The Marketing Strategist:

How to Think Out Loud in Social Media

June 14, 2011

Many B2B subject matter experts are reluctant to engage in social media because they’re not sure what to talk about. They see a precipice beyond tweeting their latest press release and are reluctant to take the next step. Training subject matter experts on how to use social media tools and giving them guidelines for how to behave are good starts, but there needs to be more. The company needs to create a culture and a process that encourage employees to think out loud. Create an Idea Network as the Basis for Social Media Specifically, marketers need to facilitate a process for internal development of ideas and for external feedback—to transform their companies into idea organizations. Too much of our time is spent disseminating thought leadership (e.g., hiring a writer to interview a subject matter expert and working it up into a piece of content) and not enough on the development of ideas. Marketers must create an idea network within their organizations to spur their subject matter experts to start thinking. The foundation of the idea network is creating both internal and external mechanisms to surface ideas and subject them to discussion and feedback. The combination of internal and external creation and feedback creates friction and competition. Experts need to defend their ideas, get input and collaboration from others, and compete for attention. Here are some examples of how this can work: Internal:
  • Knowledge sharing sessions
  • Awards programs
  • Primary and secondary research
  • Competitive intelligence
  • Customer councils
  • Collaboration with academics and analysts
  • Partnership with trade associations
Companies that are successful thought leaders have made idea development (rather than social media participation) part of employees’ annual goals. High-end consulting firms like McKinsey have done this for years. Ideas are baked into the culture. To rise in the firm, subject matter experts know they need to come up with good ideas and try to get them published. Marketers need to help foster an idea-based culture by facilitating the ideation process. Companies need to create a mechanism—and an expectation—that enables subject matter experts to be thinking all the time. When Ideas Are an Expectation, Social Media Participation is Easier When employees know that they are expected to think—and get those thoughts into the market—engagement in social media participation becomes easier. They have something to talk about! Social media becomes a great test bed for trying out ideas and getting feedback. It also becomes a way to slice up big ideas into more consumable pieces. I’m going to be talking about how thought leadership and social media are connected at the hip during the ITSMA online briefing, Fulfilling the Promise of Integrated Marketing with Social Media later this month. I hope you will join me! To learn more about the idea network and how thought leadership fits into social media, check out the ITSMA Special Report: How to Fit Social Media into Your Overall Marketing Strategy and Make It Stick.

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