With the explosion of social media and numerous online resources, consumers can now obtain information on anything almost instantaneously. As a result, the concept of thought leadership and how people and companies direct consumer choices and preferences has become increasingly popular. What exactly is thought leadership, though?
Thought leadership is essentially the ability to answer the questions of your target market, your customers, or your audience in general. If you are a thought leader, the public sees you as a pioneer or trendsetter in your field. You are the go-to person whenever anyone gets stuck. It takes time to reach such a position of authority, but once you’re there, you can swing public sentiment and opinions, impact industry best practices, and even be the deciding voice between what matters and what works from what does not.
The importance of thought leadership
Thought leaders must offer some sort of benefit to their readers or listeners. Either they are able to help their audience with decision-making or problem identification, or they facilitate their ability to come up with the next big thing. Everyone in every industry has a certain level of knowledge and experience, but it is the movers and shakers in the industry who ultimately seal more deals and get buyers and customers to reach for their wallets with more success than everyone else. As a result, thought leaders can build or break a brand, and they help drive customer engagement and also help create the next generation of consumers.
Thought leaders also help drive innovation and progress by publishing carefully crafted and managed columns and other social media posts. Such interaction points are where thought leaders talk about new products, features, services, technological advancements, or ways of doing business. This allows them to harness a whole new spectrum of customer feedback, comments, and experiences which can then be used to formulate new or improve production processes or impact the general way business is conducted in other meaningful ways. It also leads to improvements and advancements in the industry as a whole.
In an Association of Management Consulting Firms (AMCF) study, over 90% of respondents said that low-quality online content published by a company or an individual lowered their opinion of the content-creator. An almost identical percentage said that seeing high-quality content improved their opinion of the content creator. These are not incidental percentages, so they are worth looking into in somewhat more detail.
When it comes to thought leaders, respondents to the AMCF survey paid upwards of $4 million per year on marketing their thought leadership columns and articles to the general public. The companies who were at the higher end of the curve spent almost twice the average. With changing trends in both online as well as offline journalism and publishing, this article shows that there are trade-offs between quality, quantity, having a vast number of contributors writing for you, and including different media types in your posts (such as photos, graphs, and so on). However, the bottom line is that your readership and followers will rise or fall depending on the content you are producing, and the dollar figure for what this is worth on your balance sheet might be just a few thousands of dollars or as high as several million, depending on the size of your company.
Becoming a thought leader
Below are five simple, actionable steps to becoming a thought leader and developing your very own niche in your area of expertise.
- Thought leadership is all about providing useful information to your customers. There is a goldmine of information waiting to be dug up in consumer feedback and statistics. The first place to start is by conducting research of your own, slicing and dicing data sets to identify and derive insights, and sharing your results with your readers. Alternatively, you could go to one of the marketing statistics sites featured in our blog here for insights and trends in the marketing space.
- People love entertainment. Provide a fresh source of humor or wit in your content, whilst including personal anecdotes or stories of how or why something happened to you or someone you know in a way that relates to everyday customers. Highlight how a certain approach, product, or insight helped you or them overcome the problem at hand. This will imprint your comments and suggestions in memory, and casual customers will be more likely to remember you. Whenever they are ready to take the plunge and are ready to buy or purchase something, your suggestions will drive their actions.
- Start small, with a blog. Refine your online presence. Use your blog, Facebook page, or LinkedIn account to showcase your knowledge. Include relevant, beneficial content everywhere you post.
- Promote your content in the right places, in the right way, while you work on building your online presence. Tweeting an update with a catchy title, using the right images, crafting the perfect script, and even knowing what the ideal length of a post all take time to perfect. However, with time, and by using the right platforms with the right crowd, you’ll slowly gain traction and your search rank will rise.
- Stay ahead of the curve. To be an influential, respected, and followed thought leader, you have to understand your industry thoroughly. See what’s happening in online circles related to yours, keep track of industry developments, read everything on the likes of Quora, Reddit, and LinkedIn groups, and also be sure to read books, articles, and online content created by other influencers.
A number of important things go into becoming a thought leader and developing your own personal brand and presence. However, the five points above are enough to get you started. Once the ball starts rolling, things will take shape and you can then address different areas of interest as the need arises.