The term “thought leader” isn’t new but it’s certainly gaining momentum in the business world. A thought leader is anyone who is considered an expert in their field of expertise. Thought leaders are typically your go-to people when you have a question pertaining to their industry. They’re highly knowledgeable and are always staying abreast of new trends in their field.
How Do I Become a Thought Leader?
Not everyone can or will become a thought leader; it takes hard work, dedication and persistence. You need to take a genuine interest in what you do, not just be good at it, to become an expert.
Here are some tips to becoming a thought leader:
If you aren’t a big fan of social media or don’t see the point, you’re probably not going to become a thought leader. We live in a digital world and technology is constantly evolving. Social media is an essential part of building and managing your personal brand. When you Google a thought leader’s name, they should show up on various websites, including social media networks. Joining every social media channel isn’t enough to become a thought leader though, you need to be active.
- Use your real name and be consistent. Your username should be the same (or almost the same) on all of your social accounts. You want to be found when someone looks for you. If your name is already taken, try something like “Mary_Smith” or “@MarySmithRecruiter”.
- Use a professional headshot. “Professional” might mean different things in each industry; creatives can typically get away with more eccentric photos.
- Fill out your profile. Let everyone know what you do, what you’re interested in, where you work, etc. This will ensure like-minded industry professionals choose to follow you.
- Show your personality both on your profile and in your posts. Let your followers know who you really are. Your online persona should match who you are in real-life.
- Connect with like-minded people. Find professionals within your industry to connect to and share ideas with.
- Start a conversation. Send a message, tweet, etc. to your followers. Communication is almost a lost art in the digital world we live in. Social media should be… social.
- Don’t be afraid to take the conversation offline. You’ll find that meeting someone for coffee is a lot easier after you’ve already talked to them online.
Knowledge is Power
To be viewed as a thought leader, you need to portray yourself as an expert in your industry. You may not know everything about everything, but your name should come to mind when someone has a specific question about your field of expertise.
- What do you want to be known for? Finance? Marketing? Share relevant industry-related content (original or curated) to your various social channels.
- Take your knowledge and put it into the form of a blog. Not a great writer? Make it brief and straight to the point and create a list-style blog. Find out what your network is interested in or what they want to know and answer those questions in the content you write.
- Share all original content on the LinkedIn Publishing Platform so your connections can see the topics you’re interested in and knowledgeable on when they view your profile.
Speaking engagements are great ways to becoming a thought leader, but not everyone is cut out to speak in front of a crowd of people. There are various ways to demonstrate your knowledge, both online and offline.
- If you aren’t afraid of public speaking, look for industry events that have a call for speakers. There are numerous events in just about every industry. You just need to do some research to find them.
- If you are one of the millions with a fear of public speaking, try finding digital speaking engagements. Webinars are a great way to share your knowledge from wherever you are. You can also start or join a Twitter chat to share your knowledge and interact with your network.
- Consider using tools like SlideShare to share any presentations you may have on a specific topic. You can even add these presentations to your LinkedIn profile.
Never Stop Learning
Don’t confuse the word “expert” with a know-it-all. Experts are highly knowledgeable, but they don’t know everything. Thought leaders crave knowledge. Information gives them an endorphin boost.
- Google everything. With the internet, information is at your fingertips. If you want to know what new technology trends are on the rise in your industry, Google it. If you’re looking for upcoming industry-related conferences in your city, Google it.
- Ask your networks. If you’ve followed the steps above, your social networks should be filled with like-minded industry professionals. Use your connections to learn first-hand what trends they’re seeing within your industry.
- Go old school. There are numerous online courses you can take to improve your skills within your industry. Whether you’re a marketer who wants to learn HTML or a designer who wants to improve their writing skills, there are tons of classes available online. (Check out Lynda.com)
Lastly, be yourself. What sets you apart from any other industry expert? It isn’t enough be knowledgeable, you need to have personality. Thought leaders are confident and fearless when it comes to being authentic. They forge the path in their industry, rather than follow it. They aren’t afraid to ask questions or make mistakes. That’s because thought leaders are true leaders.