The business world is enamored with thought leaders. They engage thousands of users through LinkedIn posts and earn invitations to speak on panels, podcasts and international conference stages. From an employer’s perspective, their personal brand helps fill the company’s content marketing pipeline and keeps the organization top-of-mind.
But you and other leaders at your company also have charisma, knowledge and valuable advice to share. Why do some experts earn industry-wide acclaim while others remain unrecognized?
The challenge is that the game has recently changed. The internet is saturated with content, the pandemic continues to dampen in-person events and social media platforms update their algorithms so often that it feels impossible to gain traction. A modern quandary results: It’s never been easier to use your voice, but it’s never been harder to get anyone to listen.
Fortunately, there are still plenty of opportunities for industry experts to claim the coveted title of ‘thought leader’. It just takes persistence and a thoughtful strategy.
Here are a few methods you or others in your organization can include in your thought leadership strategy to foster a following and snag the spotlight:
In ye olde days of the 2010s, blogging was one of the leading tactics for earning recognition online. Some of the most well-known entrepreneurs (like Neil Patel, Tim Ferris and Amy Porterfield) got their start in the blogosphere. And while Groupon may not be the giant it once was, the company was valued at a whopping $6 billion just two years after launching as a blog.
Blogging has changed considerably since then, but it’s still one of the best methods for generating traffic and engagement — especially if you’re good at it.
But, if you’re going to dedicate time to blogging, make sure your content reflects you as a human. People don’t follow thought leaders just because they’re smart; they do it because they’re bold, interesting, entertaining and offer fresh perspectives.
In addition to regularly publishing thought leadership content to your own blog, consider reaching out to other popular blogs and pitching a guest post. This is a great way to grow your audience and build mutually beneficial relationships with fellow thought leaders.
Much like blogs, people continually predict the death of podcasts. Every year, a handful of articles proclaim the podcasting bubble will burst. Every year, they’re wrong. Even as platforms evolve and rules change, audiences remain hungry for fresh, entertaining content. The written and spoken word will always have a place.
Some statistics compiled by Buzzsprout back this up:
Hitting your industry’s podcast circuit is excellent for earning recognition, telling your story and showcasing your personality. But before you pitch a topic to a podcast, make sure you do your research and listen to a few recent episodes. With any luck, your first interview will go so well that you’ll also earn invites from other shows.
Like most social media platforms these days, LinkedIn can be a hostile place. People post polarizing and controversial opinions on current events, petty arguments occasionally dominate the comments and the algorithm seems to shift with the wind. But, it’s still a great space to connect and build an audience.
Here are a few things you can do to increase your chances of going viral on LinkedIn:
The algorithm seems to favor people who post regularly, so commit to publishing at least three times per week.
You can’t fake genuine connections. Be open and honest, and people will relate.
Some of the most popular posts on LinkedIn right now are short stories that conclude with meaningful lessons. Draw from your own experiences, and don’t be afraid to share how you’ve failed (and recovered!) throughout your career.
Like all social media platforms, video performs well on LinkedIn — and it doesn’t have to be professionally produced. A 30-second anecdote or nugget of advice filmed on your smartphone should do the trick.
No thought leadership strategy is complete without a good plan for growing your network. Fortunately, that’s becoming a lot easier.
While online networking has been popular for several years, it exploded in mid-2020. As people slowly accepted the pandemic was here to stay, professionals began gathering for virtual mastermind groups and meetups on platforms like Zoom, Slack and Clubhouse. With time, professional networking leaders refined their processes, and these experiences have continued to improve.
Although in-person events are back on the books and offer tremendous value, the lack of geographic boundaries makes digital spaces especially advantageous for fledgling thought leaders looking to gain a foothold. If you’re unsure where to start, peruse Meetup.com, LinkedIn Groups, Facebook Groups, and Slack communities to find your tribe.
This suggestion is a much heavier lift, but it’s certainly not impossible — especially if you already have a topic in mind and a unique perspective. You might choose to write a book that shares the mission and vision of your company, like Hiring for Diversity, co-written by the founder of Mathison. Or, you might write a book sharing life-work lessons and philosophies you’ve developed throughout your career, like Make Time, written by former Google designers.
If you’re not ready to go it alone, you might opt to team up with another thought leader in your space to share the load. Digital marketing agencies can provide a brand journalist to write for you. Or, can contract an experienced ghostwriter to help transform your ideas into a manuscript.
Also, if you don’t have the bandwidth to tackle a full-length book, you can start by publishing a few shorter resources, like guides, whitepapers, and ebooks.
The internet is crowded, and it can often feel futile to gain traction. But remember that some of the biggest names in every industry had to start somewhere. And by leveraging these methods as part of your thought leadership strategy, you’ll begin to develop an audience.
Finally, while you might not go viral or publish a bestseller, even building a small, dedicated following can do wonders for your personal brand and your company’s credibility.
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