A thought leader is able to share their views and champion the issues they stand behind in an authoritative and influential way. Becoming a thought leader is about becoming the de facto voice that people hear in their heads when they think about your field of expertise.
There are several ways to do this, but it’s important to begin by understanding that thought leadership is a commitment and not a campaign. It’s not a strategy that you can implement or an initiative where you say, “Okay, let’s create a robust campaign to become a thought leader.” It’s about conversing with constituents or customers and educating your community over time. So why is it worth the effort?
When you become a thought leader, it helps you and your brand become the credible source of information related to your field. Thought leaders create trust with their communities. In the nonprofit world, that means more supporters on your side. In the business world, that means more trust from current and prospective customers who are likely to choose you among competitors. Being a thought leader can also contribute to increased speaking platforms, networking opportunities and so much more. The world is your oyster!
If you’re ready to establish yourself as a subject matter expert, check out these three ways to become a thought leader.
1. Commit to creating and posting great online content.
We’re not just talking about posting content here. We’re talking about great online content. When you do this, you’re adding value to the conversation. If I’m interested in a topic or an issue related to your cause and I find valuable and relevant content that you’ve posted, it adds value to my perception of that issue.
Furthermore, it adds value to my life. If I begin to perceive your business or nonprofit as an authority on the subject, it means you’re becoming a thought leader. But again—this is a commitment, not a one-off thing. Posting valuable content should be a constant action item.
Practice finding where conversations are happening in your area of expertise. Find other thought leaders online and follow their blogs or social media. Don’t be afraid to find both thought leaders who agree and disagree with your viewpoints. Insert yourself into the conversation and make sure you have something valuable to contribute. Before you know it, you’ll be the one to follow.
2. Consider yourself an established expert.
It’s normal to have doubts, but you must believe in yourself. Someone has to step up to the plate and be the expert on this particular cause, this purpose or this issue. Why shouldn’t it be you? Be confident and comfortable in that role, but don’t limit yourself; this isn’t just about posting stuff on your website. You may also want to post on relevant forums or participate in online discussions, contributing as a representative of your business or organization.
If you don’t feel that you’re yet an expert in your field yet, consider the steps you can take to get there. Attend trainings, read the latest academic articles and sign up for discussions on the topic. Remember that all experts started in the exact spot you are in today. Simply take the time to learn what you don’t know! Then, don’t be shy—get the word that you and the people who work with you are the established experts in your area. When you believe it, the rest of the world will follow.
3. Inspire action.
People love to be inspired, and you can do this by using your words, developing compelling online content, and starting conversations in your community. You want to inspire people to take action in a way that aligns with your mission, and it’s okay to tell them exactly what you’d like them to do.
Think about it: What do you want people to do as a result of learning more about your business or organization and how it’s impacting the world? Once you have the answer, tell them. Ask people to come alongside and partner with you, whether that means purchasing, donating, volunteering or attending an event—whatever it is, inspire people to act. Choose your words wisely, because compelling content will be the deciding factor on whether or not your audience takes the action you intended.
BONUS—Where to Join the Conversation
Now that you know how to establish yourself as a thought leader, let’s talk about where you can voice your expertise. A blog allows you to position yourself as a thought leader, and it gives you your own real estate on the web where you can continually offer your views and opinions on important topics. Just remember to be consistent with your endeavors.
Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and other social media outlets are all additional tools you can use to establish yourself as a thought leader. Follow those in your space and interact with their content, as well. Just remember what we said initially: thought leadership is a commitment, not a campaign, and it doesn’t happen overnight. Keep at it and soon enough, your following will grow.
Looking for a more personalized game plan for your specific thought leadership goals or other marketing endeavors? We’re here to help. Sign up for a strategy session and we’ll discuss how we can work together to reach your goals.