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Establishing thought leadership through social media in B2B settings: effects on customer relationship performance

Francesca Magno (Department of Management, Economics and Quantitative Methods, University of Bergamo, Bergamo, Italy)
Fabio Cassia (Department of Business Administration, University of Verona, Verona, Italy)

Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing

ISSN: 0885-8624

Article publication date: 19 September 2019

Issue publication date: 18 March 2020




Establishing thought leadership by disseminating relevant digital content through social media has become one of the main priorities for marketers in business-to-business (B2B) settings. However, academic research has only recently started to address this phenomenon. In particular, researchers have not yet examined whether and how thought leadership positively influences a firm’s relationship with its customers. This paper aims to propose and test a model to explain how a firm’s thought leadership improves its customer relationship performance.


A cross-sectional research design was applied using covariance-based structural equation modeling to estimate the suggested model. Data were collected from a sample of 160 firms in different industries that create and share content on social media.


Thought leadership on social media positively influences brand performance and, in turn, customer relationship performance in B2B settings. Moreover, establishing thought leadership on social media results from specific thought leadership capabilities and is supported by social media capabilities.

Research limitations/implications

This study advances knowledge on social media thought leadership in B2B settings by proposing and testing a model that combines available insights from three distinct but interrelated B2B streams of studies: branding, social media marketing and thought leadership. Moreover, this study conceptualizes the effects of thought leadership, which is consistent with the relational nature of B2B settings. In fact, it explores thought leadership as a means to maintain and strengthen business relationships. However, further studies are needed to explore detailed strategies that affect the effectiveness of thought leadership.

Practical implications

The results provide managers with evidence on the effectiveness of a thought leadership strategy. Establishing thought leadership on social media can help to nurture customer relationships over time. By sharing valuable content, suppliers can continuously demonstrate their cutting-edge competences and expertise, thus keeping their brand relevant to customers.


This is the first study to provide evidence of the benefits of social media thought leadership on customer relationships in B2B settings.



Magno, F. and Cassia, F. (2020), "Establishing thought leadership through social media in B2B settings: effects on customer relationship performance", Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. 35 No. 3, pp. 437-446.



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