Every year, Time Magazine publishes its list of the “The 100 Most Influential People in the World. “The people who appear on this list run the gamut from relatively unknown to crazily famous.
For instance, a prestigious Indian psychiatrist and a female German diplomat both appear on the 2015 list. So do edgy comedian Amy Schumer and rapper Kanye West!
What could those people possibly have in common? The answer is simpler than you think.
When they speak, joke, make music or make waves…people tend to pay attention. They move others. They make a difference in their industry and in the world.
This needs to be you, too. Not necessarily on that scale. Unless you have a Steve Jobs-ian earthshaking invention in your back pocket, chances are you won’t be appearing on that particular 2016 list.
But you can still be an influencer in your own sphere. You can still move your audience to think, to converse, to engage and ultimately, to trust you enough to buy from you. (Let’s be honest, all roads need to eventually lead to ROI.
Being considered a “Thought Leader” is an honor, to be sure. But if it never lead to a stronger marketing presence online…what’s the point?)
So how do you make waves in your industry?
How do you get your name out there and get it loud enough for people to eventually stop and take notice whenever you publish that incisive blog post, or irresistibly shareable infographic?
You need to dominate the social sphere of your target audience.
You have to be out there, and be out there on a regular basis.
Here are 11 ways to build your thought leadership reputation, one tweet at a time:
1. Pick Your Platform
Align your platform with your expertise and your audience. Fish where your particular fish are. This takes a bit of research but it’s well worth the time.
If you sell home décor online, I’m not sure you should pour a lot of time into establishing a name for yourself on LinkedIn. I’d instead focus on Pinterest, Houzz, and Facebook.
Likewise, if you are a B2B company wholesaling to small businesses, LinkedIn might indeed be the ideal place for you to start.
Don’t try to be everywhere at once, at least not at first.
Focus on one platform first.
2. ABB: Always Be Blogging
That said, regardless of what platform you zero in on, you need to make blogging a part of your strategy.
Remember, content is bait.
You throw tidbits of that bait out into the ocean (social media) and pull prospects into your boat (website) and keep them there by feeding them larger, meatier bait (blog posts.)
Luring prospects on social media is great but once they land on your site you need to give them more than a boring website to sink their teeth into.
That is, only if you want to keep them there! Blogging must be at the heart of your system or you’ll just get great traffic…with a high bounce rate.
3. Be The Best
Obviously you want to put the best content out there on social media. You want to be thought provoking and unique. But the way you publish on those platforms must also be The Best.
You need to immerse yourself in the best practices of each platform and make sure you are adhering to them each and every time you post.
It would be a shame to put so much thought and energy into establishing thought leadership-worthy content, only to realize that no one is reading it because you posted it at a bad time, or you posted too often and now they’re sick of you or that you’ve broken some other key rule.
Know your platform inside and out.
4. Research & Rub
Rub shoulders with existing thought leaders. Study their blogging content, frequency, curation/creation ratios.
Note what platforms they seem to favor. Take a load of notes.
The best and easiest way to move your relationship with other thought leaders from “lurking researcher” to “potential peer” is to engage with them as a commenter first.
Comment on their blog with insightful thoughts of your own. Flatter them online when you love something they have posted.
Share their posts on your own platforms. Before you know it, you’ll be on their radar and they’ll start talking back and engaging with you.
This way, by they time you start putting out your own leadership-worthy content; they’ll have an established relationship (and ideally respect!) for you.
If you’re lucky, they’ll eventually start sharing and liking your content too.
5. Guest Post
Another way to make a name for yourself is to make guest posting a big part of your strategy.
Aim to blog once on your own blog once a week and then guest post once a week on another leader’s blog.
They will welcome the ‘break’ from blogging and you will welcome the fresh new audience you can expose your fantastic content to!
Note: this should go without saying but I’m going to say it anyway – before you even think about pitching a guest blogging post to a big social influence, make sure all of your ducks are well in a row.
Make sure your content topic is fresh, interesting to that blog’s audience, well written and respectful of the influencer’s style, theme, tone of their blog.
You don’t want to blow a very important first impression by sending them insultingly bad or mismatched topics for potential publication on their blog.
They could reject you immediately for not bothering to ‘get to know’ their blog and you might not get a chance to make a second impression!)
6. Curate, Share, Link Back
One of the smarter things that influencers and thought leaders do is to not just create fantastic content, but curate it as well.
There’s no better way to develop a ravenous, passionate, loyal audience than to show them that you don’t just offer up interesting content yourself, but you can also be relied upon to share the best of the best of other people’s content, as well.
Curate that content, link to it, rave about it and insist your reader’s check it out. Don’t worry, you will still ‘get credit’ for introducing them to it in the first place.
7. Piggyback & Expound
Another interesting tactic is to take the curation one step further.
Find a post or video or article that seems to be getting a lot of attention online.
Then piggyback on it.
Expound on exactly why that infographic is so damn interesting or why that particular video went wildly viral.
8. Help, Help, Help
Remember that readers will enjoy your content if you’re funny and insightful.
But they’ll come back to you again and again if you don’t just entertain them but actually strive to help them. Keep that motivation at the center of all your content and you’ll never go wrong.
And you’ll attract a loyal bunch of readers who know they can turn to you for great advice, tips and more.
9. Be Authentic, Be Personal
For such a long time, businesses were out of luck when it came to connecting on a personal level with their customers.
All marketers knew that that was the way to build a fanatical fan base, to really engage their emotions and hearts.
Why do you think so much business is conducted on the golf course?
Why do salesmen have dinner and entertainment budgets?
Being a ‘friend’ to your customer is critical to bringing them back to you again and again.
Social media allows you to inject humanity into your business relationships. And yet, so often, I see businesses failing to do just that.
I’m not sure if it’s a fear of looking unprofessional or too transparent, but there seems to be a reluctance to be real.
Don’t waste that opportunity. Funny, self-deprecating and fallible will make prospects like you not mistrust you.
Connect on a friend level whenever you can!
10. Join The Club
Make sure you are joining every Facebook and LinkedIn group you can. (Within reason, and within relevant parameters.)
Promoting your content on these groups can get your voice heard by many, invested, already-curious readers.
And when you are in these clubs, make sure to engage with other people’s comments and content.
Don’t just push your own.
Remember, being part of the community is key to eventually becoming a thought leader.
11. Host A Meetup
Finally, one of the easiest, quickest way to position yourself as a leader or influencer is to first position yourself as a host.
Offer to host a meet-up of like-minded business owners, or an active group of your customers who have a common interest.
Volunteer in your local community and make sure they know who you are and what your URL is (this is as simple as making sure you link it from your email signature)
Go to Meetup.com and join any existing group and get to know those groups as a well. Real world leadership can quickly grow your online thought leadership.
So, what do you think?
Do you have it in you to become a thought leader in your space? Does it sound easy or too daunting?
Have you been able to establish yourself as a thought leader in any capacity?
Tell us how you did it in the comments below…
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