How to Become a Thought Leader

Now more than ever, getting your ideas heard online is tough. Here are six strategies to move you in the right direction.

The results of being a thought leader in your industry can be both life-changing and business-changing. The problem is, of course, the lack of a clear blueprint on how to become a thought leader. Everyone’s road to success is different, making it difficult to follow any single roadmap to get there.

One thing that’s for certain though is in order to become a thought leader, you need your ideas to be heard. Once one of your ideas is heard by a well-sized audience, doing it a second time is much easier, and a third and fourth even easier than that. Before you know it, you’ll have an audience of your own.

Here are six strategies to get your ideas heard in today’s noisy marketplace.

1. First, figure out the niche you’re going to tackle.

When it comes to branding yourself as a thought leader online, the smartest strategy is to create content on a very specific topic. This will lower the amount of people you have to compete against.

When starting out, it’s best if your niche is razor sharp. For instance, a niche like “marketing” would be way too broad. Instead, break it down to one like “Instagram marketing for small business owners.”

2. Provide a counterargument.

Despite the massive size of the user bases on most social media platforms, as with any community, “group think” tends to take place across these networks. This presents an opportunity for the savvy creator.

Next time you see a trending topic the community on your platform of choice has an obvious consensus on, think critically about whether or not you agree with that consensus. If you don’t, write about why you don’t. Chances are, you’ll get a great deal of attention just by going against the grain.

3. Leverage trending events.

Keeping an eye out for trending news in your industry presents one of the reliable opportunities for aspiring and established thought leaders. To capitalize on this in a timely manner, set up your Google Alerts to notify you when keywords relevant to your industry are published in the news. Then, when something groundbreaking happens, publish your thoughts on it while the iron is red hot.

4. Create “how to” content.

Whether you’re a consultant, English teacher, software engineer or something else, we all have questions we get asked over and over again. Take those questions and crank out a detailed piece of content walking readers or viewers through your answers. Chances are, if people around you need that question answered, there are thousands, even millions, of others who need it answered as well.

5. Re-purpose old and new content.

Don’t let all your hard work go unnoticed. If you wrote a blog post years ago, breathe life back into it by sharing it across your social media channels.

Use it as a script to make a YouTube video. Use quotes from it to compose Tweets, create eye-catching posts on Instagram, and more.

6. Get your work on a publication.

By being featured on a publication, you’ll be leveraging the already-established audience of that publication for your benefit. Begin by making a list of the top blogs, online magazines and podcasts in your niche you could reach out to.

Then, create an elevator pitch email encapsulating why your work would provide value to the audience of that publication. Send it out to all the publications on your list and repeat.

Ripe Opportunities to Accelerate Thought Leadership

Look for platforms to share your expertise. Medium is where I got my start writing marketing articles –because of my work there, I was able to land clients for my agency, secure my first podcast interview, my first paid speaking gig, and even the column you’re reading right now on Inc.com.

At the end of 2016, Medium boasted over 60 million monthly users, and that number has almost certainly increased by now. I’ve found it to provide writers with a receptive, targeted audience you might not otherwise reach.

There’s also massive opportunity on LinkedIn right now. The platform has changed from its old, stale, boring self to an engaging, open platform where users can be vulnerable and learn from the experiences of others. The platform has changed so much they’re even calling it the “New LinkedIn.”

There aren’t many creators on the platform yet, which makes it a fertile ground for thought leadership. No matter your niche, consider publishing on it. Engage and build authentic relationships with LinkedIn influencers to increase the chances they’ll interact with the content you publish.

Becoming a thought leader is tough, but not impossible. The benefits it will bring to your business are immeasurable. If you follow the right blueprint, and are strategic and consistent with the content you put out, things will fall into place.

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The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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