“Thought leaders do not become thought leaders by trying to be one; that’s an external focus that only satisfies the ego and blocks true enlightenment on any subject. A thought leader has a singular, internal focus on achieving mastery of a particular discipline.”
– Sam Fiorella
Thought leadership has become quite the buzzword in today’s market, but becoming one doesn’t happen overnight. This type of recognition is earned through experience and strategic promotion. Before you begin your journey as a thought leader, you need to figure out what exactly this title means to you.
Is your goal to inspire others to succeed?
Do you want to establish your business as a resource of valuable knowledge?
Find your motivation, and let that be your guide.
Once you’ve determined your goal, plan your path to success with these approaches.
Develop a Strategic Blogging Strategy
Establish your role as a thought leader in your field by writing about your experiences and knowledge. Starting a blog is a great platform, but you will be up against some hefty competition. There are millions of blogs out there, and new content is being churned out every hour. In order to stand out among the crowd, you will need to create something that is truly special of which people can’t get anywhere else.
Your blog has the power to influence people, so make sure you are providing high-quality (and accurate) information. Blogs are one of the most trusted sources of online wisdom as well as product information; in fact, a HubSpot study found that 79% of people look to online articles when researching purchases.
Creating in-depth content that offers valuable insight establishes your role as a leader in whatever subject you choose to write about. You can also demonstrate your expertise by connecting with other thought leaders in your industry. Consider doing an interview piece with another expert. This is great way to give both parties exposure.
Another great approach is guest blogging. This allows you showcase your knowledge to a completely new audience. Just be careful in choosing the sites on which you choose to do so; their audience should be receptive to you, and their focus and messaging should be totally harmonious with yours.
Join networking events, follow other blogs, and create relationships with people in your field. Your primary goal should not be personal gain; instead, it should be finding ways to benefit your audience.
In order to be a leader, you need to find a way to connect with your audience. Building that sort of connection will lead to better engagement, increased traffic, and more sales. Above all else, that feeling of community is invaluable.
Find a creative way to build a community by bringing your audience together. For example, entrepreneur Tai Lopez went viral during his Ted Talk where he credited much of his success to reading a book a day. After his video went out, he started a Book-of-the Day reading club with his followers. By doing this, he created a community where people could openly ask questions, discuss what they learned, and simply share their reading experience. In the process, he became an inspirational thought leader.
Most of the books in the club are related to entrepreneurship, personal development, and business strategies, as this is Lopez’s niche. Building this community has made Lopez a trusted voice and his following consistently looks to his recommendations for what to read next.
There are lots of ways you can build this sense of community with your audience. Start by focusing on engagement by responding to comments or asking questions to get your followers thinking. Try to pick their brains for opinions and thoughts in relation to what you share. Try creating a platform like a forum or message board where they can share and debate.
Use the Most Optimal Social Channels
Not every marketing channel is going to work for your business. It all depends on your target audience. For instance, if you want to reach a younger generation, consider connecting through social sites like Instagram, which is undergoing a rapid usage growth in the 18 to 32 demographic.
If you are looking to reach business professionals, LinkedIn is the platform of choice to share your updates. For a wider target range, Facebook is still the most used platform, with around 2 billion users worldwide.
Start by making a list of the qualities and characteristics of your target audience, such as their ages, interests, jobs, education levels, and locations. Then research the best ways to connect with them. Keep in mind, multiple marketing channels can be better than one. If possible, try to find ways to combine social media with email or another channel.
Quality over quantity is the way to go when it comes to social media. Your objective should be to provide your audience with relevant content that provides something of value.
As Mark Zuckerberg said, “The biggest risk is not taking any risk.” If you’re going to demonstrate your expertise and become a thought leader, you have to be willing to take some chances. Leaders are not afraid of failure and they are willing to try something out of the ordinary.
Of course, examples like Steve Jobs, Sara Blakely, Richard Branson, and Elon Musk come to mind when you think of successful risk takers. They were willing to drop out of school and invest their savings into their ideas. In the end, it all paid off.
One of the best examples in recent memory is how Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia challenged the status quo of short term rentals by going head-to-head with the entire hotel industry when they created Airbnb. Many people criticized and critiqued their idea, as it followed an unheard of business model that owed no real estate or concrete assets. However, a few years, millions of users, and billions of dollars later, it’s obvious their risk has paid off in a major way, and their wisdom has revolutionized the way people travel.
In most cases, you the risk you take doesn’t have to be this drastic. However, the messaging should get people talking. If you are going to be a thought leader, you need to do or say things unlike anything people have seen before. Write about something new or controversial. Experiment with the latest technology or trends. While you can look to other sources for inspiration, be sure you are not just copying the next guy (or the guy with the most money). In order to truly stand out, you need to be willing to take a calculated risk every once in a while.
There is a great need for thought leadership in every industry. The well-known figures we see today are sources of great inspiration, information, and innovation. Demonstrate your position as a thought leader through strategic writing and marketing. Create a community with the people you want to help. Finally, be willing to try something new and show your courage as a leader.