Social media is everywhere, and it often feels like everyone’s using it for everything. In today’s competitive world, savvy professionals take social media to the next level and use it for thought leadership. Through thought leadership, you can expand your network and prove your industry expertise. And for the aspiring thought leader, LinkedIn is the place to be. This article will go over the benefits of thought leadership, what it takes to become a thought leader, and how to become a thought leader on LinkedIn.
Reasons to become a LinkedIn thought leader
A thought leader is an expert in their industry who shares their knowledge and contributes to their community. They unite, motivate, and inspire people by sharing forward-thinking, powerful ideas. When you need advice, you turn to a thought leader for help.
The benefits of becoming a thought leader
Establishing yourself as a thought leader opens up the door to many networking possibilities. Through thought leadership, you demonstrate that you have a strong voice within your industry or community.
Because a thought leader’s advice is so valuable, peers and fellow professionals want to hear from them, talk with them, and work together. You may be invited to a speaking engagement or asked for your involvement in another industry event. By establishing credibility, knowledge, and expertise, you can boost your professional brand. People will trust your services because you’ve proven your trustworthiness.
How thought leaders use LinkedIn
Social media is a powerful tool for posting information and sharing details about your life. As a platform specifically for professionals and companies, LinkedIn is the perfect hub for professionals to establish themselves, demonstrate their expertise, and engage with others in their industry.
Thought leaders must be aware of what’s happening in their industry. More than that, however, they need the analytical skills to understand where trends are headed and how the industry might change. They post updates on industry trends, share opinions on relevant events, and offer their ideas about what action professionals, companies, or industries should take.
To help others navigate the industry, a LinkedIn thought leader may share educational resources or personal stories about how they got to where they are. Alternately, they may author resources like informational articles or educational courses on LinkedIn Learning.
Additionally, thought leadership fosters community. Using LinkedIn allows thought leaders to find other experts in their field and connect with potential customers. They invite conversation on their posts and reply to comment threads.
Should you consider becoming a LinkedIn thought leader?
A major responsibility of thought leadership is providing quality content that resonates with an audience. Thought leaders break complex topics down into simple, more accessible information that inspires and informs their audience.
Common topics that thought leaders discuss include tips for leading a healthier, happier lifestyle; ways to make a difference at work; and advice for being more efficient and productive.
Ways to know you’re qualified for thought leadership
Here are some signs that you’re qualified to be a thought leader:
- Passionate. You’re passionate about your work, and you want to share that passion with others.
- Forward thinking. You’re constantly looking for new ways to challenge yourself and improve your skills.
- Engaged. You have an active social media following, and people come to you for advice.
- Visible. When you google yourself, you show up in the results.
- Articulate. You find it easy to voice your ideas, and you’re always eager to learn more.
Things to consider before becoming a thought leader
Though thought leadership yields many benefits, elevating your profile and growing your reputation as an authentic thought leader take time and commitment. Moreover, if you’re only interested in the benefits and have no genuine interest in contributing positively to your industry, your efforts may appear transparent and fake.
Before you become a thought leader, ask yourself:
- Do I have expertise or experience to share? Are my thoughts insightful?
- Do I have the time and energy to consistently post, engage with others, and stay on top of industry trends?
- Am I committed to developing my platform, even if it takes a lot of time? How much time am I willing to invest in thought leadership?
- Who is my target audience? Do I understand their wants and pain points? Can I answer their questions in a way that’s genuinely helpful?
Thought leadership requires a commitment to regularly posting quality content. If you have the expertise and drive to become a thought leader, the next step is to develop an effective growth strategy.
How to map an effective thought leadership growth strategy on LinkedIn
As you consider how to become a thought leader on LinkedIn, you’ll need to develop a focused strategy to grow your audience.
To start, set specific goals. What outcome do you want to gain from a thought leadership strategy? Do you want more opportunities to do business with customers? Recognition within the industry? Pick parameters to measure your success. A professional who wants to network within the industry might make it a goal to have their posts shared, their profile mentioned, and their connections increased.
Next, make your LinkedIn profile easy to find by optimizing it. Your profile photos should be clean, appealing, and professional, with your face easy to see. In your headline and about section, craft a concise professional summary about who you are and what you like to do. Look to other thought leaders to see how they format their profiles. Link to your LinkedIn page on your website, in your email signature, and on social media.
On LinkedIn, you can request endorsements and recommendations from your peers and colleagues. These bolster your credibility, proving that other people trust you and have had a great experience working with you.
Interacting with others on LinkedIn
On social media, engagement often revolves around reciprocation. If you share someone else’s content or comment on their posts, they’re better able to get to know you. In turn, they’re more likely to share your content and engage with your posts.
To directly ask your target audience for engagement, consider a few techniques:
- Ask your audience an open-ended question at the end of a post.
- Run polls through LinkedIn’s polling feature.
- Ask colleagues to mention you or your business page.
When you attend industry events in real life, send LinkedIn requests to the people you met. Include a personal message, reminding them of where you met and why you want to connect. Avoid a sales-y tone; your goal with building a network is to meet other people, not sell something to them.
Often, a LinkedIn thought leader or influencer will collaborate with another industry expert as a way for both parties to promote each other. Consider working on a project together, like coauthoring a white paper; contributing to someone else’s blog, podcast, or YouTube channel; or hosting an event to support a cause.
Evaluating your growth strategy
It’s important to evaluate your growth strategy to see what works and what doesn’t. Choose KPIs that are relevant to your goals, and monitor them at set intervals, like month to month or every quarter. Some examples of KPIs include your follower count, the number of engagements you get on a post, how many people mention you, how high you rank in search engine results pages, and how many people you convert from followers on social media to customers.
In addition, review your LinkedIn profile to make sure it stays updated over time. Does it reflect who you are and what you offer as a thought leader?
Keys to establishing yourself as a thought leader on LinkedIn
Consistency is important for maintaining visibility online. Make it a goal to post quality content at least once a week. Social media content should be educational, inspiring, entertaining, or some combination of the three. Moreover, it should be relevant and accurate. Cite credible sources, and relay up-to-date information.
Consider posting content like the following:
- Infographics, how-to guides, white papers, and tutorials
- Courses that teach a specific skill, like social media writing
- Links to articles, TED Talks, FAQ panels, or other resources that you found personally enriching
- Powerful thoughts: short posts with an impactful message
- Personal stories that teach a lesson, like a post about how you got started in the industry or what you do to avoid burnout
- Highlights of a recent achievement or a post congratulating your team on a job well done
- Posts specific to your personal brand, like comedic posts if you want to show your audience your sense of humor
- Open-ended questions and polls to spark discussion
- Commentary on something in your industry that you find interesting, including your specific thoughts about why that content matters and what implications it may have
- Posts recognizing your peers or colleagues for their accomplishments
- Information about a cause that’s important to you
Don’t be afraid to disagree with others, though discussions should always be respectful. A thought leader is not a thought follower—your content should be unique, and that can mean taking a stand on an important issue or expressing your disagreement with something you see in the industry. For example, CEO Dan Price posts about wealth inequality, pointing out that C-suite leaders often have inflated salaries while their employees struggle financially.
To stay organized, create a content calendar for what you will post each month. How often will you post? Will you promote your posts on different social media platforms?
Take advantage of repurposed content. If a post has done particularly well, reshare it. A caveat: reshare sparingly. Be sure to include fresh content alongside repurposed posts.
Making the right connections on LinkedIn
To know if you’re making the right connections, you must understand your target audience and your niche. This ties in with earlier ideas about planning your thought leadership strategy. You’ll want to talk to people who work in similar fields and whose wants you understand.
Like Facebook, LinkedIn hosts groups where you can find professionals with similar interests. This is a good starting point to meet new people and make connections. Stay active in a group by commenting on people’s posts, making recommendations, and asking others about their ideas.
Reach out to those in your industry. If you work in customer service, for example, look for leaders and influencers who are renowned for their expertise in customer service, customer experience, and employee experience.
Connect with people you know in real life, and then use that network to ask for referrals or introductions. Make time to stay in touch with those who are close to you. Consider setting reminders to check in periodically. Not only will it show others that you care, but it will also help you nurture your relationships.
You may need to consult an expert for help, especially if you don’t have the time to commit to constantly creating content for your LinkedIn page. Writers, content marketers, and strategists offer their services to optimize your LinkedIn profile, advise you on personal branding, or unite your content marketing strategy with your thought leadership strategy.
Stepping into thought leadership
Thought leadership has many benefits: more business opportunities, more relationship possibilities, more respect within your field. However, not everyone can become a thought leader, especially not immediately.
No matter what, consistency and authenticity are key to establishing thought leadership. With a clear vision, a passion for the industry, and a willingness to always grow, you can become a true thought leader.
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