Many brands think of influencer marketing as a way to promote products or newly released content such as songs. Of course, a well-designed influencer campaign is one of the best ways to raise awareness of a brand, help new releases catch on, and generate interest in products or services. But influencer marketing campaigns can also play a bigger role in strategically developing your position as a thought leader in your industry, particularly by amplifying your best content. When you’ve developed truly game changing materials, it’s critical that enough of the right people see it to in turn build your influence and reputation. Here’s a closer look at how thought leadership and influencer marketing work together to help raise the profile of organizations or individual thinkers in their fields.
What is Thought Leadership?
There’s some confusion in the market today about the difference between content marketing and thought leadership. According to the Harvard Business Review real thought leadership can be identified through one question: “Did you produce an idea that changes the way people think and work?”
The study’s authors then applied that question to analyzing the deluge of business books that are published annually to look for examples of books that had a major impact. The Lean Startup by Eric Reis is one example of a book that recently captured the imagination of the business community, and set a major trend in motion (essentially, agile entrepreneurship). How to Win Friends and Influence People is an old school example, but it’s a book that’s still referenced in every MBA class and business blog on essential reading today.
Ultimately, the study’s researchers identified several factors that distinguished successful thought leadership:
- Focus on a specific issue that really matters to the target audience – for example, in business it could be productivity or innovation;
- Work to identify ideas that are timely, namely at the “complex interplay of economic, technological, political, and social forces that can determine which ideas will flop and which will fly in a particular moment;”
- Say something original, that also connects with traditionally accepted truths on the topic;
- Time it right – determining that the market is ready for an idea, but when you’re ahead of the curve.
Another resource, the International Index of Thought Leadership, has identified a thought leading brand as having the following qualities: “a pioneering spirit, rigor, objectivity, authenticity, and clarity.” When the authors shared insights from the most recent index, they highlighted two factors that relate directly to thought leadership. The first is that there’s a big different between brand awareness and thought leadership. The second is that repackaging insights from other people doesn’t necessarily make you a thought leader. Instead, it’s important that you’re contributing something original to the discussion.
When deciding what content you want to laser focus on, the above criteria can provide a useful starting point for identifying your best thought leadership work.
Linking Thought Leadership with Influencer Marketing Campaigns
Think about how influence is built. Someone creates a powerful idea, a brilliant film, or a really detailed and useful piece of content. An initial group of people start to use it or see it, and finds it helpful, funny or inspiring. Ideally, these individuals are trusted authorities within their own spheres. They begin to talk about it. Perhaps they recommend it to their friends and followers, or create a thoughtful post or video about how it impacted them. The media begins to take notice of a trend, further amplifying the exposure of an idea or product. As long as the cycle continues, companies have successful products that seem to sell themselves.
Influencer campaigns work in a similar sense, by helping to put these cycles in motion. But instead of an organic response, brands are taking more control of their relationship with the market, being clear about what they’re trying to achieve, and giving influencers the tools they need to have the right conversation with consumers. Here are three takeaways for ensuring that your thought leadership-driven influencer marketing campaign is a success.
Create clear guidelines that are tied to your objectives: Companies launch thought leadership campaigns for a number of different reasons. In the B2B space, for example, it’s important for being taken seriously as a marketer or service provider. Often, companies invest in thought leadership to support the development of new product lines or brand extensions into new areas. Whether your goals are awareness, improving your positioning vis-à-vis the competition, or something else, be very clear. The guidelines you provide influencers will help ensure that the content you receive meets expectations.
Align with the right influencers: In a thought leadership influencer marketing campaign, your choice of influencers is especially important. Does this brand align with yours? Are they an authority in their space, that you’d be proud of have recommending your products or sharing your content? Learn more about their brand, their content, and their followers. Think of the ideas moving downstream from your company, to the influencer, to their audience. Does that flow of information get you closer to your goals? If so, you’ve found the right fit.
Hire an experienced agency: Developing a successful influencer campaign that’s focused on thought leadership requires a deep understanding of the landscape, the ability to connect with powerful influencers, and ongoing management and monitoring. A partner like FullBottle can handle all the logistics and creative of your campaign, which allows you to focus on continuing to generate thought leadership content and running your business.
Are you interested in learning more about how influencer marketing campaigns on Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, and Vine can amplify your thought leadership content’s reach? Contact FullBottle today to learn more about our solutions and services.