Posts Tagged Credibility

The price of being a thought leader

Attending a recent social media “bootcamp”, the discussion of content sharing came up. Working with a collection of my organization’s thought leaders, we discussed content creation and strategy. And a question was raised that I feel is worth revisiting.

How much content do we give away? At what point are we showing too much under the hood, sharing too many of the ingredients in the secret sauce, giving away too many of those delicious CostCo food samplers… well you get the idea.

There’s no easy or 100% steadfast rule to this, but I believe that there’s a price to being a thought leader. That means putting something out there can be potentially mimicked or copied. In my business we see it all the time… where competitors suddenly find themselves spouting the same messaging and value proposition that we’ve been communicating for months. And to that I say “THANK YOU!”  Mimicry is the best compliment and only reaffirms our position as thought leaders.

Now obviously you don’t want to be giving away secret algorithms or confidential intellectual property, but there’s nothing wrong with a “how-to” that’s based on your own deep expertise.

I’ll use as an example a good friend who recently remodeled his bathroom. After reading up on all the right things, he decided he could tackle the DIY project himself. Half-way into ripping out the bathroom tiles, he realized that he was over his head. And then he called in the experts that originally advised him on his DIY endeavors.

Moral of the story is that delivering solutions is hard… and just because you have the playbook doesn’t mean you can execute. It requires expertise that can’t be stolen from a blog. It’s actually quite the opposite… that content can only serve to set you up as a thought leader.

So get out there and FREE YOUR CONTENT!


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Consumers, Be Wary of Your Peers

In a recent study by Edelman, the credibility of peers was down 50%, dropping friends down below newspapers and radio, but slightly more than television.

Obviously, this is surprising as it runs counter to virtually everything we have come to believe about social networks, and their value to marketers – friends trust friends. We surf the web for peer reviews, we find out which of our Facebook friends have bought certain products or services…but according to Edelman, we still only “buy” peer advice a quarter of the time.

What that tells me is that at the end of the day customers are wary of just about all promoters in the absence of credibility. The study went on to contrast this with academics, who are trusted better than 60% of the time. Makes sense to me…we generally regard academics as objective, and without agendas. Compare that to government officials, who are trusted just 27% of the time.

Just as we view most politicians as having hidden agendas, we can see how a consumer would want to promote a product they’ve bought…who wants to admit they bought a lousy product? So insteady, pyschologically, we convince ourselves we made a wise buy by convincing others to buy it.

So marketers – as you go out and rally promoters around your brand, ask yourself how credible those endorsements are. I think this is a huge blow to social media advocates and should force marketers to re-assess how they are measuring success among social networks. It also reaffirms that no matter your following, there is no substitute for value creation and quality when it comes to customer needs.


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Can Corporate Blogging be Taken Seriously?

Can corporate blogging be taken seriously?
Can big companies actually do social media right?

Whether tweeting or blogging, its very tough to find large companies publishing credible and genuine content on the web. It’s either a blatant form of self promotion, boring “educational” case studies (translation – more self promotion), or a completely diluted view of the world so as not to offend anyone… In a lot of ways its the political landscape of corporate America projecting itself onto the blogosphere.  Don’t get me wrong, I can understand to some degree the hesitancy of saying the wrong thing…

But not saying the wrong thing and trying to be everything to everyone are two entirely different things; a difference which bigco marketers needs to figure out.

This applies in both B2C and B2B environments, although I think a few consumer marketers have figured out that people buy genuine, they buy self expression (i.e.  see @comcastcares). What’s funny is that you’d think B2B would have this figured out first.

More than consumer marketing, B2B marketing has a lot to do with relationships. People buy from people. Yes reputation, scalability, needs, quality, etc are factors…but above all in B2B, we buy from people.

So why is it that I have yet to find a corporate blog that has really figured this out? Legal backlashes aside, people seem to be afraid of offending folks… NEWSFLASH – People like controversy! Obviously we don’t want to be insulting, but I also want to buy from companies who know who they are and are prepared to defend that position. Make an argument for crying out loud! Convince me! In reality, I don’t think bigcos will ever figure this out – they’re so tightly controlled by the legal and regulatory environments – which to some degree is why small companies are so much more nimble and why the biggest asset bigcos have is their reputation.

And if that’s the case, then I say why bother blogging at all. Because a diluted, vanilla, self-promoting blog can only serve to harm that greatest asset.

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