To be a “thought leader” is one of the most sought-after titles a marketer can hope for.
Thought leaders are influential individuals who play a huge role in informing the public, leading the direction of the industry, presenting new information and breaking barriers.
Theirs is the content that is loved; shared; read; and sought-after.
You can’t just go to school to be a thought leader, though. It requires the careful cultivation of a set of particular skills, strengths and networks. It’s not enough to simply be intelligent, hard working or interested: you also need to be passionate, unique and unafraid of pushing the boundaries of possibility.
What is a True Online Thought Leader?
Thought leaders are many things but, to put it simply, they’re the people to whom everyone else goes for new ideas and key questions. They are informed individuals who offer valuable opinions and inspiration for the people who learn from them and they serve the amazingly important purpose of turning intangible ideas into solid realities.
Thought leaders make things happen and, more often than not, they undertake the task of transforming industries and instigating great change across varieties of platforms.
How to Be a Thought Leader: 10 Solid Tips
Becoming a thought leader is a little bit like becoming a unicorn: it takes a lot of effort and just a little bit of magic. Fortunately, you’re totally capable of both of those things. In the world of content marketing, the process of becoming a thought leader boils down to having unique ideas, expounding upon them in a unique way and offering people real, tangible value.
Follow these 10 tips to become a thought leader in your industry.
1) Be Authentic
Although it’s part of a thought leader’s job description to create high-level content that answers tough questions and provides real value for readers, it’s also important to know yourself and know your audience. This is especially difficult when you take into account the external pressure that is exerted on though leaders all the time. While it can be tough to avoid becoming distracted by things like the analytics attached to your blog, it’s important to remember that those things don’t provide a real window the to the big picture.
Additionally, they make it hard to remember that there are actually people behind all those swoopy lines and numbers. Because of this, the first step to becoming a thought leader is to be authentic, both to yourself and your audience.
You came to this business because some aspect of it was interesting to you. Therefore, there is very little that is more important than continuing to chase that interest. By writing what you know and are passionate about, your content will already have an edge over a great deal of content available on the Internet. Additionally, doing this will allow you to draw a series of followers who genuinely care about your topic.
How We’re Being Authentic (On Social)
One way we’re working on our authenticity is bringing a new level of transparency in our social media. In August 2015 we opened an Instagram account. We’ve started to feature a weekly #virtualworkforceculture post about our remote writers, with a picture of their faces, in their location: and our CEO has been traveling weekly to local businesses for a #localbusiness feature. among other things. Here’s a glimpse:
Featured #virtualworkforceculture of the week – our full time creative #writer, Oana G, based in Milano, Italy: “As you can see, I’m fighting a lost battle with clutter. To be honest, I like to surround myself with eclectic, odd, one-of-a-kind things that offer me the highest dosage of inspiration and energy. I love to connect objects with places and experiences, and I adore my job, because it allows me to get creative in my own environment.” #workfromhome #homeoffice #copywriter #copywriting #writing #marketing #SEO #contentmarketing #blogging #SMM #content #inboundmarketing #growthhacking #marketing #webtraffic #success #sales #expresswriters #photooftheday #loveit #selfie #instadaily #picoftheday #igers #instacool
This is the start to a very transparent social account that shows just what we’re up to in the office, and ties together faces in our work-at-home based team.
2) Seek to be a Hub of Information
Nobody wants another loudmouth marketer who takes over a huge portion of the Internet by hawking products or hard-selling readers. For this reason, one of the most important steps in becoming a thought leader is to dedicate yourself to being a hub of information rather than a blaring siren.
Business and personal blogs should act as platforms for reader engagement and should seek, primarily, to offer value to customers. Additionally, these platforms should offer a place for people to gather and engage in conversation via blog comments, tweets and re-tweets or social media shares. By doing that, you serve the most important purpose of a thought leader: inspiring ideas and facilitating cohesion.
3) Inspire Action
One of the most important purposes your content can serve is to inspire action within your readers. Your content should be so irresistible that people want to share it on social media, read the book you mentioned, try their hand at something new or travel to the exotic locale outlined in your most recent post. The goal can vary but the outcome should be the same: in order to be a thought leader, your content needs to move people to action.
4) Cultivate Your “Breakthrough Idea”
One of the traits of thought leaders everywhere is that they’re associated with a breakthrough idea. Depending upon your niche, your breakthrough idea could be an area of expertise or a particular approach to an old topic. Whatever your breakthrough idea is, it should inform the rest of your content.
For example, if you’re going to run a blog about optimizing efficiency and getting more done with less stress, your guests should be people who do that very well, your topics should be focused around wellness, productivity and success and your layout should be conducive to the rest of the message. The breakthrough idea informs the thought leader, who then informs the audience.
5) Be Consistent
Even if you write great content with a unique and inspiring message, it’s going to be tough for anyone to get onboard if they can’t predict where you’re going to go next. For this reason, thought leaders need to be consistent. Consistency promotes trust and accountability and gives people something to look forward to within your material.
6) Be Present
It’s hard to be a thought leader if you’re not actively participating in your industry and maintaining a consistent web presence. With that in mind, get out there and get published on a regular basis. It’s great to write several posts a week for your individual blog, but the true leaders will take this a step further by guest blogging, writing for authoritative sites, publishing a variety of content on dozens of different platforms and writing for industry leaders. This promotes a larger audience and contributes to a more recognizable brand.
7) Shoot for the Stars
Nobody ever became a thought leader refusing to hit for the bleachers. Because of this, it’s important to make big claims. Have confidence in your expertise and your brand and don’t be afraid to drive new ideas. This is one of the main things that set thought leaders apart from everyone else: thought leaders make big claims and they deliver results.
It’s impossible to make innovative change in your industry without doing this. Don’t worry about doing it all in a day, however. Just shoot for developing the ability to make big claims and, soon enough, your achievements will change as a result.
Networking is an important part of becoming a thought leader. It’s tough to exist as an island and, in order to claim maximum success; you’ll need a network of like-minded individuals around you. In order to attain this, it’s important to work closely with influencers and mentors and participate on several social media platforms.
Additionally, you should be reaching out to followers by responding to comments, tweeting and re-tweeting and getting intimately involved in discussions on sites like Quora. Don’t miss opportunities to attend in-person events and conferences and call on your network when you need it. The easiest way to rise to the top is to have people prepared to help boost you.
9) Break Rules
This goes hand in hand with making big claims but it’s an important part of the equation. In order to become a thought leader, you need to get really comfortable with breaking rules and transcending boundaries. The fact that somebody said it’s not possible should mean next to nothing to you and, if anything, you should take it as inspiration to succeed. Think of it this way: boundaries are there to separate thought leaders from everyone else and it’s your job to figure out a way to jump over them.
10) Think Different
It’s no secret that one of Apple’s most successful slogans was “Think Different.” That’s exactly what Apple has always done and if there were ever a tech industry thought leader, it’s safe to say that it has been Apple and Steve Jobs. In order to become a through leader in any industry, though, it’s important to do just that: by thinking different you help yourself stand out from the crowd. You also fill gaps in content, provide new ideas and help customers connect to you.
Becoming a thought leader is not an overnight process but by working on these 10 points, you can be well on your way to becoming an industry thought leader in no time.