A few weeks back Nichole Kelly wrote a series about ego and social and it took me a few weeks to really marinate in her words, the thing that I keep coming back to is this: We are overshooting social media. If the idea was to connect people with people with more immediacy than ever realized before, the opportunity for brands was to transition from monolog to dialog. It is simple. Have a conversation with your customer. Answer their questions. Take care of them when they need you. Occasionally introduce them to new products and services, but mostly, offer them an opportunity to dialog. It is something I like to see from my favorite brands. I like to get ideas for my home and get inspiration for dinner from my favorite brands.
Where we ended up – “Thought Leadership”
We have somehow taken the noble-ish idea of having a conversation with customers on a grand scale, to want to be more “human” and become thought leaders. Talk about ego in social. We should not assume that we are in a position of leadership. I am lucky enough to write for this blog and regularly pontificate about my ideas and thoughts on digital and social media marketing. Does it make me a thought leader? No. It makes me someone who is lucky enough to get 700 words a week to spout off on things in my professional world. I’ve blogged twice now on being useful instead of human.
Where we can go – “Trusted Resource”
And now, I’d like to shift the thinking from becoming a thought leader to just being a trusted resource. Like being useful, it is far more attainable and honestly, what people expect from their product and service providers. We need to be the guys who work at the local bookstore who know all the books ever written about anything. Or the hardware store guy who knows how to hack your broken pipes back together. We trust them. Are they thought leaders in books or plumbing? No. They are people who we trust to ask about our lack of knowledge in a certain area. In fact, I would MUCH rather be a trusted resource over a thought leader any day.
Thought leader does imply a competitive advantage. It implies people will take my work more seriously. Being a thought leader, you are implying that you know more, best. And if I think about, I don’t want that from my favorite brands. I want to feel like I can trust them. I want to feel like that are interested in helping me first. I want to be able to ask a question and get an answer. I want to be able to be inspired and neither of these elements implies thought leadership. One could argue that thought leaders are inspirational. And one would be right. But, I do not feel they are not mutually exclusive.
And let’s be honest, trusted resource is a lot more achievable than 100 thought leaders in an organization. And to that point, can a company BE a thought leader? Or are thought leaders people who work for the company? I struggle with this all the time. Because I cannot think of a single brand that I would label a “thought leader”. There are people who work at certain companies that I view as thought leaders, but it doesn’t inherently translate for me. Call BS on me with this one in the comments. I am wrong all the time!
When you are a trusted resource, you will offer your fans more tips and tricks, answer direct questions and provide them with the information about the best uses for your products and services they never thought of. And it builds trust, because you are there to support them. You are better able to really earn the right to introduce them to new products and ideas when they know and trust your guidance and advice. And best of all, you can back it all up. Being a thought leader means working really hard to stay on the cutting edge. Being a trusted resource is being a customer advocate, being a thought leader might be a little ego-driven.