Back to the Future for Thought Leadership Marketing

If you believe social media is the channel of the present and future for thought leadership marketing, think again. It isn’t, according to the most recent annual survey of consulting firm marketing that we conducted with the Association of Management Consulting Firms and ResearchNow.

It turns out that on average, 84 consulting firms see social channels such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook not to be very effective at spawning leads and market awareness. In fact, they rate non-digital channels to be far more effective: conference presentations, seminars and bylined articles in reputable print publications, in particular.

But surely this must be an aberration, you say. Actually, consulting firms have been telling us this since 2010, and even before -- in 2006, when we conducted a similar survey.

For the most part, offline marketing channels continue to trump online and social media channels in making the phone ring or email chime with leads. Great speeches at quality conferences (attended by real buyers), articles in prestigious journals like Harvard Business Review, and well-executed seminars continue to rule in thought leadership.

So should you stop Tweeting, sending LinkedIn updates and using other social media? Not at all. They can be great ways to get many more people to view your expertise -- to get executives to read your articles or attend your conference presentations. 

But you still need to get your experts to write for esteemed print (or online) publications such as HBR, Forbes, and the Financial Times and deliver great speeches at the right events. No way a 140-character tweet replaces a great speech or profound journal article.

Not now and not ever.

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