4 Necessary Steps to Building Thought Leadership in the Digital Age

In the age of information and social networks, thought leadership consumption is on the rise. Recent research has shown that decision-making individuals are spending more time reading content from thought leaders.

But before the Internet, building thought leadership looked more like a New York Times best-seller and a speaking engagement. Now, broadening the reach of individuals and brands looking to position themselves as the trusted source of information for their audiences is easily done online.

The emergence of social media has leveled the playing field for individuals and brands looking to build followers. In today’s world, it feels like anyone with more than a thousand Twitter followers is a thought leader. But authentic thought leadership means so much more. When done strategically, thought leadership can position you as a leader in your industry, transforming your brand and enabling a plethora of new opportunities to connect with individuals who need your expertise or services.

Of course, building thought leadership doesn’t happen overnight. It takes an intentional approach and robust strategy to become a trusted name in your field. So how do you truly build authentic thought leadership in the online world?

Chances are you’re already demonstrating thought leadership by generating blog posts and articles, or sharing your expertise by posting on social media — but how will that help you stand out amongst a crowded field of individuals looking to position themselves as experts in the field? By kickstarting your efforts with these four essential tasks, you’ll be able to guarantee your success in the digital space.

1. Get to Know Your Audience

Your ability to successfully attract and create connections with your target audiences requires developing an understanding of who they are. Whether it’s Twitter or LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram, your audience is online — and they’re having discussions that convey their desires, problems and passions.

Identifying your audience is essential to developing the content you need to woo your target audience. Knowing their fears, passions and desires can help you position yourself or your organization as the answer to solve their problems or serve their needs. With a better understanding of these individuals, you have an opportunity to create curated content while effectively reaching them with it by knowing where, when and how they use social media. Following relevant hashtags, or joining social networking groups that match the topic or field you’re trying to position yourself as an expert in, puts you directly in front of your audience.

2. Create and Share Compelling Content

In this ever-evolving digital landscape, one thing remains. Content is King. Creating meaningful content will create an emotionally compelling need for others to engage with you. It is the vehicle for driving a connection between you and your audience.

Content is like a carton of eggs, while engagement is the soufflé. It’s not about what you do with the content of the carton that makes it special. It is not about starting from scratch, so you don’t have to worry about the amount of content you’ll need. It’s about finding and repurposing the content you already have to connect with your audience.

Blogging about industry trends or information relevant to your field while highlighting the impact of your work or expertise will grasp the attention of your audience and convince them that you have the best level of knowledge to answer their questions, concerns or desires. Using your website, blog and social media channels to showcase your expertise with compelling content is essential to attracting interested individuals and motivating them to engage with you or your organization. Remember, content’s work is never done. It requires constant oversight to meet your audience’s changing needs. Routinely checking engagement metrics for each one of your content pieces is an ongoing process, but it will only strengthen your efforts.

3. Offer Free, Downloadable Content Pieces

Building thought leadership is about building trust between you and the audience you seek to connect with. Your webinars, case studies and whitepapers bring your high-level thinking to life.

Offering these content pieces as a free gift will not only attract your audience, it will establish a level of trust necessary to become a thought leader in their eyes.

4. Extend Your Expertise by Guest Blogging

It should come as no surprise that sharing your expertise in articles and content pieces written for online publications and magazines can have a huge impact on expanding your reach. Guest blogging can exponentially build your online influence and introduce your expertise to new audiences. Consider the outlets that you source most often when trying to tie your own work to already existing research, commentary and point of views.

Reaching out and pitching these types of publications will put you directly in front of the audience you’re trying to reach. These individuals already think of the specific outlet as a reliable source, which adds an additional layer of trust in you as a thought leader. The more widely your expertise is shared, the more opportunities you’ll be able to harness.

Establishing yourself as a thought leader in your field can have a significant impact on your efforts. There’s a lot more than simply being online, but if you take this approach, you can start sharing your expertise with others in no time.

Photo Credit: Jehyun Sung via Unsplash

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