I value great thought curators higher in my social stream than I do thought leaders. Crazy, I know, but it is true. Great curators add value to my life by saving me time, bringing me concepts I would have never found on my own, and giving me a safe place to gain insight I otherwise would have missed.
I despise buzzwords in social media marketing. They just add noise, and the last thing we need in social media is more noise. “Thought leaders” is by far the most ridiculous label that’s in use today. Having a real leadership position on anything takes a cocktail that most are not willing to commit to. Being a thought leader takes a very rare mix of passion, discipline, focus and an insane amount of courage. Even if you have the right mix of content, knowledge and insight, being the leader is not always the most valuable position. Being a curator can be extremely powerful.
Curator comes from the latin curare, meaning to “take care.” Taking care of the information that most affects your audience is just plain awesome. Imagine being the one that your audience trusts taking care of what they need to know, when they need to know it, and how they should think about it. That is a position in my audience’s life I would want.
I am an addict of all things Indiana Jones. Since I was young, the stories, movies, and comics of Indiana Jones stirred my soul. Exotic travels, palpable danger at every corner, historical finds and the fight of right vs. wrong were themes that I latched onto. The character that most intrigued me though was not Indy (or Short Round for that matter) but Indy’s longtime friend, the Marcus Brody, the museum director.
Marcus is the character we candidly do not know enough about. Indy’s adventures to find some of the world’s most important historical items took the limelight, but it was Marcus who wanted the world to know why they were so important. Brody cared desperately that the world know the context of the treasure. He wanted people to experience history. See it. Touch it. Study it. Brody knew the world would be a better place by having these artifacts organized and in a place where history could come to life. The Ark of the Covenant sitting in a government storage facility had to have killed Brody. Having such a profoundly important artifact sitting somewhere that meant no one could see it, study it, or process the personal meaning it had on them was a crime. Do not commit the same crime by letting your audience miss out on the most important artifacts in your world of influence.
Find yourself a couple of Indy’s for your world. Find those rare people who are out discovering the valuable information for your audience. Once you have those explorers identified, be their Marcus Brody. Be the curator that organizes those finds, puts them in a neatly organized safe place where the world can come study. Protect those finds and give your audience the chance to experience them. Be a great curator of ideas. Your audience will value you.
Let your brand LIVE.
Be Real. Be Social. Talk about what you are actually passionate about. Listen to what people actually care about. Listen. Then listen again. If you don’t like the conversation, change it. Trust your opinion. Do the hard work. Think before you share. Share what you think. Discover real people. Build lasting relationships. Stop the selling. Start the giving. Don’t wait. Say it now. Be part of the conversation. Have a point of view. Get straight to the point. Be fascinating by being authentic. Share something you have learned. Thank someone today for teaching. Start doing what you are passionate about. Open your mind to something new. Ask someone what they care about. Share your passion. Start a movement. Social is about the people you meet and what you create together. So, create something. Live a social life.
Maybe I’m just cranky. Perhaps it is the fact that it is the start of another new year and a time of self-reflection. It may just be that I am getting older and losing my ability to swallow the status quo. Whatever it is, I realize that many, many terms, strategies and tactics that very smart people in Social Media Management throw around are empty. Empty of substance. Empty of real meaning. More importantly, empty of business success.
“We will make you a Thought Leader through Social Media.” This is a strategy frequently presented by very smart agencies and consultants in pretty PowerPoints and pitches throughout the country. Most of the time it is a strategy full of crap.
I have three big problems with this strategy.
- Most people do not even know what a thought leader is.
- Even if they have the proper definition of a thought leader, very few brands should ever attempt to be one as a social media strategy.
- This strategy assumes the audience is a group of brain-dead rats waiting for a pied piper to arrive and lead them somewhere. Nothing could be further from the truth.
“We will make you a thought leader.” Think anyone sat down with Einstein and told him that? I have trouble imagining Sir Winston Churchill fretting over if he would be a thought leader as he told Hitler where he could stick it. Leaders lead. They break new ground. They have original thoughts that they communicate in new and enlightening ways. Thought leaders are those who have original thoughts and have the utter guts to share them no matter the disruption created by those thoughts. They are the risk takers. Leaders are so passionate about those NEW ideas that they will risk excommunication from the status quo to keep those new ideas part of the debate. Is a brand willing to do that risk taking? Does a brand have a NEW idea that disrupts the status quo to that degree?
IBM stood up in 1973 and told the grocery industry that they were going to build a new way for items to be checked out. They designed the linear UPC code so that cashiers no longer had to enter the cost amount of an item by hand at the cash register. The UPC code enabled grocers to control and manage inventories against sales and to make the checkout experience better for the stores and consumers. The industry had been working with “thought leaders” for 6 years on a system that they loved.. They loved it right up until it was time to print it and use it. Their system smeared easily by cheap printers. Turns out they had been following thought leadership that took them nowhere for 6 years. Too many thought leaders were barking hypotheticals. None of them had the guts to actually put their concept into real use and check the results–none of them that is, except IBM. They then faced the nut jobs bemoaning their leadership. Extremists thought IBM was hiding demonic codes in those little lines. The grocery industry was scared, reluctant, and generally apathetic about putting machines in control. IBM led with a NEW idea. They backed up that idea with action and results. Leadership came from pushing the idea into every corner of retail no matter how disruptive it seemed.
To be a thought leader you need to have both words: a THOUGHT and LEADERSHIP. It demands an original thought that you can communicate in a new way. You need to then lead. Do you have the guts, the stomach, and the heart to actually lead the disruption your thought should cause? If not, do not feel useless. You had the wrong strategy from the beginning. Find another strategy. Not everyone can lead. Not every idea is an original thought. Your audience desperately needs thought curators, thought supporters, and thought advisers just as much as it needs that rare sighting of a thought leader.
In the next blog in this series, we will define the differences in strategies of a thought leader, a thought curator, a thought supporter and a thought adviser. Each means different plans, tactics, goals, and results for your marketing. Your audience is begging for these. Which should you be? More importantly, which does your audience want you to be?