“Thought leader” and “thought leadership” are terms that are thrown around so often and by so many people that it can be difficult to remember what they actually mean.
At a time when it seems like anyone with a large enough following on Twitter or Instagram can be considered a thought leader, it’s important to remember what authentic thought leadership is — and how powerful it can be for your brand, your company, and your audience.
A thought leader is an industry expert who shares his or her expertise with a broader audience for the purpose of educating, improving, and adding value to the industry as a whole. Thought leaders are people who fully immerse themselves in everything about their industries; they not only understand the inner workings of their businesses, but they also know their audiences and competitors to a T.
That takes more than a clever commercial, online ad, or single blog post to achieve. To be a true thought leader in your industry, you need to become a trustworthy, engaging resource for others in your space. And sharing your experiences through high-quality content — on your own site and in online publications and outlets to which you contribute original guest posts — allows you to effectively reach, educate, and engage with your audiences.
Achieving Authentic Thought Leadership
People want to engage with people.
This isn’t rocket science, yet companies are still missing the human element when it comes to their content marketing. Building credibility through industry thought leadership creates that authentic engagement with your audience — when planned and executed correctly, that is.
To understand more about how you can achieve authentic thought leadership, here are a few best practices for becoming an authentic thought leader:
In case you don’t have your headphones on you (or simply want notes), below are some of the points discussed in the video (along with a few other recommendations not in the video):
1. Start writing.
One of the most effective, scalable ways to build thought leadership and connect with your audience is through content — and that means it’s absolutely critical that you start writing.
2. Don’t be overly promotional.
That said, you shouldn’t just write and publish promotional content all about your company and how cool you are. Being promotional is only going to turn your audience off. No one wants a pitch about your product — even though 75 percent of marketers still believe this to be true. Your role as a contributor is simple: to contribute, provide value, and share your insights.
3. Publish high-quality content.
At Influence & Co., we believe quality is one of the most important components of creating thought leadership content (if not the most important). If you’re at the farmers market and buy what you later realize is a bag of moldy apples, you’re probably going to skip that booth next time, right? You can’t settle for low-grade quality because, while you might slide by with that a few times, people won’t keep coming back.
4. Be consistent.
You can’t build a readership if your audience doesn’t know who you are. Trusting relationships don’t happen overnight, after all. By maintaining an editorial calendar and consistently publishing content, you can start to build that following. Real thought leaders are in it for the long haul. They’re not trying to earn a quick buck or get in on the latest trend; they’re passionate about their industry. Consistency in content, social interactions, and publication contributions communicates authenticity.
5. Go social, and join online groups.
This might seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people leave their profiles incomplete or abandon them altogether. Your online presence matters, so make sure your LinkedIn profile is complete and your Twitter account doesn’t display an egg where your profile picture should be.
Beyond a complete profile, make sure you’re actually engaging with your followers. Yes, simply being present can make a big difference, but you should also work to grow your social following and your online community.
6. Remember that the best content comes from you, the expert.
This is also one of the keys to building thought leadership as an ROI-driven strategy for your company over the long term. Humanizing your brand means nothing without your employees. When you have key employees contributing nonpromotional, high-quality content, you’ll showcase the faces behind the brand that people can trust.
While it’s not easy, dedication to becoming a thought leader is a key attribute in humanizing your brand and creating authentic long-term relationships. Start the conversation, share your insights, and reach out to make connections. Take the time to provide real value, and you’ll appreciate the payoff from helping to shape your industry.