Founder and CEO of JMG Public Relations, an award winning PR firm for innovators and their mission driven startup companies.
As industry professionals, we strive to set ourselves apart from the millions of other experts in our respective fields. One of the ways in which you can do so is to establish yourself as a thought leader.
“Thought leader” is one of those buzzwords heard often, but the title runs deeper than just being someone who is knowledgeable on a specific topic or industry. Becoming a thought leader means establishing yourself or your company as an expert within your field, which is beyond just being knowledgeable. Essentially, in becoming a thought leader, what you’ve done is set the stage for other people to come to you first when seeking information. In addition to being “that person,” thought leaders drive discussions and create conversations that encourage others to get involved.
The role can be likened to that of a social media influencer: Both are regarded as authorities by their industry or niche, and their followers look to them for information, advice, upcoming trends, inspiration, etc. But building such a reputation doesn’t just happen overnight, it takes time. You must be committed to consistently engaging with your followers and providing content that is both informative and educational. The goal here is to grab the audience’s attention.
Similar to how social media influencers carefully carve out their market and strategize the different ways in which to grow their audience, thought leaders do the same. Both markets are crowded, so staying at the forefront of people’s minds is as equally important as the information you share. One of the ways in which thought leaders can solidify their “titles” is by taking advantage of how social media, which is what I consider the biggest marketing tool in history, can elevate them to the next level. With direct access to consumers and multiple platforms available, all it takes is finding the right ones that fit your goals and your audience.
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Because social media gives its users access to such an expansive audience — it’s estimated that 72% of adults in the U.S. use social media — it can be the No. 1 vehicle for driving clicks to your content or website. There are countless reasons why connecting virtually with an audience is important.
If you’re looking to brand yourself as a thought leader, I’ve found the following five methods can help boost your success:
Provide quality content.
It goes without saying that the content you generate needs to be high-caliber, and it must be shared on a regular basis. The internet is filled with information (sometimes so much that it becomes overwhelming), and if you want people to turn to you as their No. 1 source, what you share has to be insightful. Why? Because users will begin to recognize the content you’re sharing and will start to associate you with it. Once a connection is established, you’ll have an even greater opportunity to make an impact in your industry.
Know your audience.
Becoming familiar with who is reading your content and who might potentially seek the information you have will give you better insight into who your followers are. This way, you’ll be able to target your topics to a specific group instead of producing content that is more general than specific in nature. Putting in the time early on and researching your target audience is a great marketing strategy that, in turn, can generate traffic and gain the best results when it comes to gaining followers.
Build your network.
Thought leaders look to impart expert advice, but in order to reach a vast audience, you need to have a sizeable following on your social media platforms. Without enough followers, it will be difficult to establish yourself as a thought leader — no matter how great your content is.
Interesting and shareable content is what I’ve found will attract people to you in the first place. You’ll likely start off slowly in building up your network, but continue to push forward every day.
In addition to actively sharing the content you produce, it’s important to engage with others. Be forthcoming in responding to comments left on your posts as well as receptive to questions. Starting a dialogue with someone who shows interest in what you have to say is a great way to build your network.
In addition to interacting with your followers, it’s a good idea to interact with professionals and other people within your sphere on their social media platforms. Jump into discussions, comment on their posts and, when possible, provide additional information that shows your knowledge and commitment to the subject matter. This will also put you on other people’s radar.
Taking engagement a step further, when you come across smart and informative content produced by someone else, share it among your networks. This shows that you not only recognize good material when you see it but also that you’re not afraid to share the spotlight.
It’s important to consider all of the different ways in which you can reach an audience. While the written word is what often comes to mind when thinking about content, there are other ways to spread your message.
First, think about your audience: Some people respond better to visuals and would rather watch a short video clip than read an article. Others, meanwhile, might still prefer to read an article or post. By sharing content in various formats, you’ll reach different groups and open yourself up to new followers.
Becoming A Thought Leader
When using social media as a tool in building your position as a thought leader, engagement is critical. The likes, comments, re-shares, etc. all put you in someone else’s line of vision.
But no matter the strategy you take, remember it’s all about consistency. Keep a regular schedule of when you post content and stay engaged. The process of becoming a thought leader takes time, and for some, it might feel overwhelming. But with patience and consistency, becoming a respected leader in your industry is possible.