leader are. Here is what the survey uncovered:
- More than 80 percent said they had to be “easy to understand.”
- About 65 percent said an effective Thought Leader “challenges the way I think.”
- About the same percentage said they “validate their position with published data/content.”
- Sixty percent of the respondents believe that an effective Thought Leader is someone or an organization that says something new.
Of interest: less than 20 percent said an effective Leader is a person or brand that says something unpopular or controversial. It appears, at least when it comes to being an effective and successful Thought Leader, being positive is more powerful than being controversial.
When it comes to marketing a Thought Leader, how important is educational content?
Not surprisingly, more than 70 percent of those taking part in the survey believed that educational content – content that helps others, teaches, and informs – is essential to be an effective and successful Thought Leader. “Educational content tops the list,” according to the researchers. It’s more important than “the identification of [industry] trends or research reports.”
In other words, Leaders must get published. That’s how they become known, recognized, and their thoughts and perspectives valued. However, the study also found that being interviewed, providing followers with inspirational content, and getting quoted in the media can also help market a Thought Leader.
How important is social media to Leadership marketing?
A decade ago, this question would not have even been considered, but today, it is significant as was borne out in the findings. When it comes to marketing a Leader, individual or brand, 80 percent of the marketers believed social media is crucial.
Related to this, blogging also proved to be an effective way for someone or an organization to market themselves as a Thought Leader. In addition, according to the survey participants, the following were considered effective ways for Thought Leaders to market themselves:
- Original research (into industry issues, for instance)
- Op-eds in major trade and consumer publications
- Press releases.
Finally, there is one more quandary in the survey. That is, how can Thought Leaders determine if their marketing strategies are working?
At the top of the list is web traffic to a Thought Leader’s or brand’s website. This is the first sign that a Leadership marketing strategy is working. After that come leads, media mentions, new customers, improved customer retention, and invitations to speak.