Thought leadership is overrated

Close up of The Thinkerphoto © 2007 Brian Hillegas | more info (via: Wylio)

“We want this to be a ‘thought leadership’ blog.” Have you heard that before?

“Thought leadership” can be a convenient reason for undertaking all kinds of marketing initiatives without clearly defined goals or objectives: Twitter, business blogging, PR initiatives, you name it.

What the heck is thought leadership anyway – and how can you measure it? How do you know when you have it? Do you find it in:

  • Invitations to speak at conferences?
  • Mentions by the press?
  • Ratings by the analysts?
  • Traffic to your blog?
  • Your Klout score?

Certainly impact is part of it – if a ‘thought leader’ blogs and no one reads it, then whose thoughts are they leading, anyway?

But external measurements of influence like Klout can be gamed: see The Problem with Klout: An Infographic by Mark Schaefer.

Is ‘thought leadership’ obscuring your true objectives?
Each of the symptoms of thought leadership listed above (traffic, analyst/press mentions) is specific and measurable. But are they really your objectives?

  • Do you care more about raw number of hits to your blog, or about the actual prospects visiting your blog that  convert to customers or enter the lead nurturing cycle?
  • Do you care about the attention of analysts and other bloggers, or the attention of your prospective customers and the specific publications or blogs that they read?
  • Do you care about your raw number of Twitter followers, or whether your partners, customers, prospects and others are following you?

Blog traffic is great – but it’s just traffic, not customers. It’s more important to focus on the specific people you want to reach, even if their numbers are small. Mack Collier wrote a great post about a how the actual value of a blog posting had little to do with how many people visited and read it: The 3 Critical Content Creation Questions.

Instead of aiming for leadership, try identifying meaningful objectives for your blog and working to fulfill them. One day you may even find yourself with a loyal following.

6 thoughts on “Thought leadership is overrated

  1. Mack Collier

    Anne thanks for the mention! Marketers are always going to attempt to connect with influencers, and as such, there will always be a market for services such as Klout that attempt to accurately identify who those influencers are. While I agree with many others that Klout is sometimes (often?) way off in its scoring system, it’s still early days, and they have been very engaged so far when it comes to criticism of their process. So I am willing to wait a bit and see if they can improve.

    Thanks again for the thoughts!

    Reply
  2. Anne Janzer Post author

    Mack – so true – and perhaps I’m overly harsh on Klout. What they’re trying to do is good and they need more time – although rankings are always inherently flawed by the biases of what they include. (See the Malcolm Gladwell article in the recent New Yorker about college rankings.) And people are always gaming them. However, I must admit to checking my own Klout score from time to time :-)

    What bothers me more, however, is when people focus on the rankings (or traffic or other metrics of influence) rather than the value – which is something you highlighted so well in your post.

    Reply
  3. Brad Fallon

    It is alright for you Anne to be harsh on Klout since its focus is more on the “status graph” of the user. We keep discussing in the posts about content this, content that, but what Klout is overly concern with who you are and not what you are.

    Reply
  4. Brad Fallon

    It is alright for you Anne to be harsh on Klout since its focus is more on the “status graph” of the user. We keep discussing in the posts about content this, content that, but what Klout seems to be more in concern with who you are and not what you are.

    Reply
  5. Brad Fallon

    It is alright for you Anne to be harsh on Klout since its focus is more on the “status graph” of the user. We keep discussing in the posts about content this and content that, but what Klout seems to be more in concern is with who you are and not what you are.

    Reply
  6. Anne Janzer Post author

    Brad, I agree it’s more important to focus on creating authentic followers and connections that meet your own objectives, rather than connecting with an eye to external ratings. True influence is earned, but awfully hard to measure!

    Reply

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