Why the Social Web Needs Thought Leaders

by Craig McBreen · 8 comments · Blogging, Content Marketing

Why-the-Social-Web-Needs-Thought-LeadersA few months back, Mark Schaefer wrote a post that rankled a few peeps in the blogosphere.

The post induced a mix of reactions. Those vehemently disagreeing, but many nodding in agreement.

His “Content Shock” post generated …

hundreds of comments (negative, positive and in-between);

sucked precious time from his business, (because he answered most of the comments);

and spawned a host of podcasts, articles and blog posts about this very topic …

Heck, I even wrote one of my own.

Why did the Content Shock post take off?

Mark thinks about the future of the online realm we inhabit and freely expresses himself, often.

He is never afraid to speak his mind and take a stand on an issue.

And for him, fear and uncertainty are just part of the process.

Yes, I disagreed with him at the time and will admit I’m still on the fence regarding the topic of content shock, but I 100% respect what he wrote and admire his savvy, smarts and business acumen.

He’ll write on a potentially controversial topic, but here’s the important part … he has the gravitas to back it up.

To me, this is thought leadership.

Yes, many don’t like the term thought leader, but I don’t want to argue about that. I just want to say the social realm, as fickle as it is, has leaders and followers just like the “real” world, and guess what? We need leaders, or at least those willing to take a stand.


This is how conversations on important topics get started. And his post lead to some heated, but insightful comments.

Insightful comments that could have easily become entertaining, useful, and controversial blog posts of their own.

Thought leaders write posts that generate these types of comments, and this is great for all of us.

What is golden goodness?

A post that gets everyone’s attention in the Content Marketing cave of echoes.

Heck, I’m still thinking about it (Content Shock, that is ;))

Mark could easily write posts like this all the time, but he chooses not to.

Like any skilled content marketer, he’s not solely focused on comment count or engagement for the sake of engagement.

I imagine he wants to move the needle when it comes to his business (don’t we all), but he also wants to make us think.

All good.

As Doug Kessler wrote in this excellent Slide Share presentation on the very topic of Content Shock, “The winners will be those who build Great Content Brands.”

“A Great Content Brand is a brand that’s famous for producing intelligent, useful and entertaining content that’s always worth consuming.”

He also goes on to add “authoritative,” “passionate,” and “prolific” to the mix.

Thanks, Doug. From now on I’ll just call thought leaders great content brands.

I kind of like that :)

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark Schaefer August 6, 2014 at 8:00 pm

Craig thanks for this beautifully written post. I’m so very honored to be featured like this from somebody I respect so much. Great job my friend!


Craig McBreen August 7, 2014 at 7:53 am

Hi Mark,

Thanks, and all true. The respect is mutual, of course ;)


Jens-Petter Berget August 6, 2014 at 9:09 pm

Unfortunately, I didn’t see the update from Mark, but I think I understand what you’re saying. I read somewhere that we should apply the 70/20/10 rule to content, and that 70% should be considered «normal» content, that’s facts and what most people and businesses are creating. 20% should be more daring, add a bit uncertainty and provoking and 10% should be «shocking». I haven’t applied the rule myself, but it sounds like a good rule. It’s hard to create something new or be a thought leader if you just do what most people are doing, you need to add something brand new.


Craig McBreen August 7, 2014 at 7:57 am

Hi Jens,

“It’s hard to create something new or be a thought leader if you just do what most people are doing, you need to add something brand new.”
– That about sums it up.

Oh, and 10% might be a good number, because too many “shocking” posts and you might be spending all your time answering comments http://www.craigmcbreen.com/social-media-engagement-hurt-business/ ;)

Nice to see you again, Sir!


David King August 26, 2014 at 10:25 pm

An important one of that, in sharing content, it’s use as a driver of thought leadership always needs to be seen in the context of the audience. Today more than ever, and this is something that has been driven primarily through social media, thought leaders have the opportunity to engage directly with their customers or prospects and have a way of their conversation.
David King recently posted..Property Sales – IntroMy Profile


Don Purdum November 10, 2014 at 11:13 am

Hi Craig,

Before reading any further, I jumped over to Mark’s article and read it and left a comment. You are absolutely right!!! He is a thought leader and we need many more in the blogosphere.

I read upwards of 50 blogs per week and the overwhelming majority of them say nothing, mean nothing and help no one. Why should I even bother reading them?

I was just thinking of starting a “make me want to comment on your blog” campaign… lol.

Where thought leaders help us in understanding that it’s ideas that wins business. People buy us when we are competent, not on relationship. Relationship comes after competency assuming people like you. I say that because cost your clients enough money or keep replacing your products for whatever reason and the relationship will deteriorate.

I am personally writing a lot about helping businesses understand why they have to transition from content marketing to context marketing. If you don’t know the context of your audience, then you have to resort to making it all about you. When you do that you end the competency arena almost immediately.

It’s an exciting time to be online IF one is open minded to what is happening around us.

Thanks for sharing Mark’s article and for bringing a much needed conversation to the forefront!!!

Have a great week Craig!

~ Don Purdum
Don Purdum recently posted..Businesses Succeed and Fail Based on Their Marketing – You Can SUCCEED!My Profile


Craig McBreen November 10, 2014 at 6:12 pm

Hi Don,

Yes, Mark is a good one, for sure.

I certainly read less blogs now than a did a few years ago, so feel ya there.

“If you don’t know the context of your audience, then you have to resort to making it all about you.”
–That about sums it up and funny, because I’m writing a post of this very topic.

Also, reminds me of this:
“Attuning yourself to others – exiting your own perspective and entering theirs – is essential to moving others. One smart, easy, and effective way to get inside people’s heads is to climb into their chairs.” http://www.danpink.com/newsletterbonus/

Thanks for stopping in, Sir!


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