The Final Four: Brands that Champion Thought Leadership on LinkedIn

April 2, 2015

We’re in the home stretch of March Madness. The Big Dance has delivered a big dose of excitement, including dramatic buzzer-beaters, game-changing calls, and dangerously domineering dunks. While some Cinderella teams busted brackets early, it is big-name programs like Duke, Kentucky, Michigan State and Wisconsin that still have a chance at the trophy.

In the NCAA tournament, it’s superior talent and depth that typically allow teams to cut down the nets. On LinkedIn, strong thought leadership often differentiates winning brands from the rest of the field.

To bring your LinkedIn marketing to a championship level, check out our 'final four', featuring brands that are outpacing the competition in three areas of thought leadership. Read on for insights you can use to implement thought leadership initiatives that can significantly improve both the awareness and influence of your brand.

If There Were a Thought Leadership Bracket, These 4 Brands Would Earn High Seeds


Company thought leadership begins with a great product or service that solves problems for buyers. Technology and design company AdStage (a LinkedIn Certified Marketing Partner) understands this well. On its LinkedIn Company Page, AdStage aims to ease buyer pain points and makes a compelling case for how its product helps marketers create, manage, and optimize ad campaigns across social and search platforms.

Many AdStage updates relate directly to operational elements of the product, including how its functionality can be used in conjunction with specific platforms (like LinkedIn) and technology tools (such as Wordtracker). Tips, tricks, and tutorials provide information marketers can use to coordinate and optimize campaigns. In this way, AdStage's thought leadership content helps to put its customers' minds at ease.

Key Takeaway: Aim to ease your audience's pain points and recalibrate their way of thinking by bringing fresh insights to the table. (Rather than just re-hashing what is already being said.)


Buffer is a great example of a company that continues to take organizational thought leadership to amazing heights. Sharing practical, how-to information in a friendly tone, Buffer covers just about every conceivable social media topic for its audience. Posts amplified on the Company Page relate to each of the platforms the company’s social media scheduling app can be used with.

In line with their core company values, 'Default to Transparency', Buffer openly announced their company's salaries: Introducing Open Salaries at Buffer: Our Transparent Formula and All Individual Salaries. This content not only sparked a conversation about the benefits of transparency amongst industry thought leaders, it also fueled brand awareness for Buffer.

Key Takeaway: Today's consumer wants to be informed. Deliver them value by answering their questions, and do so with transparency to truly differentiate your brand.


Moz is among the most recognized tech brands, in large part due to the industry thought leadership of founder Rand Fishkin. Another huge differentiator that sets the marketing analytics software firm apart is its accessible, quirky company culture. LinkedIn updates highlight SEO industry trends, and while their product is closely related to the conversations, they are not actively selling with their content. Their updates also feature amusing pictures of Rand and the other members of the Moz team, including the company’s robot mascot, Roger.

While their content often incorporates a dose of fun, being extraordinarily useful is clearly Moz’s first priority. For example, Rand's Whiteboard Friday sessions consistently provide the community with strategies, tactics, and tools for improving digital marketing strategy. In the process of crafting clever messaging and uniquely valuable content, the company comes across as a group of in-the-know practitioners who like to have a good time – and welcome you to join the fun.

Key Takeaway: Focus less on selling with content and invest in educational content to remain top of mind. That way, when your prospect is ready to buy, they’re more likely to select your product.


Addressing leading-edge marketing topics and showcasing frequent case studies are also key ingredients of the thought leadership recipe Marketo serves up on LinkedIn. The banner of Marketo’s Company Page reads, “Welcome to the era of engagement marketing,” which reflects how the company helps marketers to connect on a strategic level. Best practices, strategic road maps and product how-to's are frequent topics that position the brand as an innovator in the marketing software space.

Employees across the company also play an active role in this thought leadership strategy; virtually all employees are active on LinkedIn, and the company provides training to help staff members improve their own professional reputations while simultaneously boosting the Marketo brand.

Key Takeaway: Some of your best brand advocates are right down the hall. Companies should tap the insights, ideas and intelligence of their brightest employees to collectively achieve thought leadership as an organization.

Soon, one victorious Final Four team will celebrate at center court, confetti falling from the rafters. By defining your thought leadership game plan and putting in the work to execute it, your team can feel like a champion as well. Take cues from the playbooks of these four companies who are doing it right, then implement thought leadership initiatives that can have your team celebrating more often.

Ready to create your own thought leadership strategy? Download our one-stop shop for everything a marketer needs to know about how to deliver a world-class thought leadership strategy that produces results:

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