When considering the landscape of influencer marketing, thought leaders hold a unique position. Unlike traditional influencers, who might gain their following from entertainment or lifestyle content, thought leaders earn their reputation through expertise, insights, and contributions to a particular field or industry. In essence, thought leaders bridge the gap between expertise and influence. For brands operating in sectors where depth of knowledge and trust are crucial (such as FinTech business, for instance) partnering with thought leaders can be a powerful component of their influencer marketing strategy.
According to the Edelman-LinkedIn research, 58% of respondents turn to thought leaders’ content one or more hours per week. 60% of decision makers admitted that thought leadership convinced them to purchase a product or service they were not previously taking into consideration. In this article experts of the Famesters full-cycle influencer marketing agency are going to explain what is a thought leader, and how thought leaders can contribute to your influencer marketing campaigns.
While not every influencer can be called a thought leader, the same is for thought leaders: they are not always influencers. But what is a thought leader in terms of influencer marketing?
A thought leader, also known as a key opinion leader, is a highly respected professional in a specific industry or field due to their extensive expertise. With backgrounds rooted in significant experience, research, and publication, they are considered authority figures in their domain. Thought leaders can feature in media interviews, providing their personal views on current topics within their specialty. Such content is often full of genuine research and insights. By the way, the role of a thought leader for B2B marketing can be very important: studies say that research-based content is an essential trigger to take a sales call.
Source: Marketing Charts
Further, thought leaders invest in their niche, striving to be experts on specific topics. They are driven by quality and authentic content, aiming to educate their audiences with detailed and relevant information. Their opinions are respected and valued in their community, often without a large online presence. Unlike most social media influencers, closely tied to social media and online platforms, thought leaders are often invited to speak at offline industry events, webinars, or podcasts.
In comparison, regular influencers can have millions of followers on social media but don’t always possess deep expertise. They market themselves by producing online content and interacting with their audiences. Unlike influencers, whose main income comes from social media content, thought leaders often have full-time roles like authors, consultants, or entrepreneurs. Let’s take an example of Gordon Ramsay, a British celebrity chef and restaurateur, who gained recognition through his culinary expertise and achievements. His restaurant group has been awarded 17 Michelin stars overall. At the same time Gordon Ramsay has recently become a TikTok celebrity with more than 39 million followers.
n essence, while thought leaders are respected for their expertise and experience, influencers gain traction primarily through their online reach and engagement. Content creators can gain popularity quickly through content curation and understanding online trends. But often niche thought leaders can become influencers. The same as there are micro-influencers with considerable knowledge and passion for specific topics, creating an overlap with thought leaders.
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Content marketing focuses on solving immediate problems, acting as a resource tool. For example, a skincare influencer is promoting a new moisturizer. Thought leaders’ content aims to spark conversations with fresh insights, statistics, and new ideas.
The performance metrics (your KPIs) for each differ, with content marketing possibly focusing on site traffic and email signups, while thought leadership looks at return visitors, engaged email subscribers, and social media discussions.
Content marketing often emphasizes volume and trending topics while thought leadership prioritizes quality and may result in fewer, more in-depth posts. It should also provide a perspective on how brands adapt to industry changes. Thought leaders base their content on thorough research to uncover untouched topics and upcoming trends, making it essential to understand the audience’s concerns.
Content marketing usually aims to sell a company’s products or services by showcasing why they’re the best choice. Thought leaders don’t directly promote products. Instead, they emphasize the brand’s authority and expertise, allowing readers to form their own conclusions.
Thought leaders seek to shape the industry narrative. Notable industry leaders, like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs in tech, have set the tone for discussions in their sectors. When key opinion leaders endorse brands within their expertise, they bring not just attention but also an expert recommendation to that brand.
Social media influencers and thought leaders are both authoritative figures online, but they serve different purposes. Partnering with social media influencers, brands can quickly expand their reach and increase sales. In its turn, cooperation with thought leaders can make brands be perceived more authoritative in their niche. Let’s examine what is the role of a thought leader, and how they can act as influencers.
Thought leaders possess deep knowledge in their respective domains. Brands can leverage this expertise for campaigns that require a nuanced understanding of specific topics, ensuring content is both authentic and accurate.
Thought leaders can co-create content with brands, such as whitepapers, research studies, webinars, or long-form content. This not only boosts the content’s credibility but also extends its reach to a relevant audience.
Given their expertise, thought leaders are often invited to speak at industry events, webinars, and conferences. Partnering with them for such appearances can position a brand as a leader in the field.
Unlike many influencer partnerships that can be short-term or campaign-specific, collaborations with thought leaders can be ongoing, deepening the association and credibility over time.
While traditional influencers might focus on product promotion, thought leaders can educate audiences about a brand’s value proposition, the science or technology behind a product, or broader industry trends that align with a brand’s messaging.
Thought leaders often contribute to industry publications, journals, and other authoritative platforms. Collaborating with them can get a brand’s message published on these platforms, reaching a targeted and loyal audience.
Just as in traditional influencer marketing, there are micro- and macro-thought leaders. Micro- thought leaders have a smaller, highly engaged audience in niche sectors, while macro-thought leaders have broader appeal. Brands can choose whom to partner with based on their campaign goals.
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Thought leaders usually have a more engaged and niche following because their audience values the insights and expertise they bring. This means collaborations are likely to generate meaningful interactions rather than just surface-level engagement. Plus, since thought leaders are respected for their knowledge and insights, their endorsement or collaboration with a brand can transfer some of this trust to the brand itself.
Due to the loyal and targeted nature of their audience, partnerships with thought leaders might yield a higher ROI. The role of a thought leader is especially important in sectors where domain expertise and trust are paramount.
The ultimate influencer marketing report by BuzzGuru
The marketing domain is undergoing a significant shift, blending traditional and digital strategies. While content marketing focuses on immediate solutions and sales, thought leaders can position a brand as a forward-thinking authority in their field. Both approaches serve different but complementary purposes in the business realm.
Before investing in endorsements from influencers or thought leaders, it’s essential to perform thorough market research. Brands should aim to cultivate long-term relationships with chosen thought leaders so that their cooperation could produce better results. Here at Famesters influencer-marketing agency we effectively help brands to create a data-driven influencer marketing strategy, based on a deep market and competitor analysis. We connect brands with relevant influencers, including industry thought leaders. Our turn-key approach means that we conduct A to Z influencer marketing campaigns, providing you with definite results and final analytical reporting that will help you determine future directions in influencer and thought leadership marketing. Contact us to launch the best-ever influencer marketing campaign for your brand!