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Lee Odden

The Power of We: How to Build Personal & Corporate Brand Thought Leadership Through Social Content

By Lee Odden     Brand Management, Online Marketing
Mari Smith & Lee Odden

Mari Smith exemplifies personal brand through social content

Building personal brand online is easier than ever. It’s also underrated and misunderstood by many companies trying make sense of where personal and brand social media engagement fit in the marketing and communications mix.

For myself, blogging, speaking and becoming an author have been less about becoming a “brandividual” than to serve as a proxy to the consulting that TopRank Online Marketing offers.  This approach has served us well, resulting in creating awareness internationally and keeping customer acquisition costs extremely low.

Alternatively, many companies focus solely on brand promotion without any real people behind those social media interactions.  This generic brand approach often finds social content efforts lacking. Engagement tends to be low, attention spent by the community superficial and the momentum of community growth is elusive.

What’s the solution?  Companies that realize there are amazing stories to be told by internal brand advocates and that scalable social media is more meaningful when there are real people behind it are investing resources into supporting a digital presence for key executives, subject matter experts and even sales or customer service staff. 

In order for everyone to win in this scenario, there are two essential considerations:

  • Which of your personal goals can be facilitated by an enhanced online and social media presence?
  • How can your online thought leadership advance the corporate brand?

When a company has a clear vision about what role social media and content will play in providing value and growing the business, then incorporating a combined personal and brand focused social content effort will help scale the social brand presence, Rather than being seen as mechanical, social interactions combine individual personalities with a common brand narrative resulting in a more meaningful online presence. This presence benefits individuals by creating more awareness of their thought leadership, which in turn reflects positively on the overall brand.

I know from experience there can be some uncertainty and even a little fear of “going social” for many executives. Drawing from my own experience and from many years of consulting with companies, here are some basic steps to get started:

1. Decide: What do you stand for? – What is your unique selling proposition? How do you want to be known in the context of your core values and your expertise within the company?

2. Discover who you’re trying to connect with and how you can help them.  Who can benefit from your knowledge and expertise? In what situations? What are their preferences for information discovery, consumption and action with social content?

3. Develop a social content plan  – Reconcile your personal value and USP (unique selling proposition) with the information needs of those you’re trying to reach. Distill the message of your own thought leadership value into statements. What are the key topics, phrases and words that best support your message? Use those concepts to support your social content plan.

4. Pick a channel and commit – Find an online home or hub for your content, whether it’s a blog, podcast or video channel. Pick spokes that will serve as channels of distribution. Commit to spending a small, but consistent amount of time growing your networks by sharing, engaging and being useful to your community.

5. Schedule participation – “No time” is the number one objection to social media participation and the simplest way to become more efficient is through planning. Networking, content creation and engagement should be scheduled in your daily plan of activities.

For example, spend 15 minutes daily finding useful resources to share and schedule that sharing to publish throughout the day. Find an hour or two, once or twice a week to create content.  Take 5-10 minutes mid-day to review social channels, answer comments and interact on your social channels.  Making social engagement and content party of your routine will ensure consistency. More time practicing these skills will also make you more efficient.

6. Borrow to build – Seek others that already “have” the thought leadership that you seek in specific areas. Find ways to interact with them through social channels, commenting and co-creation of content. Find ways to create value that existing thought leaders want. These interactions can lead to connections that result in collaboration, cross posting of content and by proxy, increased thought leadership for yourself and your brand.

7. Leverage software – Efficiency is key for time and resource starved executives, so tools are essential. In particular, tools for:

  • Monitoring social news and communities – trackur, sproutsocial
  • Curation – scoop.it, storify
  • Social engagement – hootsuite
  • Social publishing  – tumblr, wordpress

I’ve always been a fan of using a hub and spoke model for implementing this kind of approach with a blog as the hub. It doesn’t have to be your own blog either. It can be as a contributor to the corporate blog or another community blog. You don’t need numerous spokes to begin with either. I started with blogging and LinkedIn in 2003. Then I added other social networks, public speaking and more industry involvement over the next 8 years.

If just a handful of executives or public facing figures for a company become savvy about social content and building simultaneous individual and corporate brand thought leadership, the effect on scaling the company’s meaningful social presence can be substantial.

So what’s holding you back? What’s stopping you from taking a leadership position with your brand’s social media approach and activating your internal thought leadership?


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