You probably are a thought leader – most CEOs of successful companies are. But are you visible online as a thought leader? Many people assume that their real-world power and presence are automatically carried over into their web presence. But that’s not the case.
You have to put effort into making yourself visible as a thought leader online. When you do, your ideas can reach many more people, and you gain all of the benefits of the enhanced reputation that accrue to thought leaders:
- Your business receives more leads and more referrals.
- Your sales cycle is shorter.
- You can close larger deals and work with more ideal customers.
- You can charge more.
- It becomes easier to recruit top talent.
The net result is that your company can grow faster – and it becomes easier to run the business.
What Makes Someone a Thought Leader?
Let’s start by defining the difference between an expert and a true thought leader.
Both experts and thought leaders are deeply knowledgeable about a particular topic. But thought leaders have three characteristics that separate them from experts.
- Thought leaders have a unique perspective and insights. They not only know the current state of their industry – they can predict where it is going. And when they explain that to you, you see things differently. They open your mind to new ideas.
- Thought leaders are willing to take a stand on issues. They are willing to make predictions, challenge the status quo, and even be a bit controversial.
- They share their ideas publicly, adding to the store of knowledge in the universe. They create content and publish regularly.
As a result of the combination of innovative ideas and regular publishing, people pay attention to them.
So to be visible as a thought leader, you need to:
- Have your own point of view (that is distinct from other thought leaders in your industry).
- Create and publish original content (not just curate content from other thought leaders).
- Build an audience of people who find what you say interesting and useful – who want to pay attention to you.
Let’s break that down into five straightforward steps you can take on LinkedIn…
Step 1: Decide What You Need to Say
The first step is to define your area of expertise. What do you want to be known for?
And what is your point of view on that topic? How do you see the issue differently from the others in your industry? What do you appreciate or understand that others don’t?
Dig a little deeper into the differences between you and other thought leaders. When you articulate this effectively, not only does it become easier to get attention, but you also build the framework for sharing your vision.
When you answer these three questions, you will also be creating:
- Topics you want to cover in your posts
- Keywords you want to be found on
- Points you can make when commenting on other people’s blog posts
Step 2: Get on a Publishing Schedule
Once you have a list of topics you want to talk about, the next step is to create a calendar showing what you are going to publish when.
If you are new to publishing, you might start with one blog post a quarter. If you are easily able to build a list of 12 or more topics, you might be able to do one a month.
Since you know your industry well, there might be times of the year that are a better fit than others for certain topics. Rough out a plan for a full year.
You’ll want to use the LinkedIn publishing interface – don’t just share a link to a blog published on your website. When you use the LinkedIn interface, your blog post sits on your profile forever, continuously attracting search engine traffic and educating people. If you only share a link, the post disappears after a time.
And, you don’t have to write blogs! You can do videos, webinars, white papers, briefings, ebooks, or whatever you want. We usually encourage people to start with blog posts because they are the easiest kind of content to create.
Videos are perfect for short snippets – commentary that takes 30 seconds to 2 minutes. You can offer tips, brief analyses, or a perspective on current events. There’s no need to make it formal. Videos you take on your phone are watched 3x longer than a more polished video, and they are extremely easy to upload and share.
Even longer posts, or updates, are a good choice if you aren’t ready to commit to a blog post or aren’t comfortable doing videos. This kind of update gets excellent traction and provides the easiest possible way to share ideas.
Choose whatever form of content works for you.
Find a way to hold yourself accountable. Publishing tends to fall in the “Important, Not Urgent” category. It’s easy to let your schedule slip, and that won’t serve you. Put dates on your calendar, tell people what you will be publishing when, and work with someone who can make the blogging easier.
Step 3: Build Your Audience
You can’t become a thought leader simply by saying that you are. You need to attract an audience of people who are interested in what you have to say, respect your ideas, and want to pay attention to you.
This takes time!
Established and recognized thought leaders already have publications, speaking engagements, podcasts, interviews, and articles ready to share online. You don’t need to create everything new. Take some of your older content and share it with a comment about how it is relevant today, how much has changed, or how little.
Make sure you connect with the people you know and respect, engage with them, and you will find it relatively easy to grow your audience.
If you are an emerging thought leader, you will need to put more effort into building your audience. Make sure you use hashtags on everything you post, and tag people who are mentioned or who might find your content relevant.
You may find it useful to take advantage of LinkedIn’s ads to put your content into the news feed of the people you want to reach. If you have the budget to afford ads, this allows you to get your ideas in front of thousands of people, regardless of whether or not they are your connections.
Step 4: Don’t Forget Your Profile!
People who see your posts will come back to your profile to learn more about you. Make sure your LinkedIn profile tells the story of your thought leadership.
People should be able to easily see your career path and appreciate how you gained your expertise. You should talk about the topics where you are a thought leader and share a little about your point of view.
Your profile should be rich with keywords related to your topics. The best places to include keywords are:
- Your headline
- Your About section
- Your Experience section (in the job descriptions)
- Your skills
You will also want to show that your thought leadership has attracted an audience. You can demonstrate that on your LinkedIn profile by:
- Building a large network (over 1,000 followers)
- Using a photo of you giving a keynote as your header background graphic
- Including video clips, interviews, podcasts, or your TED Talk in your Featured section
- Listing awards in your Accomplishments section
The people who visit your profile can see who you interact with. If you are engaging with people whom they recognize and respect, that raises you in their esteem. Follow other influencers in your industry or area of expertise, and like and comment on their posts.
This can also be a way to get the attention of the people who follow the other thought leaders. When they see an intelligent and perceptive comment you make, they can come check you out and follow you. It’s a great way to grow your own following.
Step 5: Thicken Your Skin
When pioneering an idea or point of view, it’s perfectly normal – and almost preferred – if you stir up some kind of disruption within your industry.
After all, are you really putting out high-impact content if you’re not moving the needle among industry peers?
With this comes the possibility of negative comments on your LinkedIn posts or conflicting points of view from others in your network.
Get to know your LinkedIn settings so you can quickly turn off comments if a discussion is getting out of hand.
Be open to constructive criticism and engage honestly with your detractors. This open dialogue will further cement your reputation as a genuine, inspirational thought leader.
Need Help Getting Started?
At ProResource, we help executives use social media effectively. If you want to use LinkedIn to get your ideas out to your industry and build your audience, we would love to work with you. We will design a personal social media strategy to achieve your goals. We will write blog posts for you, based on an interview with you. We can also set up ad campaigns to boost your blog posts to your desired audience. Let’s talk about what you want to accomplish and see how we can help. Book a discovery call today!