What would you do if you could capture just a fraction of the estimated 4.8 billion daily social media users? That’s the promise of marketing and sales departments from all major social media platforms. But, if you want to transcend mere marketing to become a true thought leader, you have to move beyond simply raising brand awareness to become a go-to authority in your field.
What it Means to Be a Thought Leader
Thought leaders are the people you turn to when you want a trusted opinion on a certain topic, whether the subject is fashion, politics, or how to get grass stains out of your white’s. Off the top of your head, you can probably think of at least one brand you would trust in each of these matters.
Done right, your leadership attains a level that allows it to spill over and attract a whole new audience.
By this definition, you might think that “thought leader” and “influencer” are interchangeable terms. While a thought leader certainly has influence over how their audience perceives their brand, thought leadership is a bit more genuine and sustainable than that. True leaders are able to demonstrate deep knowledge and passion about their subjects in a way that ignites a similar passion and curiosity in their audience.
In terms of social media exposure and reach, thought leadership translates to an audience that hangs on your every tweet, posts that go viral for all the right reasons, and being the sometimes lone, trusted voice on subjects that your audience cares about.
Here are seven tips for reaching thought leader status on your promotional platforms.
1. Present a Unified, Professional Image
This is probably rule number one in any type of digital branding activity. People need to know who you are and what you’re about by association. You can only accomplish that by presenting a unified, professional image on everyone of your planks and profiles.
Each of your profiles should be complete, accurate, and up-to-date with the same information. That means the color scheme, profile picture, fonts, text, and layout should be consistent, professional-looking, and lend credibility to your brand regardless of where it appears online. When done right, your audience will know within seconds if your message is on-brand and authentic.
2. Diversify Your Dynamic
Diversification is a watch word in investing, and what is your social media marketing but an investment in brand awareness? Although you want to refine and segment your audience, you also want to diversify your marketing strategy and the platforms you use to reach and interact with that audience.
That means establishing your brand on a range of platforms, but using them in such a way that the message fits the medium. However, don’t spread yourself too thin. Social media marketing is a full-time endeavor. Choose two or three platforms that align with your brand message and goals, and then optimize the heck out of them.
3. Don’t be Afraid to Get Real
If you want to engage your audience on anything more than a superficial level, you have to let them know that you understand their pain. Rather then attempting to be the aspirational and perfect thought leader, try being an authentically relatable person.
Would you respond better to a fitness guru who looked great but never had to lose 200 pounds or someone who took you along with them on their fitness journey and inspired you by example? Showing your flaws, setbacks, and hardships will only make you more relatable to an audience, and therefore more likely to turn to you when they need leadership.
4. Highlight Your Authority
One of my friend’s sons always says “Don’t talk about it, be about it,” and that advice is good for you as well. Rather than talk endlessly about what you know and do, show your audience why you’re an authority in your field.
You can do this by creating useful content that provides value. For example, creating a how-to video for your product or writing a blog on an interesting, related topic. If your brand markets a product or service that has measurable, visible results, why not create a before/after gallery or upload user-generated media of it’s effectiveness on real customers?
5. Realize That You’ll Never Reach Everyone
One hard lesson to learn is that not everyone is going to like or agree with you. Rather than trying to be everything to everyone, focus on identifying and reaching your ideal audience. Cultivate and nurture the relationships that nurture your brand.
6. Leverage Your Network
Sometimes, it’s not just what you know, but who you know. Align yourself with other thought leaders and heavy-hitters by asking them to write a post for your, inviting them to speak at live events, or having them as a guest on your next podcast (and yes, you should be engaging in all of these activities). People do judge by the company you keep, so make sure that you’re seen in good company as often as possible.
7. Be Patient and Persistent
Despite a few cases of seemingly overnight success, becoming an internet sensation won’t happen over night. At least if what you’re looking for is more than becoming a flash in the pan.
The prominent thought leaders I follow have been patiently building their brand for years.
A major element of branding is establishing your authority among consumers and peers alike. When you’re viewed as a thought leader in your industry, you go beyond establishing awareness to create a bond that translates to consumer confidence and brand loyalty.
This means presenting yourself and your ideas in such a way that it establishes a connection with your audience based on genuine trust and respect. Using the steps outlined above, you’ll soon become the industry leader you envision rather than being viewed as just another brand for consideration.