The Value of Bright Ideas: Considering Thought as Digital Reputational Currency

Ideas as Social Media’s Currency:

The idea that we have entered into the ‘information age’ has been around for awhile now. “Big Data” and “the internet of things” have become huge buzzwords, and the number of mediums (pun not intended) that we use to share thoughts and ideas has become increasingly diverse.

However, this only contributes to the overwhelming deluge of information that is thrown at us on a daily basis. The issue has shifted — we once struggled for access to information, and we now struggle to cut through all the noise. This has given new life to platforms aimed at creating/curating higher quality content, and has skewed the conversation away from quantity and back towards quality content. This is reflected in the shifts of both Google and Facebook’s algorithms, as well as the expanding popularity of things like TED talks and LinkedIn’s Pulse. The real value that is being created here exists within the marketplace of ideas.

Social Media and the Idea Marketplace:

The internet has become a place where ideas can easily be publicly shared. Though often touted as a meaningless distraction, sites like Twitter and Facebook are actually great for news gathering, and are often considered dangerous. This is not merely because of the fact that they allow for greater communication among the population, but also because they allow new ideas to spread quickly. Ideas are powerful, ideas are dangerous, and they are worth something. Because of this, they have become the currency of the budding idea age.

Creating value through ideas:

How can we leverage this new currency as businesses and influencers? Building an online reputation takes time and practice, but the building blocks of becoming known as savvy, intelligent, and interesting are always your own original thoughts.

These can come in the form of posts, tweets, blogs, articles, reports, infographics, and a myriad of other kinds of content. High quality content like this is often referred to as “thought leadership” in the communications and marketing world — a term that has been around since Joel Kurtzman coined it while at strategy+business in 1994.

Thought leadership has many definitions, and they have evolved over time. For our purposes, this is: a piece of content that challenges existing perspectives and creates new, meaningful, and substantive conversations. Here are a few other definitions:

“A thought leader is an individual or firm that prospects, clients, referral sources, intermediaries and even competitors recognize as one of the foremost authorities in selected areas of specialization, resulting in its being the go-to individual or organization for said expertise.”

— Russ Alan Prince & Bruce Rodgers

“A trusted source who moves people with innovative ideas.”

Scott Ginsberg

“An entry point to a relationship. Thought leadership should intrigue, challenge, and inspire even people already familiar with a company. It should help start a relationship where none exists, and it should enhance existing relationships.”

 — Daniel Rasmus

Thought leadership is the highest denomination of currency in the marketplace of ideas. This is the platinum standard, and can be invaluable to building and creating a reputation. However, just having the ideas and the right content isn’t enough — distribution matters as well. This is where social media comes in, and it creates a kind of perfect match between the two that brings this all together.

The evolution of an idea :

The first thing you need is a great idea. This idea can become a piece of research, a product, a service. From there, this can generate reports, press releases, articles, blog posts, websites, books, emails, newsletters, client letters, white papers, conferences, speeches, seminars, panels, and discussions.

These, in turn, have the ability to generate blog posts, videos, infographics, photos, and other pieces of content that can be distributed over the internet, on organization websites, through archives, and on thought leadership websites like TED or Fora. Then, each of these can be shared out across the social media landscape, through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Medium, Google+, WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, Pinterest, Reddit, Instagram, Vine, and others.

The possibilities seem almost endless, and the potential exists for exponentially increasing exposure as all of these different outlets are fully utilized.

However, make sure to proceed with caution. Reach isn’t everything, and it’s important to select the places that are most relevant to the kind of content you want to share. This can make or break the progress of your idea, and the amount of value it carries for your organization. This brings us back to the importance of strategy, monitoring, and understanding your brand and its voice online.

Knowing this will help you to understand how and where your content fits among all these options, and eventually you can develop a strong game plan for all the kinds of content you want to produce. Once you reach this point, you have truly begun to understand the footprint you’re leaving in the social media realm, and will be well on your way to successfully leveraging it.

Regarding what’s next…

You’ve probably heard of bitcoins at some point by now (yes, seriously). The technology used in Bitcoin, the blockchain, has been re-appropriated in the form of ‘smart contracts.’ These can be used to store any kind of information — not just currency. There are a few companies out there working on products that might change the very nature of the internet, financial systems, and eventually the world. If all goes well for these organizations, we could see ideas (and the reputation built with them) literally become a form of virtual currency.

If technology like this materializes in a useful and consumer-friendly manner, we could see a true ‘age of the idea’ soon. Until then, we’ve got social media. We’d best learn to master it.

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