Lee Fuller is an enterprise level marketer that operates as the Co-Founder & CEO of Leeds-based digital agency, Flaunt Digital. He’s worked with a range of global clients including organizations like The New York Times.
What can you do to position yourself as a thought leader in your industry?
As a young entrepreneur, it can often be tricky to balance numerous business opportunities simultaneously. Scaling up several businesses can prove to be a difficult challenge, especially if you’re not lucky enough to have a marketing team on board. So how did globally-recognized entrepreneurs like Richard Branson achieve this? It’s all about personal branding…
Personal branding has always been popular amongst the entrepreneurial community; look at the likes of Donald Trump and Henry Ford. But since the rise of social media, this has become so much easier.
Entrepreneurs such as Richard Branson, Elon Musk & Bill Gates capitalize on the power of content marketing to position themselves as thought leaders or experts in their respective industries.
As an industry thought leader, you can use social media to position yourself as the go-to person in your niche for tips and advice. Whether you use a platform such as YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn or even your onsite blog, you’ll gradually build a following of loyal users, all relevant to your industry.
From here, if you gradually drop references to your own company over a period of time, you can open up an endless list of business benefits.
So, what can you do to position yourself as a thought leader in your industry?
1. Find your niche
The first step in your journey to becoming an industry thought leader is to find your niche. It’s all good to share your general industry expertise, but there are likely to be tons of other thought leaders in the space already. Try to focus on something more specific within your field of expertise where there isn’t as much competition.
For example, rather than talking about digital marketing as a whole, why not focus on content marketing? Once you’ve established yourself in this space, you could venture into other similar topic areas.
2. Add value without expectation
You will only become a thought leader in your niche if you add value without expectation. In the current digital climate, people can find anything they want to know within a few clicks, usually for free.
If someone clicks onto your content without prior knowledge of who you are and discovers they need to give away their personal data, or even worse, pay for your content, then chances are they’ll click away and go elsewhere.
3. Ask and answer questions
Conversations are one of the most effective ways to develop brand awareness through social media. It’s straightforward too. You can start by asking and answering questions on social media platforms like Twitter.
Put together a Twitter list of relevant industry influencers and reply to some of their tweets with your opinion. Or if you’re a member of any LinkedIn group, why not look to see if anybody has asked any questions that you could help with? Remember to add value without expectation; if you reply to someone’s tweet with a meaningless contribution or ask for something in return, it won’t do any good for your personal branding.
Another tactic you could use is searching for industry-relevant hashtags or long-tail keywords on Twitter. From here, you can use a similar method, answering people’s queries and replying to tweets with your own take on the subject. This technique can be effective as you tend to find many more people asking for help than with the influencer Twitter list, therefore it’s a lot easier to provide value.
Another way you can position yourself as a thought leader is through blogging. Most people would start by writing a blog on their company website, but if you aim to build personal branding, this may not always be the best way forward.
Influencers such as Richard Branson and Bill Gates use LinkedIn’s in-platform blogging tool, LinkedIn Pulse, to position themselves as thought leaders. If you already have a decent following on LinkedIn, this could work wonders for you too. Another option is writing guest posts for well-known websites.
This may take a bit more work as you’ll need to research different websites in your industry that accept guest posts, and you’ll usually need a backlog of blog posts already. But the benefits can be tenfold; you can reach loyal audiences that are eager to hear from industry experts and benefit from the SEO value of a high-domain website, provided they accept backlinks.
Just to reiterate, this shouldn’t be your primary aim. Focus on providing value without expectation; the rest will follow in time.
4. Network with industry influencers
The power of influencer marketing really shouldn’t be undervalued. Building relationships with other thought leaders in your industry can boost your personal branding and reinforce your position as a thought leader.
Starting conversations through your influencer Twitter list and LinkedIn Groups is a good place to start. Don’t be intrusive or spammy, though, as this can seriously damage your image.
Tap into your existing network and see if there’s scope for you to work with any of your influential contacts. For example, if they run their own YouTube channel or podcast, why not ask if you could provide some insight on a hot industry topic? Another way to develop relationships with industry influencers is by attending and speaking at events.
Without an existing audience, it could be more difficult to feature on the speaker line-up, but if you have any influential industry contacts, why not reach out for their help? Failing this, simply showing your face at an event and networking with other attendees can help spread your personal brand.
Come prepared with a list of people you want to talk with, and you won’t go wrong.
5. Don’t be scared to innovate
To stand out from the crowd, you need to offer something different. Whether using a unique tone of voice or doing something completely out-of-the-box, the choice is yours. One example of this is videography expert Peter McKinnon.
He regularly posts YouTube videos with advice for upcoming videographers and has established himself as one of his industry's most popular thought leaders. He introduced a series called ‘Two Minute Tuesdays,’ where he tries to teach his subscribers something within two minutes.
It’s unique, entertaining and provides a lot of value in a short space of time; pretty much everything a viewer could ask for.
As someone new to this process, it’s important to take your time with it. Once you become more familiar with your audience and find your groove, the quality of your content will only improve. And from here, it’s all about maintaining consistency.
Staying at the front of people’s minds through a mix of guest posts, answering questions on social media, blogging on LinkedIn Pulse and so on is exactly what the best thought leaders have been doing for years. And don’t be scared to give your business a cheeky plug along the way.
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