Can anyone be a thought leader? The short answer is yes.
But you can’t simply declare yourself one.
Thought leader is a title you earn. It’s recognition of your education and experience. It’s respect for your commitment to contributing to today’s conversations and to setting tomorrow’s trends. It’s building a presence that spans the breadth of your community — and lasts.
However, you don’t have to have an ever-expanding empire — like Bill Gates, Guy Kawasaki, or Seth Godin — to make your mark. You can do it in a couple powerful steps each week.
Following are ideas for how to become a thought leader using content marketing best practices you may already know.
1. Great Thought Leaders Share Their Opinions Regularly
Early on in their journey, most thought leaders struggle to create content. But creating content is the most important first-step to establishing authority and becoming a trusted name in your space.
Begin by figuring out what you are an expert in. You don’t have to know everything, but you do need to understand your niche. If you’re confident in your knowledge, your ideas will come naturally.
The hardest part when people start to think about how to become a thought leader can be getting started creating content. The best advice is to just start writing. It may take some time to find your voice and your audience, but before you know it you’ll be building a presence.
- Content creation tip: Keep a notebook with you and jot down ideas and notes from conversations throughout the day. Then, when you go to sit down and create content to share, you’ll have a long list of ideas to help you get started.
Here are some more ideas for figuring out what to write about and how from Forbes.
2. Busy Thought Leaders Maximize Existing Content
Repurposing content is a common way for marketers to get more life out of their ideas. Every great marketing team does it.
Why should you? Not everyone you’re hoping to reach consumes content in the same way. Some prefer to read content in a short, simple format and others like more in-depth analysis. Still others would rather listen or watch to keep up on trends.
Repurposing is a great strategy for getting your thoughts in front of multiple audiences — for reaching them where and how they’re looking for information. Getting eyes on your opinions is also the first step to becoming someone whose thoughts reverberate through the masses.
When you are working on becoming a thought leader, there are several ways to think about reusing existing content. You can reach out to new audiences, reformat it, create a spinoff, expand or simplify; the list goes on and on. But whatever you do, you shouldn’t do it without a plan.
Here’s how we recommend getting started:
Step 1: Follow the numbers
Pull the metrics on all your existing content — downloads, views, open rates, time on page, whatever is relevant — and find the pieces that are resonating most with your current audience.
Step 2: Choose wisely
Take a quick look at your content and its underlying message. Is the idea evergreen? Or, does it rely on statistics or other outdated information? If so, choose something else. Only change up content that can stand the test of time.
Step 3: Reimagine the piece
Think about who you want to reach and recreate the content to meet their expectations. Try to think outside the box — for example, by looking for opportunities to appear on a podcast instead of just writing yet another blog or social post.
Still not sure where to begin? Try one of these ideas.
3. Thorough Thought Leaders Curate Content From Other Experts
If you’re truly serious about becoming a thought leader, you’re most certainly consuming a lot of content on a regular basis. While you read are you thinking: “my followers would love this” or “this really completes that idea I was putting together the other day”?
If so, you’re halfway to great content curation. Sharing the fresh, relevant content you find makes you appear less self-serving and helps you connect with other leaders in your industry. Plus, it fosters the trusting relationship you’re building with your followers by reinforcing your positions and educating your customers.
Curating is one of the most time-saving activities you can commit to in the content creation process.
But with so much information out there, how do you choose what to share?
Select something meaningful
Begin by thinking about content from your audience’s perspective. You are the trusted filter - make sure what you’ve selected answers their questions, fills in context, or acts as a meaningful extension of your ideas.
Leverage other people’s research
Though research data is always revealing and inspiring, the information is fleeting and can become outdated quickly. Reserve your content creation efforts for something more evergreen. Instead, keep a pulse on your industry’s freshest statistics by setting up an RSS feed using a tool like Feedly or Google Alerts.
Share tangential content
The content you decide to share doesn’t have to be directly or explicitly related to your area of expertise. Don’t be afraid to experiment with the kinds of content you share. You never know what might resonate most with your audience.
Post from conferences
As you’re building your knowledge and expanding your network at conferences, seminars, and other meetings, take a moment to pause and share the most interesting parts. Live tweeting is a popular way for thought leaders to stay connected and show their dedication to giving your audience the inside scoop.
Want help gathering content? We suggest using an aggregator like Pocket, Scoop.it, and Quora, which help you find and save content to pull from quickly and easily. After you've chosen something your followers will enjoy, don't forget to:
1. Credit the author
Sharing another blogger’s post is a great way to connect with influencers. When doing so, be courteous and be sure to link or tag the original poster.
2. Add your spin
Making shared content your own is easy. Simply add your insights and perspective or pose a provocative question along with it before publishing.
Bring Your Ideas to Life
Let’s face it. Thought leadership has the potential to transform your personal brand and set the pace for an entire industry. Whether you’re looking for new opportunities or new audiences (or both), rising to the top is attainable for anyone with the right mindset.
Just think of all you can accomplish if you take a few minutes each week to position yourself as an authority. If you're hungry for more "how-to" tips, read The Ultimate Guide to Thought Leadership - a comprehensive run down of what it is, how to do it, and tactics to consider.
Tell us, how do you put your content marketing skills to work on your quest to thought leadership?