One of the foundational ideas of content marketing is being considered an expert in your field. When you show and share your knowledge, people begin to see you as a thought leader. Over time, this creates feelings of trust and affinity in potential clients interested in the products and services you offer. Then, when those clients need what you offer, they’re more likely to use your products.
Content created by industry-specific experts is an excellent source of lead generation. That’s the basic concept behind content marketing and a compelling reason to invest the time and effort in cultivating thought leadership as part of an overall business strategy.
But it’s not rocket science. The steps to becoming an industry expert — or guru, ninja, or connoisseur — aren’t secret. The process is simple and straightforward. However, that’s not to say it’s easy. While you’re an expert in your field, that doesn’t make you an expert in content creation.
So, how do you do it? Whatever your industry — healthcare, manufacturing, fitness, legal, or technology — you can become a thought leader if you follow these seven steps. What’s more, by hiring a freelance writer and editor to create your content, you pick a team that knows exactly how to produce engaging content that speaks to your audience.
1. Be an expert
This seems obvious, but you need to know what you’re talking about. You can’t fake expertise and true depth of knowledge over time. That doesn’t mean you have all the answers; no one does. It means you need to have a solid base of understanding and always be willing to learn. You can share your expertise via credible, fact-based storytelling by applying journalistic principles to your content.
You have spent a lot of time becoming an expert in your work. While acknowledging that you don’t know everything, you shouldn’t be afraid to share your knowledge with the world.
2. Find your niche
Look for an industry need, fill it and be slightly different. What’s unique about your insight? Where can you apply your knowledge to what’s next or what’s missing in your brand’s area of expertise?
Marketing maven Seth Godin encourages companies to find and lead a tribe. A tribe needs a leader, followers and an idea that they all are passionate about. It might be cooking, tattoos, motorcycles, climate change, voting rights — a tribe could form around any idea. What can your brand add that creates excitement or action and gives you a level of leadership in a tribe?
3. Be uniquely you
While it’s OK to emulate someone else’s style, it’s essential to be yourself. No one wants to read or listen to a corporate drone recite common buzzwords.
There’s no definitive way to identify the line between personal and professional. Marketing teams are tasked with creating a brand persona, and your style should stick to it. Is it fun or formal? Is it cheeky or professorial? Are you provocative or educational? When creating a brand language unique to your company, stick with it.
Brand journalists and freelance writers can help you achieve this organically and authentically by writing in your style, voice and tone.
4. Have a home
You need to create a home for your content. When you’re trying to become a thought leader in your industry, work within your corporate infrastructure and marketing department to develop your company’s website. You’ll want to build out solid and functional pages and a blog filled with helpful information.
While you certainly want to post and share on LinkedIn and Facebook, any content you have there is essentially a rental. You don’t completely control your presence, as social media companies often change their algorithms and terms of engagement to best suit their corporate goals. Your home base is where all your content lives. From there, you should share your thought leadership content on other platforms.
5. Be consistent
Showing up regularly is crucial. The internet is littered with the content marketing false starts of individuals and companies who embarked on showcasing expertise but never followed through — blogs where the latest entries are from months or even years ago are. Creating content is hard. It’s easy to skip a deadline, then another, and soon your quest to become a thought leader ends with the whimper of unpublished blog posts.
When you join forces with a freelance editor, you will have a content calendar that will allow your company to plan in advance, and you have a partner that will guarantee your deadlines are met. Whether you produce daily, weekly, monthly or on some other schedule, you have to publish routinely and reliably.
6. Identify your audience
Who are the people who need to hear from you? What’s the best way to reach them? Where should you be sharing your perspective and ideas? There are many social media platforms for distributing your content. Everyone knows about Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, but don’t forget about audiences on Reddit, Tik-Tok, Snapchat and Pinterest.
Where you focus your efforts will depend on the demographics and interests of your audience. It is also to consider the type of content that you are creating. If you develop video content, you should make the most of YouTube, TikTok and Snapchat. Visual-heavy content is great for Instagram and Pinterest. Written articles work well on Facebook and LinkedIn. Share your content with the right social media for your audience, and keep an eye out for new platforms and opportunities.
7. Share your content
“If you build it, they will come” only works in the movies. You can’t create great content and just hope people will find it and love it. You need to tell the world.
One of the best ways to share your content remains through newsletters and email lists. When someone provides their email address for your newsletter, don’t abuse that trust. Deliver great information that is useful to them.
Your audience and clients won’t just come to you because you’re creating the best, most interesting blog posts, social media, videos or infographics on a topic. You have to shout to the world that you exist. Look for opportunities to share your expertise as a guest on outside blogs, podcasts and videos, while making sure to communicate and engage with others’ work, as well.
What type of content is right for you?
You have to create content in a way that is natural for you, especially at the beginning. Do you like to talk? Try a podcast or video. More comfortable with the written word? A blog is your perfect tool. You can always mix in different content elements over time. Finding a medium that you’re comfortable with is the best way to start.
Remember that content overlaps and can be transformed into different types for different audiences. Videos can be embedded as blog posts, blogs can be combined into eBooks, podcast transcripts can be published as blog posts, and it goes on.
An important thing to remember about thought leadership is that you don’t simply anoint yourself a thought leader. It is an earned status, given to you by others as you grow your credibility by sharing your unique insights in your field.
Thought leadership: simple, not easy
The process of becoming a thought leader is simple. As you turn your plans into reality, you will quickly realize that each of these steps is a field of study in themselves, with spheres of knowledge for each one. For instance, “how to share your content” is the subject of books, blogs, services, conferences and more. Identifying where and how to share content quickly can become complicated.
This is where your partnership with your hired freelance editor and expert blog writer comes in. Research from the Content Marketing Institute shows that 70% of enterprise marketers outsource some aspect of content marketing, with content creation by far the most likely activity to be done externally. If you are a brand that wants to become a thought leader, PowerPublish can help.