As a young entrepreneur, it can often be tricky to balance numerous different business opportunities at once. The process of 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 respected 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 across 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 well and good sharing your general industry expertise, but there is 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 then start to venture into other similar topic areas.
2. Add value without expectation
The only way you’re going to become a thought leader in your niche is if you add value without expectation. In the current digital climate people can find pretty much anything they want to know within a few clicks, and usually for free.
If someone clicks onto your content without any 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’re going to click away and go somewhere else.
3. Ask and answer questions
Creating conversations is by far one of the most effective ways to develop brand awareness through social media. It’s really easy too. You can start by simply 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 groups on LinkedIn, why not take a look to see if anybody has asked any questions that you could help out with? Remember to add value without expectation; if you reply to someone’s tweet with a meaningless contribution or asking 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 even 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 really effective as you tend to find a lot 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 your aim is 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, as well as benefitting 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 and 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 really 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 then 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 that you want to have a conversation with and you won’t go wrong.
5. Don’t be scared to innovate
To really stand out from the crowd you need to offer something different. Whether this is simply using a unique tone of voice or doing something completely out-of-the-box, the choice is yours. One example of this is with videography expert, Peter McKinnon.
He regularly posts YouTube videos with advice for upcoming videographers and has established himself as one of the most popular thought leaders in his industry. 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 who may be new to a lot of 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.