On thought leadership

Yesterday Peter Kim tweeted the following:

140 characters are for passing thoughts, not thought leadership.

On Monday, Beth Harte and I spent a solid 15 to 20 minutes on Google chat talking about leadership in social media and the best way to push the thinking further. The reasons why were myriad, but the gist was the seemingly attractive proposition of repurposing other people’s stuff as your own and then passing one’s self off as a thought leader.

Which leads me to this. I love when people in this space are like the following image:


But when they pass themselves off as social media thought leaders based on the accomplishments of others and their content and ideas, then we have a problem. You see the term thought leader in and of itself is innocuous.  It implies so much and yet defines so little. And that just may be the problem. Too many self appointed or even anointed social media thought  leaders and not enough social media leaders.

This space needs leaders

Beth and I have had many discussions on this topic and interestingly enough those discussions have occurred on the phone, via twitter, on Google chat, on the comments section of some of her blog posts, and in the comments section of other people’s blog posts. It obviously is something we both are thinking about and passionate about. I’m not saying there are no social media leaders or thinkers for that matter. But it’s just time to move things forward and let the trolls fight over the scraps that fall on the floor.

So what’s your point Marc?

My point is, I’d like to see more of a focus put on people and ideas that are reshaping the social media landscape rather than a focus on people repeating what they hear or see on the social media landscape. Those are not thought leaders. They’re thought repeaters.

In closing, think about this quote by Deborah Schultz via Twitter:

When authority is defined by influence – popularity beats knowledge…

We need to change this…

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14 thoughts on “On thought leadership

  1. Agree w your comment about thought leaders being those who actually reshape the social media landscape rather than those who simply repeat what they hear or see on the social media landscape. “Those are not thought leaders. They’re thought repeaters.” 🙂

    At Neighborhood America, we have 5 thought leaders in the industry, and the fact that we’ve been in the social media space for 10 years says a lot. Your readers can find out more about Kim Kobza, David Bankston, Tom Edwards, Jason Breed, Dan Miller and their areas of focus here: http://www.neighborhoodamerica.com/speakers.

    Our CIO and VP of Technology, Jim Haughwout, also writes a blog for decision-makers about how to manage technology to drive business value: http://www.the-corner-office.com/

  2. Courtney, thanks. I was going to mention quite a few companies who are doing it right, and certainly NA is one of them. Though they should toot their horn more, their accomplishments speak for themselves.

  3. Marc

    Love the “thought repeaters” line… so true. It’s why we have such a friggin echo chamber here. Go to a SocMe conference and guess what — you get multiple helpings of basically the same POV’s or “thought leadership.”

    Hope folks take your bait and start thinking more and repeating less.

    Keep it real.

  4. @Tom, Thanks I know you are right there with me on this. Case in point is your Mardi Gras twitter project. Forward thinking, actionabale, and measureable. That’s moving things in the right direction, Thinking different, trying things, experimenting, being willing to fail. Those are qualities, not deficiencies and that’s what people need to start doing. Lets get past what is social media already. Thanks for jumping in Tom..:)

  5. Marc, Good Morning
    Perhaps a start to “Leadership” are actionable items. Not sure why the folks in the space aren’t talking about specific projects, what is working, what didn’t work. When is the last time you read a post about What Didn’t Work with a Social Media project.

    There is way too many marketers talking to marketers as opposed to business folks talking to business folks. For goodness sakes, the space draws nearly triple digit comments debating is it PR or Marketing, or whatever. If yu run a Small Business, and I do, It is ALL Marketing, we haven’t the time or energy for such babble.

    What is of Significant Value to Businesses, is this, Here’s the project we are working on, here are the details, and here is exactly what Didn’t Work, and Why.

    Just my two cents, and morning rant LOL,

  6. Perhaps I’m reading too deeply into your focus, Marc, or maybe I’m a stickler for grammar.

    You wrote:

    “I’d like to see more of a focus put on people and ideas that are reshaping the social media landscape rather than a focus on people repeating what they hear or see on the social media landscape.”

    This is illogical to me. If you want a shaper, you do not want someone who is “reshaping.” Typo?

  7. My friend, it’s thought-provoking posts like this that fire me up and keep me coming back.

    I’d been struggling lately to come up with new blog post ideas, and I kept shooting down stuff because quite frankly none of it was very original. I quickly came to the conclusion that it was because I had fallen into the habit of what you said “repeating” or “simply commentating.”

    The designation of Thought Leadership is earned. It isn’t self-appointed and adding it into your title or blog post sub-heading does little to reinforce that designation in the discerning minds of others. In my opinion, you earn it because people of merit (like you or Beth) say “I read something from Person X and she/he made me think differently.” Now that’s earning it baby.

    A wise Social Media Club of KC colleague, Tom Jenkins (@TechGuyTom), once shared something with me that I still find profound and highly relevant to your post: “There’s a distinct difference between accumulated expertise and perceived expertise.” Substitute thought leadership for expertise in Tom’s insight, and it backs up everything you and Beth correctly point out.

    As always, thank you for making me think differently.

  8. @Ari if something is in it’s current state, wouldn’t it be in it’s current shape or form? If so, if we change it, wouldn’t that be construed to be changing it’s shape or reshaping? Ari, focus on the message not the messenger. You know perfectly well what I’m getting at, yet you choose to focus on semantics? Dude you could be such a leader in this space but you keep tripping over yourself.

  9. Eric, I could not agree more. When you go to a conference, the attendees want actionable take-aways, not diatribes on what we NEED to do, or what we SHOULD do. We are just about past the point of writing posts about the how to’s and the what for’s and need to start focusing as you say on the, what worked and what didn’t and why…

  10. This is exactly what I’m talking about. Blogs are a great place to show depth of thinking. I laugh when people take potshots on Twitter, then have nothing but babble on their blogs to back it up. Let’s focus on the builders – not the ones who build themselves up by tearing others down.

  11. “I’d like to see more of a focus put on people and ideas that are reshaping the social media landscape rather than a focus on people repeating what they hear or see on the social media landscape. Those are not thought leaders. They’re thought repeaters.”

    I couldn’t say it any better Marc. It’s time to move the game forward and roll up our sleeves for the hard work hard that is ahead helping clients/employers have the best marketing programs/campaigns possible. Will social media be an integrated part? Possibly. Maybe it’s not time and that’s okay.

    Beth Harte
    Community Manager, MarketingProfs

  12. @Beth Thanks for the inspiration Beth, I’d like to see others take the cue and roll up their sleeves as well. If it means making mistakes, then so be it, but we have take this out further…there is so much we haven’t even begun to think about yet..

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