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Establishing yourself as a thought leader, somebody who drives innovation and the discussion of new ideas within an industry is a valuable and ultimately profitable goal for any businessperson. It can both boost credibility and make your brand more visible on multiple platforms. Thought leaders are popular, well-respected and are able to create more connections. They are revered by customers and industry experts alike.
But becoming a thought leader can't happen overnight. It takes a lot of work and careful planning to put yourself in a position to earn recognition as a go-to authority on industry developments. Gaining the respect and loyalty of others takes time and dedication. It goes beyond simply having the knowledge; you have to put yourself out there and draw an audience to your expertise. Once you do reach the summit, you have to introduce new ideas on a consistent basis in order to maintain your status within the industry.
Everybody has to start somewhere. Are you ready to learn about how to become a thought leader? Here are 15 tips to get you started.
1. Make Yourself Accessible
Part of putting your name out there is by getting your name everywhere. Always open the door for inquiries from media outlets and bloggers, especially on platforms that are popular with your target audience. Let them splash your name on their pages and screens. It can help tremendously if you nurture your relationships with these folks. Let them know you're always available for a quote or a live broadcast hit. Boost your visibility and share your expertise in many places as possible.
2. Don't Stop Creating Content
Channelling your thoughts and expertise into content is only the beginning. It's important to keep pumping out information, so you don't lose your place in the public conversation. Creating content on a consistent basis also shows you're staying on top of the latest industry news. Eventually, you should begin reaching out to other publications to publish more of your work. Content with your name or face on it being published on popular platforms only firms up your reputation as a leading industry expert and can grow your audience.
3. Maintain a Strong Online Reputation
Opinions can change quickly, especially on social media. One minute you're an industry darling, and the next you're a destructive or divisive force. It simply isn't enough to have an online presence; you must protect your reputation as well. Social listening tools can be used to track what people are saying about you and your brand. If you keep track of what people are saying in real-time, you can nip any negativity in the bud by acting quickly to reach out to your audience and resolving the problem.
4. Collaborate with Other Influencers
Once you've established a baseline reputation, start interacting with and reaching out to other influencers in your industry. Depending on how active the community and the length of your reach, this can be a relatively easy task. Combine your brand power with that of another high-profile expert and collaborate on content production. Both parties benefit by using the other's brand and audience to boost exposure. If consumers see a common bond between two powers, it can push your credibility through the roof.
5. Make Things Personal
At the end of the day, both thought influencers and regular consumers are human beings. We all react emotionally to the same things. Don't be afraid to show this side of yourself in your content. When pitching stories, preparing speeches or writing blogs, find ways to work in a personal element. Turn what you say into a story, which is relatable to everybody. Highlight real-world examples and authentic solutions. Shine a light on the human aspect, so audiences have a reason to hang on to your every word.
6. Love What You Do
If you're going to be known as an authority on a topic, you better be passionate about it. You will be writing and speaking about your industry on a regular basis and talking about the same concepts and ideas in different cycles for many years. This shouldn't be a problem if you love what you do, but if not it can be draining. Believe in what you're doing, and others will follow. People who are enthusiastic about a topic will also be able to sniff out anybody who isn't. Don't try to be something you're not. Be authentic.
7. Be Humble and Generous
Setting up roadblocks between you and your audience will lead to frustration. If it's difficult for consumers to access your expertise, you will lose followers fast. Don't publish content in a place where it may be difficult to reach.
In addition, don't act like a know-it-all. It's impossible for one person to understand everything. Pretending to do so can backfire in catastrophic ways. Admit when something is beyond your expertise. People will respect you for it.
8. Choose Engagements Wisely
The events and speaking engagements you choose to attend will eventually help define your status as a thought leader. It may take time to develop your networking and public speaking skills before you land top spots at industry events, which makes it tempting to accept every invitation. But as your brand grows and you get more requests for speaking engagements, performing at too many events can saturate your value as an industry expert. Try to focus on high-profile events and those where your target audience will be in attendance.
9. Boost Your Online Visibility
Thought leaders need to be visible. It adds to their credibility. Make it easy for new connections to find you online because they won't seek you out specifically. Being on Google's first page, for example, can have a tremendous impact on your brand. Stay up to date with search engine and social media algorithms so you can maximize your exposure.
10. Be Social
Pick the social media platform in which you have the largest following and are most comfortable with and engage with people every day. Social media doesn't have to be something you do in your spare time; your personality will be part of your brand. Be in the thick of conversation and try to interact with other influencers. It's an opportunity to learn more from thought leaders and your own followers.
11. Start the Conversation
Part of being a thought leader is driving the conversation. Don't be afraid to start a discussion and express your opinion. The stronger your stance, the more reaction you will receive. That's not to say you should be intentionally controversial, but if what you say results in high engagement levels you can learn more about the needs and desires of your target audience.
12. Gather Information
Asking questions and sending out surveys can be a valuable way to gain insight from your target audience. They bring the answers to you, which make collecting data and doing research easier. It can position you as somebody who takes the industry seriously and can be a gateway to content ideas.
13. Be a Problem Solver
Thought leadership isn't just about postulating ideas but finding solutions to existing problems. People respect authority figures whose knowledge and expertise can be leveraged into something meaningful. If you're able to offer fresh and innovative ideas, you will be seen as a substantial contributor on the cutting edge. This can skyrocket your status among thought leadership.
14. Assume a Leadership Role
Being a thought leader requires more than just an expression of ideas, but action as well. If a hot-button issue arises, jump right into the controversy. Of course, you need to take a balanced approach in order not to alienate consumers and prospects, but the point is to show you won't cower when things get heated.
15. Pitch Yourself to the Media
There's nothing stopping you from sending pitches to media outlets. If there's a story regarding your industry in the current news cycle, let them know you're available to speak as an expert. Provide them with polished information, so they don't have to do the research themselves. It may not always work, but you might find yourself in front of cameras and a broader audience at the end of the day.