Are my thought leadership and social efforts having an impact? This is one of the most frequent questions we get from participants; it’s all about assessing impact. In one way, it’s simple. If your ideas and content are being used in marketing or communications campaigns, then you will no doubt be seeing results from campaign managers.
But thought leadership is much more than just the campaign of the week, month or quarter. And developing your skills and social reach is more than just who you reach. Here are the three additional dimensions that we suggest are worth exploring.
Most participants in this coaching programme are already seen as subject matter experts by at least a small group of customers, and often more. They are usually very good at solving problems as defined by the customer. In other words, if someone asks you a question, or gives you a problem, you can deal with it.
But that’s quite a reactive approach.
The step-change that is needed in order to become a thought leader is to become proactive. Instead of reacting to problems and questions, the best thought leaders, like the best leaders more generally, anticipate. They see emerging issues before they become problems. Long before their customers and potential customers have even articulated a problem, they have seen it coming, and started to float ideas for addressing it. These ideas are then ‘out there’ and can be found by potential customers when they start to explore ways to solve their problem.
Of course it’s trickier to measure this than simply counting questions and answers on a website. But it’s actually not that hard to assess. You need to look at changes over time in the popularity of your content. In practice, this means looking at how many times particular blog articles have been viewed, and also how long it takes you to come up with good ideas that generate traction among your following.
Understanding the landscape
Another key measure of your social media impact is how well you think you understand developments in your landscape. Never mind sharing and broadcasting, one of the much-underrated benefits of social media is being able to listen silently, without being noticed, to what everyone else is saying. Social media gives you unprecedented opportunities to listen to your customers, to your competitors, and to influencers in your industry and beyond.
When we’re having a conversation, research shows that most of us don’t really listen. Instead, we spend our time thinking about what we’re going to say next. It’s the same on social media. But instead of worrying about your next post, or the clever comment that you’re going to make in response to someone else, just stop and listen to what’s going on. Listen, and then think about it and what it means.
You will soon realise that you are much more aware of what is happening in your landscape. Go on, track it for yourself. As a side benefit, you will be much better able to contribute to conversations as a result.
It is human nature to want something that makes life easier. It is also human nature to want to connect with other people. As we all become more and more ‘digital’ in our habits, we want to connect digitally. Customers across the ‘decision and use’ cycle will increasingly look for easier ways to connect with your organisation.
Some of these will be impulse decisions. They will see something that triggers an emotional response. Emotional responses are immediate and not necessarily very long-lived, which means that they will want to do something about it now, to seize the moment and make the connection.
Being present on social channels can make a difference to how approachable you are. You can measure this quite easily: look at changes over time in how often people make unsolicited approaches to you. And unsolicited is not just a contact ‘out of the blue’ with no apparent trigger. A comment on a blog post or Tweet could also be unsolicited, if you’ve hit the mark with something you have written. The crucial aspect is whether you have reached out to them personally, or just generally via your ongoing social media activity.
What all these ways of measuring impact has in common is that they are about generating activity. To have an impact, you have to change something: whether your potential customers read what you’ve written, how much you know, or whether someone makes contact with you. In other words, you have to measure what matters most to you.