The message, though, is clear. Content may be king, but it is also ubiquitous. With each passing year, the internet matures a little bit more, and new niches are filled in across every corner of the online world. What hope is there of standing out in such a crowded field?
Put like that, the question (rhetorical or not) seems daunting. But perhaps it is the wrong question to be asking. Let’s try a different way of framing the issue. How about this:
Content is easy.
Quality content is harder.
Reputation – now that’s something truly rare.
Good reputations are rare because they are difficult to achieve, not because their formation is mysterious. Any company can build a solid reputation for itself if it chooses to. Good (digital) marketing is important, but the real key here is dedication to the right set of principles, applied over the medium to long term.
If you want to be seen as the best (or most knowledgeable) in your field, you have to show that quality and that knowledge to everybody. In the previous sentence, “everybody” really means everybody, not just your customers. The most effective way to demonstrate your expertise is with thought leadership: The art of giving away some insider information for free, to prove your bona fides.
Tell people something they don’t already know, and they’ll thank you for it. Make it interesting or fun, and they’ll come back to you again later to see what else you have to share. Put it in blog format on your own website, and keep publishing more thought leadership until you get a reputation for being an expert in your field. Then publish even more.
The tricky – and for some people, counterintuitive – point is that thought leadership is best when it isn’t accompanied by a flashy *buy now!* button or a heavy sales pitch. Think of it instead as a cousin of the widely-used concept of corporate social responsibility. As with CSR, thought leadership simply acts as a gesture of goodwill, offering a positive experience for its recipients while putting a human face on the company practicing it.
Think, for example, of an exercise gym with a blog about nutrition on its website. It doesn’t cost the gym much to share its knowledge of the human body’s needs. But the effect is that people interested in fitness will also be thankful to receive sensible dietary tips – and they won’t forget who told them.
As other examples, think of an accounting firm blogging about changes in the tax law. Or an electrical company blogging about how its customers can promote energy efficiency. Or a digital marketing company blogging about how to do effective thought leadership. Would people really read it? Well … you’re here, aren’t you?
By investing in this kind of long-form communication with the public, you’re letting them see you in command of your element. And they’re probably going to like what they see, because you’ll be presenting yourself at your best, and trying to be as helpful as possible.
Sooner rather than later, yours will be the website they instinctively visit and trust when they have a question related to your field. You’ll be known as the experts in your area. You’ll develop a … what’s the word? Ah yes – reputation.
When you’ve got a reputation, this is how your audience will see you.Now if we go back and look again at that daunting question from earlier – ‘What hope is there of standing out in such a crowded field?’ – the answer is almost maddeningly simple. Reputation, of course. It is the very definition of standing out in a crowd.
To repeat: Reputation takes time to build, and requires a real commitment. Even though the monetary cost is modest, many companies end up deciding that the goal is too nebulous and hard to measure, or it takes too much effort to keep writing blogs, or that such projects take too long before they start paying off.
Such companies have not yet adjusted to the new age of ubiquitous content and market near-saturation, and are in danger of being left behind. Most niches are indeed well-populated, but even within them there is often no company that stands out as having a golden reputation. If you would like to wear the crown yourself, as the most trusted and respected in your industry, effective thought leadership can give you the credibility needed to make it happen.
Lexicon is a full-service digital marketing agency in Bangkok, Thailand. We specialize in corporate storytelling and produce all of our content in-house, including branding, copywriting, video production and graphic design. Lexicon’s social media marketing services start from just 25,000 THB per month.