Are you confused about the differences between Thought Leadership and Influencer Marketing? It’s a common mistake to assume that they are the same thing, but they are actually two distinct models with different communication strategies. In this article, we will break down the key differences between the two and help you choose the right message strategy for your brand.
The Annoying Term “Influencer”
Before we dive into the differences between Thought Leadership and Influencer Marketing, let’s get one thing straight: “Influencer” and “influential” are not the same thing. Being an Influencer is a job, while being influential is a character trait. As someone who teaches influential communication to leaders, I find the term “Influencer” mildly annoying, but I’m happy that the internet has created the Influencer industry, which has given people around the world opportunities they might not have otherwise had.
Broadly speaking, Influencers make money from clicks, ads, sponsorships, donations, and merchandise sales. Influencers create an ecosystem of content for “rabbit hole falling” – the more you click, the more ad revenue they get, the more appealing they are to sponsors, and the more they benefit. Influencers need to stay on top of their algorithm game to achieve viral status, as likes, comments, and engagement are critical for their success. However, other platforms own an influencer’s audience, and they must create content across multiple platforms to have more ownership of their audience.
Thought Leaders serve a niche target market, so they don’t need thousands of clicks and likes. Instead, they need qualified readers who can invest thousands or tens of thousands of dollars in expert services. A Thought Leader’s content creates an ecosystem that serves the sales funnel process, establishing credibility, personality, and providing helpful knowledge to potential customers. Integrated content is key for Thought Leaders – content that seamlessly guides readers/viewers from online activities to offline/IRL interactions. For a Thought Leader, content serves the business, and their slam dunks (sales) happen off the feed.
Choosing the Right Communication Strategy
It’s essential to be clear on whether your communication model is Thought-Leader-dominant or Influencer-dominant. Mismatching the wrong one can seriously limit the effectiveness of your content, your impact, and your sales. Thought Leaders seek to take ownership of their audience as soon as possible and build a CRM full of qualified prospects. They use other platforms to stay top-of-mind and create pathways for easier referrals and smoother sales. On the other hand, Influencers can have more career longevity when they incorporate Thought Leadership strategies.
Thought Leadership and Influencer Marketing have different communication strategies, and it’s crucial to choose the right one for your brand. While there are things that Thought Leaders can learn from Influencers and vice versa, you need to be clear on your dominant model to achieve your goals effectively.