How to Become a Thought Leader in Your Industry 27 Aug 2018


In 2009, the iPad’s release had been rumored for several years. Such speculation mostly talked about “Apple’s tablet.” Then on January 27, 2010, Steve Jobs officially announced the release of the Ipad at an Apple press conference in San Francisco. What was the reaction?

300,000 iPads were sold on their first day of availability, and by May 3, 2010, Apple had sold a million iPads. They went on to completely dominate tablet sales by the end of the year accounting for more than 75% of all tablet sales.

Why was Apple so successful?

Their strong thought leadership got people talking about the product years before it was actually announced. This helped build so much anticipation that the company could hardly keep up with demand. It was clear that their efforts to be a thought leader paid off.

As a small organization you don’t have the resources of the major firms, so how can you benefit from this type of market leadership? The good news is that becoming a thought leader doesn’t require that you have extensive resources or a multi-billion dollar firm. In this article, we’ll go over what methods small businesses like yours are using to establish thought leadership today.

Do You Want to Be 92% More Effective than Traditional Advertising?

The marketplace is crowded, and you likely compete with many companies that offer a similar service to yours. Being heard can be the difference between your company being successful or not. In fact, research from MuseFind shows that 92% of consumers trust an influencer more than an advertisement. By positioning yourself as a thought leader, you’ll create a shift in your prospects’ minds about your business from “a company that wants to sell to me” to “an expert who has something of value to share.”

Why is this helpful? Being a thought leader establishes the high-quality of your service in the minds of your prospects and improves brand perception. A RhythmOne study showed that influencer marketing programs that lasted for two or more weeks resulted in an 8.73 percent lift in positive brand sentiment.

This change in perception allows you to skip the step of convincing them that you can do what you promise and start the conversation by focusing on customer needs. But, becoming a thought leader is not exactly easy. So what steps can you take to work towards this goal?

How to Become a Thought Leader

People checking their phones at a transportation station

1. Establish a Digital Following

This first step isn’t about social media, that comes later. Rather it’s about getting your thoughts out in the open. Simon Sinek is someone who did this incredibly well and continues to solidify his thought leadership today. He started by getting his thoughts out there in his famous presentation Start With Why. From there he’s continued to publish thought-provoking content on his blog of the same name and various books.

So where do you start?

Start by creating a blog. At first, it will be difficult to get your thoughts published on any reputable sites. Starting with your own blog can help you gain some recognition and a portfolio you can use to get featured on bigger publications where your voice will be heard by a bigger audience.

Here are a few tips that will help make your blog successful:

  • Create a content calendar to help produce content consistently. Pro tip: Include social media posts on your calendar.
  • Leverage reputable self-service web design tools if you don’t have the resources to pay for a custom website. Companies like Squarespace will help you create a professional looking website for a fraction of the cost.
  • Develop your own unique voice. Your content shouldn’t just be a reprint of everything else on the web.

2. Networking for Leadership

“There is no such thing as a self-made man. You will reach your goals only with the help of others.” – George Shinn

You can’t become a thought leader on your own. You need a network of peers, connectors, and mentors to succeed. All of these people will help you refine your knowledge, get in front of the right people, and steer you in the right direction.

Viral content is rare and not a solid strategy for becoming a thought leader. This is why you need the help of influencers and connectors. They have done the work and have large followings. Getting in front of their audience is a great way to build credibility and expertise in the minds of others.

3. Leverage Your Social Presence

As an aspiring thought leader, your biggest concern should be connecting with people. To do this efficiently, you need to manage your social media presence. Connect with the community every day with content that builds your personal brand. Don’t just spam your followers with content you wouldn’t want to see yourself.

How can you publish meaningful social media posts?

In the article 5 Ways To Increase Thought Leadership & Build Trust from Top Dog Social Media you can learn practical ways to make high-quality posts. Here are a few of the tips we liked:

  1. Be consistent with your publishing schedule. Even if you have great content inconsistency can kill audience engagement.
  2. Use original research. In order to be recognized as a thought leader, you have to bring something new to the table.
  3. Engage with your audience. If you engage with your audience, it builds trust and lets them know that you care about their success.

Don’t limit yourself to establishing your digital presence. Think local too. Become a regular at events that are important to your industry. Make it your goal to take a more active role at these events. Speaking at an event is a great way to build thought leadership and score free PR.

Becoming a Thought Leader

Just because you don’t have the resources of a major firm doesn’t mean you can’t give your company a leading advantage. Establishing yourself as a thought leader doesn’t happen overnight. But it is possible. The steps we’ve outlined in this article will give you a good starting point from which to build your strategy.

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