A thought leader has to be declared a thought leader by someone else. A person can’t just stand up and declare, “hey, look at me, I’m a thought leader.” A thought leader gains this reputation by first proving their worth to others who know a lot about an industry. They obtain credentials through education and experience and use this knowledge to help others and they are generally considered experts in their field of industry. Thought leaders need to be able to provide new thought and insight into the differing aspects of their expertise.
Before the real movement to online platforms, thought leadership was very much focused on authoring articles in trade publications and presentations at industry conferences and events. With more communication moving online, I’ve found that, as a CEO and established leader at influencer marketing, there is so much more opportunity to help others be able to create that thought leadership role and do it more quickly than previous approaches because of the advent of the online platforms.
Over the past 4 years I’ve become a thought leader. I’ve written for some of the worlds greatest publications, platforms and blogs. I’ve found this has driven me large amounts of credibility as well as millions of customers because they recognize me as a leader.
In this post I’ll teach you some of the ways I became a thought leader and how you can become a thought leader in your industry:
- Create your personal brand. For me, building my personal brand was important because it would be a way to differentiate myself within my industry when I developed into a thought leadership role. I could begin having a personal brand and start to deepen the connection I make because people would have a face and a set of values to go with the credentials I was offering them. A personal brand also helps frame your marketing messages and can be used to build your social media presence and fan base that adds to the credibility of your thought leadership role.
- Develop and manage a blog. Before even creating my personal brand, I started here with a blog and just got started writing. It took some time to find my voice but once I did I started to shape my content around that voice and what I stood for and what I knew. I developed topics that would provide helpful advice while positioning myself as a credible source for accurate information. It took a lot of time to build up an archive of posts and then I had to continue updating at least once a week, get my blog syndicated on networks, and build a following.
- Start niche. I personally wouldn’t go after very large niches where there are already established players. Instead, work your way into a smaller niche and dominate that niche. Then work your way up into bigger and bigger niches. This will also help you to specialize and really know what you’re talking about. Nothing can destroy your reputation and influencer status faster than being wrong and getting called out about it.
- Locate and work with influencers. Having a crowd that believes in what you are saying and values it means that they will be more than willing to share what you offer with all those that follow them. Once I had my blog in place and people knew I was putting out accurate, dependable information, then I spent a little more time developing my personal brand. I also started to look for the influencers in my industry that would be interested in what I knew on the social media platforms where I was submitting content. It didn’t take long to find those people who others admired and were considered influencers because they could shape what many others decided to like or buy. Once I had a few influencers who knew and trusted in me, they really took over a lot of the heavy lifting for me and got the word out about my expertise in the industry.
- Build a network. Beyond these influencers, I realized that a network of other people in the industry or other connectors as well as mentors could help establish my thought leadership position. I’ve participated with in-person events, speaking opportunities at conferences, and online networking groups, which has helped to get more attention to my blog and build out that network of contacts. These are the contacts that listen to, depend on, and yes, some have said they admire my knowledge and experience. This creates the necessary authority that adds credibility and lifts a person into a thought leadership position. And this does not just happen overnight. This process takes time and work. A lot of it.
- Go beyond your own blog. I saw my blog as a launching point into getting published in more places and becoming better known across more platforms. As I built my network, I got to know other bloggers in the industry and began to do guest posts on their blogs. Using my blog and these guest posts as a foundation, I was able to then get the attention of industry publications where I also started contributing content. This got my name out there and built credibility since these other publications are highly admired among my target audience. The more sources where you can get published, the bigger your audience will get and the more authority you will gain.
- Say something new and disrupt thinking. Beyond just collecting and disseminating existing information into useable chunks for an audience, I realized that, if I was really going to stand out and be a true leader, I would need to offer something different, including new information and disruptive ideas that would stir things up. For my industry, this has included keeping an open mind to all possibilities – like looking at bitcoin and blockchain, and looking at all and any new areas of technology and growth – especially for transactions as well as being able to create some key predictions about the future of the payments industry.
I didn’t do all of these things at once or even close to overnight. It took time, effort, work and focus. However, by taking each level and doing each process a consistent and well-planned way, I was able to become a thought leader fairly quickly. Once I got the position of a thought leader, I didn’t stop. If I had, someone else would’ve quickly stepped in. It’s an ongoing process to maintain this thought leadership position and it requires research, review, and feedback to stay on top. The results in my life of striving and working towards this goal are well worth everything that I’ve put into it.