Too many marketers in the tech sector are jumping on the social media bandwagon for all the wrong reasons. A Facebook or Twitter page is created and then used to merely push out promotional content. That's a great way to alienate your community or customer prospects. They'll tune out instantly.
Yes, social media is important, and business buyers are definitely using it. In fact, recent research shows about 85 percent of decision-makers are using it mostly for business not personal reasons. Buyers want relevant information well in advance of taking any buying action. They may start using social media to get answers months or years before they buy. Typically they're commenting on discussions, perhaps reviewing related products or services or reading online forums or content. They're in a learning phase.
Often thought leadership is mistakenly only attributed to market share leaders. It's a powerful public relations strategy available to potentially any business where there is a thought leadership vacuum or where there's an opportunity to break out with fresh thinking. Your brand doesn't need to be an Intel or Cisco to seize thought leadership as an engagement strategy.
It's an opportunity to begin building brand awareness and trust. Creating perceptions of expertise is a huge marketing advantage in the tech business sector. I mean, whom do you want to buy from — a brand that shares deep knowledge of its specialty with you, or one that just pushes product announcement tweets at you?
Why engage with your market this way? Because tech buyers don't really “buy” your product or service. They want your brand for its perspective, its values, and what it can offer. Basically, people buy to avoid pain or gain pleasure, in business or not. You don't have to have piles of cash to drive thought leadership via social media. It's not free, but you can effectively compete against larger players with a much lower investment this way.
Quite often, by acting as a thought leader via your social media campaign and other channels, you're providing something competitors aren't. That difference separates your brand from others, which is the core of any successful marketing campaign.
Other benefits of employing a thought leadership campaign are that it:
- Exposes your company's values to your prospects
- Demonstrates expertise where expertise is valued
- Attracts specific kinds of customers
- Changes how people think — usually for the better
- Preempts competitive marketing efforts — If they copy you, do something else
- Attracts attention beyond simple product or company advertising claims.
Strategy first, then tactics. Be sure to create a strategic communications objective so there's management agreement about where you're going and what you want to be known for. Hint: A company or brand can only be effectively known for one thing. Brand extensions are wasteful marketing, but that's another topic.
If you already have a clearly-defined market position, great! What topics will help further cement that authority you've earned? If your company really hasn't established a position it's high time to figure that out and support it with communications demonstrating your difference. Social media is a communications medium you can use to start.
After a strategy is in place, further prepare by developing depth of understanding around key market problems or trends. You may have that information in the heads of people within your company. Knowing what's going on in the market is directly applicable and can help jump-start the thought leadership program. A company audit of this information can help flesh out the program with relevant ideas, preferably BIG ideas. You want ideas that provoke thought and comment and are unique, game-changing, and inspirational. What big ideas are floating around your company that the market wants to hear about?
Give away knowledge freely. Not your trade secrets, but don't be bashful about demonstrating your tech expertise. Keep your communications focused on customer relevance, not on pushing products. Remember, they're after information that prepares them for a future purchase from a trusted brand. Build trust first.
Earn that trust, stand by your principles and support your point-of-view. Also strategically important is keying on a single, high-level topic that leaves room to move. Engaging in and embracing open public discussion around your main topic is at the core of the campaign.
Connect social media to marketing with a meaningful strategy by discussing and sharing information important to those who may or will someday make a purchase. Strategically build brand awareness and trust with a thought leadership-based social media campaign.