(Click for a larger image version)
The Dummies’ Social Media Guide to Thought Leadership Portals
Thought leadership, what is it? Wikipedia defines a thought leader as “an individual or firm that is recognized as an authority in a specialized field and whose expertise is sought and often rewarded.” If we take this definition, a company that creates a thought leadership portal seeks to be recognized as an authority in a specialized field. This is over and above a normal web site, that often promotes products and services. Expertise is different. It needs a special approach. The Wikipedia definition mentions rewards. A basic reward in a social media context would be for a thought leadership portal to help establish a company as the most talked about within a specialized field compared to its competitors. The most talked about should lead to advantages in referrals, leads and sales. Why would you bother to create a thought leadership portal if it gave you no reward(s)?
Let’s explore the social media aspects of thought leadership portals from six major companies including Coca Cola, SAP, Intel and others.
- What was the social media impact?
- What lessons can we learn?
- How can thought leadership portals be created that drive business results?
Adidas Go All In
Adidas has a thought leadership portal called ‘Go All In’, which has some interesting, mainly sports related content, with vibrant images, videos, and appealing stories. There are three sections; News, Events and Challenges. Within each section, you can view articles ranging from the latest to the most popular. You can also filter by interest or filter by all posts. Only the News section contained articles. I am surprised the other two sections were not loaded with content at launch. Challenges sounds like it could have added some viral impact.
Social sharing is included courtesy of Gigya. This produced a more elegant share experience very much aligned with the style of the Adidas “Go All In” site.
Coca Cola Journey
The Coca Cola journey is available for eight countries plus global. It has six sections; Front page, Brands, Videos, Food, Music and the well named “Unbottled”, which is a blog. This was my favorite section. I quickly noticed this article “Share Your Story #OutofOffice: What Inspires You? Send us your photos, videos and stories!” which was accompanied by a big red call to action button “upload your photos”. In the music section you can play music from Coca Cola via Spotify. You can submit recipes in the food section, and there are also polls. Here is a poll from the food section;
I was soon given an opportunity to sign up to their newsletter by a pop up box that said “Thanks for Visiting! We’re on a mission to refresh the world, one story at a time. Try our newsletter, The Optimist, and see for yourself!”
I love the tone of voice on this portal. Examples of fun “must visit” sections on the Front page are “just poured”, “Staff pics” and the “stay and sip” section. So much content, every section brimming with images, things to do and read.
This portal also includes quick links to the company’s branded social media accounts. Well done Coca Cola.
This is a major portal initiative, evident by the huge choice of languages. The interface is filled with articles ranging from Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, audio (via soundcloud) and video. The result is a ginormous range of user generated content and branded posts. I felt very much involved in the Pepsi brand message after a few minutes browsing. Each article can be shared to Google+, Twitter, Facebook etc. The sections are what’s now, your voice, spotlight, brands and contact. The “What’s now”section has the Pepsi content and the “Your voice” section is where you will find the user generated content. “Brands” is the section which contained the product information. In summary, a fully immersive experience, with a nice mix of cool Pepsi content and user generated content delivered in a highly visual interface, with a huge selection of languages and lots of social sharing opportunities. Bravo Pepsi!
So how does Intel describe their IQ portal? "iQ by Intel explores technology culture, news, trends, innovations, and the people behind them. We focus on the role of technology in our daily lives and human ambitions for making the world a better, more interconnected place. We dig into health, entertainment, fashion, sports, automotive, and other areas to understand how science and design bring new experiences to the things which fascinate us. iQ is where we hear from experts, innovators, researchers, and futurists who help us understand the benefits and challenges these new technologies bring to our lives. iQ by Intel is brought to you by the employees of Intel and our global partners."
The site mainly has the articles presented in a grid design. The IQ Intel portal only has Twitter, Facebook and email share buttons. There is no user generated content or collaboration opportunities.
Fordsocial describes itself as a "fresh way of thinking, interacting and creating that puts you in the driver’s seat. Ford friends, fans and aficionados—this is for you. A place to share your stories, pics, ideas and more. So press play to see what Ford Social has to offer. And then come on in and be a part of the action". This description is very accurate as this thought leadership portal allows user generated content to be posted, unlike many of the others. Users can also read about first-hand experiences from other members and submit their own.
In addition they can post ideas and submit pictures. You can also grab a badge that shows your love for Ford. A very nice easy to use portal.
GEReports has been around for many years. Interesting to see that it is located on Tumblr. "GE Reports is a daily, award-winning online magazine published by GE. The website and its companion Twitter handle feature stories about innovation, science and technology, as well as viewpoints on important issues regarding GE and the world". This portal makes use of the standard share bar in Tumblr, so that Tumblr users can like and reblog articles and follow GEReports in Tumblr. In addition, GE has added social share options for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Reddit for each article.
There is no user generated content or collaboration opportunities.
SAP Business Innovation
This portal has sections called the Future Of Business, Technologies, Line Of Business, Industries and finally SMB. All the main navigation sections except SMB break down into smaller sections. The Technologies section breaks down into subjects like cloud, mobile, big data to mention a few. Each article has an AddThis share button bar as the main way to share. SAP allows non SAP people to become contributors on request by email. There is more than enough content to keep you interested; a proof point for opening up the portal to external authors. We shall see if the huge amount of user generated content would add anything to the social media impact of the SAP Business Innovation portal, and I repeat, the user generated content is huge here!
The Social Media Impact of Thought Leadership Portals
If your company created a thought leadership portal, you would expect that it would (or should) give your company some rewards, some business advantage. What are the benefits of having a thought leadership position?
"The benefits of Thought leadership start with brand affinity. By communicating thought leadership you become part of the conversation, early in the buying journey. You allow your audience to get to know you."
So be a part of the conversation, you must be found, be heard. I conducted a simple exercise to see how many social media mentions had occurred within the last 30 days directly linked or referring to an of the above six thought leadership portals. Here are the results:
(Click for a larger image version)
There was not much between them, with the exception of SAP. It had almost 3x the figure of the smallest result. The SAP social media buzz was mainly powered by Twitter, but was the only one with a global spread. All the other five had their social buzz centered around the United States for the URLs listed in this post. All of the company results were strongest in Twitter with the exception of Pepsi, which had the majority of buzz generated via Facebook.
How To Create Thought Leadership That Drives Results?
I will conclude with 5 steps suggested by Michael Brenner (SAP), in a post published by Forbes.
- Identify the questions your customers are asking.
- Answer those questions.
- “Give to Get”.
- Make it interesting.
- Invite customers to participate.
These steps drive social media results. Business results are measured by a different bean counting device. Thought leadership platforms should be carefully plotted to track how they contribute. They might ideally be best deployed at the top wide end of the traditional sales funnel. They can contribute throughout the funnel, but this must be carefully plotted and measured.
The sections and content direction of thought leadership platforms must have their roots embedded within the key themes or segments of the business from the very start. Coca Cola once said that the “s” in social media did not stand for sales, and this blog post details the story behind that quite well. However, did Coca cola really understand what their platform should contribute and where and how?
Thought leadership platforms that just broadcast will not get the job done. Aim to create awareness, engagement opportunities and then conversion. Understand where the thought leadership portal “adds value” along this path and plot your digital Eco-system including all your relevant digital touch points, above the line, below the line, and hand shakes between them, and measure, and adjust for success!
I am a social media strategist, blogger and speaker about social media marketing. This blog is a fun outlet for me to talk about new trends and applications, especially helpful if you are new to Social media. Subscribe and learn about how to use and adopt Social media for Marketing, and keep up with the latest news. I am also the Head of Social Media for Philips Lighting. I am active with strategy development, activation, governance, projects and educational training activities for all aspects of social media within Philips Lighting. I have been working in the digital marketing area since 1997, and previously held roles in engineering, design and sales. In addition to this blog, I tweet daily on two Twitter accounts, have two Facebook pages, Google+, Pinterest, So.cl, Instagram, and participate in many other social networks.
Connect with me via: Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn | Facebook fan page | SlideShare