You’ve likely heard the term before: thought leadership. But don’t be fooled – this popular phrase is so much more than another trendy buzzword. Thought leadership is a critical component of successful marketing, not only to establish you as an expert and authority within your industry, but also to build and strengthen your brand. As a thought leader, you can effectively engage others, change perceptions, and even create a following. This trusted following will become a base of loyal customers that will provide an element of credibility and a depth of understanding for the rest of your marketing efforts. In other words, thought leadership is the building block for any successful, authentic marketing campaign.
Now that you understand why thought leadership is so important – how do you become one? The team at mConnexions has created a list of steps to show you the key components of becoming a thought leader, and we’ll explain how to use social media to leverage your thought leadership.
Know Your Audience
If your audience is a stranger to you, all of your work at becoming a thought leader will be ineffective. Before doing anything else, make sure that you know your audience, and their wants and preferences. Consider how they communicate, and what sort of needs that they have that would prompt them to seek out your business.
This detailed description of your key clients is called a buyer persona – if you’ve never developed a buyer persona before, don’t stress. Check out this blog for step-by-step instructions, as well as a free downloadable guide and e-book, to help you get started. A thorough understanding of your ideal consumer will go a long way to helping you establish a voice that is relatable within your industry.
Create Content That Counts
As a thought leader, you are telling your audience that you can be trusted. You’re identifying yourself as an expert, and that means your content must be accurate. Many readers are highly intelligent and have a heightened sense of awareness. They are used to finding out answers to questions within seconds through the internet. Make sure that any used sources are correct, and that your personal content is factual. All of this background research shows your authenticity, an essential element of effective branding. Don’t lose your hard-earned credibility with a mistake that could have been easily caught.
Build Your Network
Becoming a thought leader is a journey. It takes a lot of time and devotion to grow your followers, but quality over quantity is key. As you begin, it’s easy to become caught up in posting too little too often, but this scattered approach won’t build a network. A targeted campaign with well-planned posts allows you to focus on being deliberate and authentic. Tell your personal stories and share exciting news about successes. Decide how many posts are ideal for your company, and learn more on our blog about how to write social media content that attracts leads. With high-quality social media posts, you’re well on your way to gaining followers who can be turned into loyal customers.
Have a Top-Notch Profile
Nothing drives a customer away like incorrect information on your social media! Even something as simple as updating your business hours can make or break a visiting customer (imagine waiting outside of a business at 10 am, since Facebook says it’s open, yet the hours actually begin at 11 am). Your social media profiles should be professionally written and meticulously maintained. Your platform as a thought leader can be through LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and more, as having a strong social media presence is key.
Your website is another major representation of your brand. Keep it informative, accurate, and compelling. Test your website on different devices to see how the mobile version appears. Is it easy to use, or do you need to make changes? Optimize your written online content for maximum accessibility. Voice searches are becoming more and more utilized, meaning that marketers who optimize their SEO for voice queries will gain the advantage in today’s new landscape.
Don’t Forget Engagement
Your audience is your priority. Be responsive! Always reply quickly to questions or comments. Participate in online discussions and tailor your content towards what your audience wants and needs.
Part of engagement is also recognizing that hard selling is a turnoff for customers. Potential clients are disinterested in aggressive sales pitches. A thought leader focuses on information first, and sales second. Your products and services can speak for themselves. Highlight them in innovative ways, like videos using them or free giveaways, rather than blatant sales attempts that alienate your audience.
Once you’ve built a following and are well on your way as a thought leader, you’ll have to proceed with caution. There are daily news reports of thought leaders and influencers posting something completely thoughtless. Even the most experienced brands have made serious missteps by not being aware of social issues and launching offensive advertisements. With every post, and with all content, ask yourself, “Does this represent my brand? How will this be perceived?” While thought leaders certainly bring big issues to light and can be controversial, when you’re a thought leader for your brand, remember that it’s not about you alone, but your company.
Becoming a thought leader takes time and commitment, but the results are priceless. By following these steps to identify yourself as a thought leader, and by capitalizing on the potential outreach of social media, you’ll be able to establish a reputation of excellence and build momentum towards a stronger and more successful brand. Reach out to schedule a free consult with one of our experts to learn more about how we can help.
Julie Holton is the Founder and Principal Strategist of mConnexions, a full-service marketing and communications agency. Prior to launching her agency, Julie spent more than ten years working in top television newsrooms across the country, as an Emmy award-winning writer, producer, and executive producer. Julie coached reporters, producers, writers, and videographers. She also worked with her news teams to develop digital and soc