When you show and share your industry knowledge and expertise, people begin to see you as a thought leader. Over time, consumers interested in your products and services begin to trust you, becoming more likely to turn to you when they’re ready to purchase.
Industry-specific expertise makes for great, lead-generating content. 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 while you might be an expert in your field, that doesn’t make you an expert in content creation. So how do you do it? Whatever your industry – health care, technology, retail products, SaaS – if you follow these seven steps, you can become a thought leader. What’s more, you could outsource your content to a team of premium brand journalists who know exactly how to create engaging content that speaks to your audience.
1. Find your niche
Look for an industry need, fill it and be a little bit different. What’s unique about your insight? Where can you apply your knowledge to what’s next or what’s missing in your area of expertise?
Marketing maven Seth Godin encourages us 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 you add that creates excitement or action and gives you a level of leadership in a tribe?
2. 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. By applying journalistic principles to your content, you can share your expertise via credible, fact-based storytelling.
You have spent a lot of time becoming an expert in the work you do. While acknowledging that you don’t know everything, you shouldn’t be afraid to share your knowledge with the world.
3. Be youWhile it’s OK to emulate someone else’s style, it’s important 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. For example, businessman Gary Vaynerchuk is 100% himself in his writing and speaking, while frequently using his favorite word, which starts with the 6th letter of the alphabet. Others share details of their lives but are more tactful. How much you share will depend on your employer, industry and your own personality. Wherever your line is, be yourself. Include your hobbies and passions in your work. Opening up personally helps you connect with people. It’s also more fun to create content when you’re being you and not trying to stuff yourself into a professional straitjacket. Brand journalists can help your achieve this organically and authentically.
4. Have a homeYou need to create a home for your content. For individuals, free blogs and simple-to-use web publishing tools like WordPress are a great way to get started. If 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 strong, functional pages and a blog filled with useful 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 can, and often do, change their algorithms and terms of engagement to best suit their own 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 consistentShowing 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. Whether it’s daily, weekly, monthly or on some other schedule, you have to publish routinely and reliably. Be realistic; how much time can you spend creating content? Be conservative at first until you know how long it will take you to write a blog, create a podcast or design an infographic. It’s better to start slowly and ramp up than the reverse. Better yet, outsource this content creation to the brand journalism experts who can keep your content flowing and on schedule.
6. Identify your audienceWho 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 your tribe’s demographics, interests and if they’re a business or consumer, as well as the type of content you produce. If you create video content, you should obviously 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 tribe 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 then just hope people will find it and love it. You need to tell the world. Still one of the best ways to share your content is to create an email list. When someone signs up and gives you their email address, though, don’t abuse that trust. Deliver great information that is useful to them. People 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 share and engage with others’ work, as well.
What 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. Getting started with a medium that you’re comfortable with is the best way to start.
And keep in mind 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
Again, the process to 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.
Ignore the underlying complexity for now. Just go. Get started. You can’t be a thought leader until you start sharing your thoughts. Along your journey, you’ll stumble, experience setbacks and others might disagree with you. Persevere.
Need help getting started? You aren’t alone. 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.