“Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day.”
One of the most reliable and least expensive ways of generating interest in your business is to position yourself as a thought leader.
What is a thought leader?
A thought leader is an industry expert who promotes and shares their ideas. This is nothing new, of course, but in pre-internet times such experts were few in number and mostly restricted to a handful of well-placed pundits, such as journalists or academics. But with the advent of social networking a new kind of thought leader was born. What was formerly a closed shop became a new democratic forum open to anyone with an opinion and decent turn of phrase. The age of the business blogger had arrived.
Unlike the experts of the past, who tended to specialise in delivering lectures, thought leaders are more likely to be engaged in multiple shared conversations. And the most successful among them are those who are happy to share their knowledge without asking for anything in return.
Today’s thought leaders live or die by their ideas. As time passes and people begin to trust what they have to say, so they build their reputation and their audience grows. By the same token, if they’re perceived to be exploiting their influence for naked personal gain, they will lose their reader base and vanish into the black hole of cyberspace.
But how, amid the infinite clutter on the internet, do you get your voice heard?
Four steps to becoming a successful thought leader:1
Look before you leap
To be taken seriously as a thought leader, it goes without saying that you must have something of value to add to the argument. But first you must identify where the relevant conversations are taking place and, just as importantly, what people are talking about – their worries, their current pre-occupations, etc.
To accomplish this, it’s vital that you actively search the social networks to find out what is attracting visitors from your industry. By monitoring the message boards, follower numbers, responses, etc, you will discover what your competitors are doing successfully to attract viewers or readers. This data should then provide the basis of your thought leadership strategy.
For example, if a business posts a video on YouTube which discusses quality assurance in your sector, and the video has been viewed hundreds of times, then you can be reasonably confident that quality assurance is currently a hot topic in your industry.
Successful thought leadership depends on delivering a regular supply of high quality information. If your postings are inconsistent or erratic, it will have a negative impact on your audience numbers.
So before you begin blogging and otherwise contributing to social network sites, it is important to plan the frequency of your published content, and where that content will be distributed.
People are more likely to follow your message as a thought leader if they have the promise of related information. It’s therefore a good idea to publish your blogs, videos, white papers etc around a series of tightly focused themes and ideas. This will encourage readers to stay tuned and follow your postings.
Be open-handed with what you offer. Your aim as a thought leader is to gain a good reputation. With a good reputation comes an audience. From an audience come leads.
The principal aim of social networking in a business context is to get your message in front of as many decision makers as possible. And research shows that decision makers are more likely to rely on social networking sites than on corporate websites to gather information when considering a purchase. It follows therefore that if you don’t have a presence on these sites your chances of gaining exposure during this critical buying phase are diminished.
To gain exposure to the maximum number of prospects, it is important that you rely less on your corporate website and more on sites like Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and industry blogs. These sites receive literally hundreds of thousands of visits daily by people looking for information or to solve a problem.
Bear in mind also that Google now displays video results for web searches. As video has become the favoured tool of social media networkers, many businesses are now producing corporate videos especially for posting on YouTube.
4 Make it easy to follow you
To build an audience as a thought leader it is vital that you make yourself easily accessible.
Set your blog so that it allows visitors to subscribe to posts or comments in as many ways as possible. Also allow visitors to share your blog posts using tools like Digg, Delicious and Twitter.
Create a YouTube channel for your business. This enables you to host videos, and allows visitors to subscribe to your regular video posts.
If you haven’t done so already, set up a corporate Facebook page. This will allow visitors to become a “fan” of your organisation and receive future messages from your company. Importantly, their Facebook “friends” will also receive your messages.
LinkedIn enables people to contact you via their website. It also hosts discussions, as well as a useful Q&A forum. Join these discussions. Share your views and ideas. If visitors find your input helpful or insightful, they’ll seek you out and be back for more.
That’s it for now. Thanks for reading and, as ever, your comments and ideas are very welcome.
And always to a higher response!