You might want to dismiss “thought leadership” as just another one of those marketing buzzwords, but the fact of the matter is that people defined as thought leaders are seen as trustworthy authorities in their industry.
What Is Thought Leadership?
By recognizing trends and contributing to the conversation about changes, innovations, and developments in their industry, thought leadership helps set the tone for intelligent debate and opinion. They are the people that have big ideas and are willing to share them. It’s not just about talking about business. Thought leadership is reserved for those that are creating new thinking and new value in your industry and are willing to give it away for free.
How Becoming A Thought Leader Impacts Your Business
You can’t just declare yourself a thought leader. That distinction comes from others. Once you have achieved that status, however, there are powerful benefits.
People want to work for visionaries that are at the top of their game. When job seekers search for you online, they will find your vision and your approach to business.
It provides connections with industry heavyweights and up-and-comers. When these people see you as an expert, they are more likely to do business with you or recommend your business. It’s a lot easier to do business with people that already know who you are and trust what you have to say.
Thought leaders are seen as visionaries that are sharing their big ideas with their peers. These light bulb moments facilitate debate and discussion in their industry and can position you as an industry expert.
How Can You Become A Thought Leader?
The first thing you will need to do is determine where your expertise lies. You can’t be a generalist and become a thought leader. You don’t need to know everything, but you do need to really know your niche. It needs to be something you are passionate about.
It isn’t going to happen overnight. Recognition by your peers as a thought leader takes time. You build your credibility by driving the conversation consistently over an extended period and providing value.
One of the most important things you can do is to join the conversation wherever it occurs. You can start by engaging online with other industry influencers and mentors. You will be surprised how easy it is to have an online conversation with some of the biggest names in your business if you show a genuine passion and interest. Follow what they say and join the conversation. Post links to engaging articles and add your own comments or thoughts to further the discussion.
Publish a blog on your company’s site or publish your own blog. Write regularly and share ideas both big and little. Use social media to link to these thought-provoking pieces. It will take a consistent and strategic approach to produce high-quality content over time.
As you become established and can show a body of work, you can broaden out your reach by sending samples to industry-related blogs and resources and offer up a guest post. By getting your work published on high authority industry sites, it can help your own SEO as well as enhance your position as an authority.
Getting on the program for networking events or speaking on industry topics at conventions and seminars can also help establish you. Videos, case studies, and whitepapers all add up to demonstrating a leadership position.
You need to show people you are authentic. People can spot wannabe’s a long way away. You don’t need to be Hemingway, but you do need to share your expertise and ideas in your own personal way. Personal stories backed up with results and insights create an emotional connection.
To break through the clutter, you are going to have to share how you think. Not everybody will agree with you. This presents an opportunity to further the conversation by interacting with people and including their viewpoints into the conversations. Even if they disagree with you, they will respect your willingness to discuss and reflect. Isn’t that what great leaders do?
Share Without The Sales Pitch
Becoming a thought leader means willing to put your ideas out there without looking for anything in response. The things you share are not going to be advertisements or veiled marketing attempts. This means sharing important information, ideas, and opinions with a decided lack of marketing attempts. Think of it more as a news item or magazine article than a sales pitch. It’s certainly OK to share a call-to-action and/or information about you and your company at the end of the article but to be effective, you have to avoid the temptation to sell.
You also want to avoid anything that looks like basic industry info, how to explainers, or clickbait. Skip the listicles and get to the good stuff. While it takes a quantity of solid information over time, quality is truly more important than quantity. Share as many strong ideas as you can, but only those that provide tangible value.
Your goal is to share a new, unique insight that can foster conversation. Done well, your passion for the industry will speak volumes about who you are and what you do. It can set you apart from other business leaders and help you establish a personal brand. Instead of overt marketing, it is an important part of building an authentic and genuine online leadership position.