Confessions of a Wannabe Thought Leader: 5 Questions I Can’t Answer

by Kenyon Blunt on May 17, 2010

Kenyon Blunt, SIGMA CEO

Kenyon Blunt

OK, I admit it.  I jumped into this whole social media, blogging, new world of marketing in order to pump up my “street cred” and get more business.  Joining me in this pursuit are millions of others hoping to do the same thing.  Can we all be thought leaders?

Recently, I stumbled upon two blogs that got me to thinking.  First was the Extinction of the Expert, by Denise Gershbein.  She proclaims that “the age of the expert is over” because with unfettered access to information, people can find all the information they want without relying on thought leaders or experts.  David Raab retorts in Are Experts Obsolete? Not in My Informed Opinion that in many situations “the collective wisdom of the Internet won’t suffice.”  Experts are still needed, especially when people need solutions personalized to their needs.

Is this a paradox?  We are scrambling to launch social media marketing initiatives so we can participate in dialogues with potential consumers who will view us as thought leaders and eventually buy our products and services.  On the other hand, we are diminishing the very notion of an expert by the millions of us who are trying to do so.  As you know, questions lead to more questions and now I’ve come up with 5 which I cannot answer.

  1. Will social media lead to more experts or fewer? The easy answer would be “more.”  The ability to bypass traditional media and publish online (including blogs like this one) has democratized thought leadership.  It makes me wonder — are there more experts now or are they just easier to find?  However, there are millions (or should I exaggerate and say bazillions) of people who are posing as experts when they really aren’t.  Will people get so turned off with the whole notion of thought leadership that it results in fewer real experts?
  2. Do people trust crowd-sourcing for important decisions? If people in your crowd or community have the knowledge you’re looking for; they can usually be trusted.  However, if your communities are like mine, they might be a little suspect.
  3. How can you tell a real thought leader from a poser? In certain fields (e.g. medicine, law, etc.) there are groups that give accreditation and establish the legitimacy of an expert.  Marketing is a whole different ballgame — anyone can claim to be an expert.  With the media outlets available today, it’s very difficult for clients to separate real marketing experts from the get-rich-quick scam artists.
  4. What’s the difference between thought leadership and self-promotion? Not much, I’m afraid.  After all, how can a person get to be an expert unless they use a little self-promotion?  But where do you draw the line? The fact that I’ve got Twitter messages scheduled to go out every hour probably goes too far.
  5. When is there too much information? I don’t know about you, but I could spend all day going through blogs, webinars, white papers, analyst reports and all the other information that’s available.  Do I have to read it all to be a thought leader in marketing?  I hope not.

So if you’re battling with some of these questions as you fortify your marketing credentials, I hope you have more luck with these issues than I.


David Raab- Are Experts Obsolete? info.

Ellen Carney, Forrester,

Denise Gershbein, Extinction of the Expert

About the Author:

Kenyon Blunt is the CEO at SIGMA Marketing Group.  Connect with Kenyon on  or follow him on .

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Rob Leavitt May 17, 2010 at 9:56 am

Good questions, Kenyon. Certainly social media has created both great challenges and opportunities for would-be thought leaders. I do think we’re all struggling with information overload; at the same time, we’re able to find a great many experts through social media that we would probably have never found before. Overall, though I come down firmly on the side that quality and true expertise always wins in the end. Posers may fool some of the people some of the time, but clients making serious and business critical decisions will generally do the due diligence to sort through the hype and focus on relevant knowledge and experience. Skill in social media can help get you attention, but it ultimately can’t make up for falling short in delivery.

Kenyon Blunt May 18, 2010 at 3:09 pm

Rob, thanks for the comments. I’m with you; while I question many of the ways people are attempting to establish thought leadership, I guess the real answer is that it lies in the eye of the beholder. We may appear to be thought leaders to some and maybe not to others. I do know that blogging and other social media networking activities are forcing me to stay on my toes. And hopefully I’ve become a better thought leader in the process.

Nick Carter July 20, 2010 at 12:30 pm

Wikipedia, especially, represented the decentralization of knowledge. Historically, in the Western world, thought and knowledge originated with the elite academia (from Plato on to the Enlightenment) but today we’re seeing a massive shift: the masses are the expert. And, that doesn’t mean that one of the masses, some average joe, is the expert, it’s the mass collectively. That’ was Twitter’s original premise, based on the observed behaviors of flocks of birds. No one bird moves the whole flock, but they nonetheless move as one. Intriguing.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: