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When I talk to small business owners about the 15 essential objectives for social media, many of them choose “Becoming a Thought Leader” as a primary goal. Because I work with a lot of knowledge experts, this makes perfect sense. Entrepreneurs selling a service based on their knowledge SHOULD be thought leaders. But many of them want to do it the easy way. They want to be a thought leader but haven’t put much THOUGHT into how you actually BECOME a thought leader. The road to becoming a thought leader is simple, but it’s not easy.
The other day a colleague told me I am a thought leader and I’ll admit it surprised me a bit. It has always been part of my social media strategy to position myself that way, but this was one of the first times someone had confirmed for me that my strategy was working. I do often share advice that is contrary to popular opinion and encourage entrepreneurs to do what is best for themselves in business. And while I often agree with things other experts are saying, I’m confident people see me at someone who has strong opinions and isn’t afraid to share them.Thought leader, much like guru, is a term other people bestow upon you. You can't just decide you are one. You have to earn it.Click To Tweet
Becoming a Thought Leader
Thought leaders might look a bit different depending on their industry and who they are, but they will have several things in common
- Visionary: A thought leader is someone who not only possesses deep expertise in their field but also has a forward-thinking vision that shapes the industry’s future. They are the pioneers who anticipate trends, challenge norms, and drive innovation. Think Steve Jobs. Social media content that explains complex statistics and makes future predictions bolster your efforts to become a visionary thought leader.
- Trusted Authority: Thought leaders are recognized as the go-to experts in their domain. They are the voices people turn to for guidance, insights, and solutions. Their credibility is built on a foundation of knowledge, experience, and a track record of delivering value. Think about your local or national news anchor or Brene Brown. Are people quoting you? To be honest, why do you think I’ve added those big, bold Click-to-Tweet bars here?
- Influential Communicator: Thought leaders have the ability to effectively communicate their ideas and insights to a wide audience. They use various platforms, from social media to speaking engagements, to share their perspectives and influence the discourse within their industry or niche. Their words resonate and inspire action. Consider the influence Greta Thunberg has had in recent years.
Becoming a Thought Leader: Build Your Expertise
Thought leadership isn’t handed out like free samples at Costco. You’ve got to earn it. And writing a best-selling book isn’t the only way, or maybe not even the most common way, of becoming a thought leader.
- Eternal Student: Learning is your sidekick on this adventure. Dive into courses, workshops, and knowledge like it’s a treasure hunt.
- Network Like a Pro: Attend industry shindigs, meet fellow enthusiasts, and let conversations fuel your knowledge engine. Networking on social media is essential to every thought leader in the small business world.
- Bookworm Mode: Reading isn’t just for leisure; it’s your secret weapon. Get lost in books, research, and journals. (This is very much a do as I say, not as I do moment. I don’t have the attention span to read much these days.)
Share Leading Thoughts
If knowledge is the king of thought leadership, USING your voice is queen. Thought leadership isn’t a spectator sport; you are the star Quarterback in the league. You need to get in the game and win some points:
- Content Crusader: Start a blog, podcast, or YouTube channel. Create content that showcases your brilliance. Consistency is king.
- Social Media Maven: Social platforms are your megaphone. Engage, converse, and shine on the platforms that matter most to your audience. Every platform has a video option. Video is a powerful way to build your thought leadership content.
- Mic Drop Moments: Speaking gigs, webinars, or podcast appearances—grab every opportunity to share your wisdom with a live audience.
Becoming a Thought Leader Requires Credibility
Credibility is the currency of thought leadership. Here’s how to mint it:
- Show Off the Bling: Certifications and awards aren’t just for your ego; they’re badges of trustworthiness. I know women especially are hesitant to share their wins and certifications, but do it. Why shouldn’t you? WHY. SHOULD’T. YOU. If you want to be a thought leader, get used to feeling the fear and doing it anyways.
- Take the Stage: Secure speaking gigs at reputable events. Being on stage makes you an instant authority.
- Stories That Stick: Share real-world case studies and success stories. They’re like proof that your ideas aren’t just hot air. Stories are also infinitely more memorable and being remembered is half the battle to becoming a thought leader.
Showcase Your Thought Leadership Through Collaborations
Thought leaders don’t operate in isolation. they thrive within communities of like-minded individuals and collaborators who resonate with their ideas. Here’s how to embark on your “Kindred Spirit Hunt”:
- Before you can find kindred spirits, you need to be crystal clear about your own vision and values. What are the core principles and ideas that drive you? What do you stand for? Understanding your vision will help you identify others who align with it.
- Give and Take: Collaborations should be win-win-win—good for you, good for them, and amazing for your audience. Quality always wins over quantity. Don’t take everyone up on their offer…be choosy.
The new year is knocking, and the time is ripe to plan your pre-season training. Remember, becoming a thought leader isn’t just about knowing stuff; it’s about guiding the conversation, sparking ideas, and sharing the kind of thoughts that make you unforgettable. And there’s no place more accessible to share your leading thoughts than social media.
If you want to do some further reading I suggest: