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Adapting B2B thought leadership to the evolving digital landscape

Is Artificial Intelligence (AI) the next type of thought leader? 

If it speaks intelligently, writes intelligently, and looks like an intelligent being, is it intelligent? We’re not just referencing a classic science fiction or philosophy trope here. With AI sweeping across the far reaches of our daily existence, it’s easy to forget that something that behaves like an intelligence (perhaps Siri or Alexa comes to mind here) doesn’t necessarily exhibit genuine intelligence.1,2 With new tools like ChatGPT gaining ground, many have turned to this fascinating interactive AI language model (its impressive abilities range from challenging flawed premises to acknowledging its mistakes) to generate content.3  

But all these tools can do is receive and process informational inputs to generate intelligent sounding (and sometimes hilarious) content.4 Even though such material may sound like it was written by a person, AI-generated content is inevitably neither ground-breaking nor genuinely insightful because it lacks a foundation of genuine thought processes and sentiments. Apart from serving as an excellent tool for inspiration, overcoming creative blocks and rewording copy, AI as we know it is incapable of generating original thought – the very essence of thought leadership.  

For B2B brands and marketers seeking to deliver exceptional thought leadership, it’s especially important to stand out from the crowd of superficial content with truly impactful ideas. And in this fast-changing digital age, it’s not just AI tools that are transforming how we reach our audiences. 

Move over, social media 

Decentralisation is another key digital trend that’s changing how marketers deliver thought leadership content.5 In contrast to public platforms flooded with a barrage of content across more industries and subject matters than we can count, more businesses today are reaching their audiences with tailored content – direct from their own platforms. For example, leading global management consultancy company Deloitte shares expert perspectives on a wide range of topics via its Insights platform, which includes articles, podcasts and videos hosted on its website, along with a magazine and dedicated app.6  

Decentralised content platforms have become increasingly associated with brands that have attained thought leader status and grown significant dedicated followings and are practically a hallmark of their success. Nike is a prime example that comes to mind.7 Nike Journal promises ‘stories that move you’, touching on a broad range of topics from coaching to culture, while the Nike Training Club app provides resources including training guides and community engagement opportunities. With content covering so many different lifestyle aspects, Nike’s success as a thought leader beyond the realm of fitness gear is testament to its ability to develop authentic brand image and messaging that truly resonates with its target audience.   

Ultimately, it’s vital to meet your audiences where they are. As decentralisation of thought leadership content gains pace in the B2C world, audiences are increasingly expecting B2B brands to leverage their own platforms too. B2B brands need to consider how to develop organic channels of their own with unique content geared to effectively capture the interest of their audiences. Even within the realm of social media platforms, the meteoric rise and fall of Mastodon – a niche open source microblogging platform – following the exodus of Twitter users, has demonstrated how today’s audiences are ready to get on board with new types of content platforms.8 It’s no longer enough, and even potentially risky, to rely on conventional social media channels to reach your audiences and maintain effective brand presence. To keep up with your digital audiences as a thought leader, it’s critical to stay ahead of this pace of change. 

The new face of audience engagement 

Moreover, this trend of platform decentralisation is part of a much bigger movement. We can expect the evolution of the modern digital landscape to be marked by unpredictable and swift change fuelled by exponential growth spurts in technologies like AI and Web3. A blockchain-based iteration of the web that offers users a financial stake in and enhanced control over their choice of web communities, Web3 will dramatically transform the user experience with the likes of cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens (NFTs).9  

Early adopters of Web3 platforms and technology stand to benefit from the potential first-mover advantages. This could be a great way to concretely demonstrate thought – and technology – leadership status.10 11 Nonetheless, brands need to pay cautious attention to both the risks and benefits of climbing aboard the Web3 bandwagon. Some companies that have previously engaged in Web3 projects have faced backlash over issues ranging from their environmental impact to financial speculation and potential fraud, along with new12 exclusion and centralisation problems.13 

Investing in the future of digital thought leadership 

So, what should B2B business leaders start doing today to build up effective and future-ready digital thought leadership strategies? While decentralised platforms, the metaverse and Web3 aren’t universally available yet, it’s crucial to be prepared to meet your audiences there in the not-so-distant future. A key approach to staying ahead of these changes in the digital landscape involves strategic investment in developing a library of format- and platform- agnostic content.  

Some guiding questions you can ask yourself include: 

  • Do I have viable ideas for engaging content types like webinars that can be hosted anywhere – whether that’s on today’s internet, the metaverse, or various existing and upcoming social platforms – and a strategy for producing these? 
  • Do I have a 3D virtual environment in the works or already built to capture the interest of my target audience(s) if the metaverse should become a much more prevalent B2B engagement platform? 
  • Do I have any unique assets that could be shared as NFTs as Web3 gains greater ground? 

Sure, the breakneck pace of technological developments means that AI tools will improve by leaps and bounds and pose increasingly bigger risks to genuine thought leadership. But it’s critical to remember that ultimately, all audiences want originality and authenticity. Even today, you can start building up a loyal audience and learning how best to create an engaging thought leadership platform tailored to their needs and interests.  

Learn more about key trends in contemporary B2B thought leadership in our latest digital edition of the knowledge.

The Thought Leadership Issue




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