A typical article on this topic would start by impressing you of the worth of social media with its 2.77 billion users. In my view, that's a tad bit cliché, really. After all, who doesn’t know about the influence that social media has in the present times? So, I’ll dig straight into another statistic, albeit a unique one. 96 percent of all B2B companies want more content from industry leaders. If you’ve been trying to dip your toes into thought leadership or positioning yourself as a person of expertise and authority in a specific niche, then this stat should’ve arrested your attention.
Although the numbers added above speak adequately about the significance of thought leadership, there’s still a TED talk by Simon Sinek — “Start with Why” — that deserves a mention here. In his talk, Sinek highlights an interesting business approach, one that has resonated with a wide audience on the internet and which made me introduce this extra section in this quick guide. Sinek suggests that people don’t buy what we do. Instead, they buy why we do it. In other words, your backstory or ‘why’ plays a major role in helping people make their purchase decision. Luckily, thought leadership can help capture and showcase your ‘why’ and assist you in building a community of like-minded people.
Assuming, you've already set up a professional social media profile, let's get started on making you an online thought leader:
Step 1: Explore what sets you apart.
The one thing that will prick your dream bubble of becoming a thought leader is staying mainstream, because that simply won’t be enough to make you stand out from the crowd. So, you need to dedicate some brainstorming time to yourself before you plunge into thought leadership. The first question to ask yourself is how your voice is unique enough to help you become a niche leader. And while you’re at it, be sure that you know your audience – the people you’d like to attract.
Step 2: Find your voice.
Now that you know the nucleus that will hold your thought leadership in place, start thinking about your voice. Two secret weapons that can help you here are storytelling and being yourself.
To this end, follow Marketer and Technologist Brian Fanzo’s example. He shared some stellar advice with the good folks on Buffer. In his words, “My parents, always since day one, have instilled in my brothers and I that the value that you have is what everyone else can’t do or can’t be, and that’s being yourself. And so what that came down to was ‘I’m going to tell my story everywhere and anywhere.'”
Step 3: Dig deep into your industry.
Belly flop into your industry, network and make meaningful connections. This isn’t just the third step, but an initiative that starts long before you roll into thought leadership and continues to extend beyond your first steps of becoming a thought leader.
Acquainting yourself with those in your field bridges the holes in your information platter. It also slowly makes you a familiar face in the industry, and it keeps you abreast of the industry news, trends and other influencers as well.
Step 4: Plan your incredible content.
Of course, thought leadership is incomplete without planning and writing outstanding content. Make sure that your planned content reflects your unique voice, authority and, above all, is shareable.
Two tips that can help you make your content shareable: share something that your audience can relate to, or share something inspirational. For instance, this tweet got an overwhelming response because my community could relate to it:
Step 5: Create visuals that catch the eye.
Don’t forget to diversify your content’s format. To this end, you need to add visuals to the mix. Interestingly, 80 percent of the people remember visuals better, and visual content is processed 60,000 times faster than text. Prepare graphic designs and video content, which has been performing well on social lately. By adding variety to your content format, you can meet the content consumption requirements of different types of people. This helps you engage and influence various segments of your audience.
Step 6: Quantify the results.
Lastly, keep tabs on the ripples that your thought leadership is creating. By analyzing results, you will also get to understand your audience better. Essentially, every social network offers built-in analytics, such as Twitter analytics and Instagram insights. To give you an idea of your influence, keep a track on the views you attract, the backlinks you get, how many downloads and retweets you receive and your click-through rate. In the words of Craig Badings, “the bottom line is whether your content enables you to capture these visitors, convert them into leads and ultimately nurture them into customers?”
These six steps are enough to help you employ social media to become a thought leader. Additionally, here are three pro-tips to keep in mind for continued success:
1. Be consistent.
Nobody remembers a voice that shows up two days, disappears in thin air for a week, and starts sharing stuff on the 8th day again. Plan content in advance, mix it up with real-life happenings (gives a very authentic touch) and schedule, schedule, schedule. Such consistency also helps gain trust as people come to see you as a reliable person and the expert to refer to on the topic.
2. Engage genuinely.
Share and retweet other stuff besides your content. But be selective of what you retweet or reshare, because sharing it means that your views could align with it. Or, add your opinion on top of what you share from others. This makes a good, flavorful feed. A solid tip to generate engagement is to ask questions from your followers or start a poll.
3. It's not about you.
Maintain this mindset so that your only motive is to provide value. Present-day consumers understand that your ultimate goal is to generate revenue. And, they don’t appreciate aggressive sales pitches. In fact, such a cold approach makes them skeptical and destroys your credibility. So, show your followers that you focus on offering value first and sales second.