Today, like most days, I start my morning with a daily dose of social media scan – what is going on in the twitter sphere, LinkedIn groups and on the private communities where I am a member. I can’t help but notice the vast difference between the two types of social media I receive: thought leadership content, which I quickly gravitate towards to fuel my day and work practice with innovative ideas and new concepts to think about, and all the other stuff: marketing plugs, teaser activities to drive traffic, come-ons to open sales doors. This is stuff I never read, and I doubt you do either.
Here’s what’s interesting about this phenomenon: when social media programs are poorly designed, they can actually reduce new business instead of facilitating it. There is a medical term called “iatrogenesis” — an illness stemming from a bad medical treatment or intervention. Poorly-conceived or executed social media marketing programs will have a similar effect on the health of your business. A corporate Facebook account with few followers, a self-promotional twitter stream, a over-eager LinkedIn user can injure your brand and reduce sales.
Consider the flip side: many elegant and well-produced social media marketing efforts, centered on providing value and offering thought leadership content, can really make a difference to the brand and drive sales. While not claiming we are especially elegant, let me be explicit: the content we provide on the Leader Networks blog drives the majority of our new business.
We focus on being useful, creating helpful and actionable information so companies can succeed with social business programs. Our efforts drive most of our clients to call us. They see the Strategy Map, Social CRM, social media marketing training programs and great posts from thought leaders we trust, such as Don Bulmer of SAP. (And here’s a shout-out of thanks to all who find value in our content!)
Our friends over at Bloom Group are experts at developing thought leadership content for big brands. They talk extensively about the power of thought leadership as a marketing channel. In a recent blog post, Bloom Group CEO Bob Buday writes:
Good marketing generates many leads. It also gets a firm recognized by companies that don’t need help at the moment but will in the future, what marketers call “market awareness.”
That’s the value of good marketing. Great marketing produces an abundance of leads – many more than a firm can handle at the time. It also spawns widespread awareness. But great marketing generates two other things that are even more important: the discretion to work only with clients who share your vision and values, and the dignity of knowing you can stick to your principles.
Discretion and dignity can’t be quantified in revenue and profit. But for managers who take pride in their company and their work, discretion and dignity are far more useful for the soul.
Before your marketing department skips off to push information about a webinar or a new product or service out the virtual door, it’s worth taking a moment to ask: Is this information adding value in the social sphere? Would anyone care about this tweet, post or blog? Is it simply self-serving? Does it demonstrate integrity and shepherd a new idea or point-of-view? Does it demonstrate trust and a deep awareness of the audience and business needs it tries to support?
And, simply put, would anyone want to say “thank you” for this information?