There was a period where people mistook social media influencers with a large number of followers to thought leaders. Understanding the term “authentic thought leadership” is very important. Every brand needs to understand the term to know the power it brings to a brand and its audience.
Quite simply, a thought leader is an expert in a particular industry that shares his/her knowledge with a targeted audience in order to educate, improve, and value to the industry. These people have expertise in completely immersing themselves in all things about their different industries.
Authentic Thought Leaders have a profound understanding of the inner workings of the business they are in, and they can identify their competitors and audiences.
Authentic thought leadership requires more than a beautiful commercial, online promotion, or an interesting blog post.
To be an authentic trust leader, you must, first of all, be considered trustworthy, and you must deliver engaging resources to your audience. Consistently share your experiences through good quality contents both on your website and online publications.
Many organizations fail to realize that their audience wants to engage with people. As a result, these organizations miss the human element in their content marketing strategy.
Thought leadership is quite advantageous to both organizations and individuals. With it, individuals are able to build their reputations as experts in the industry, build a robust relationship with leaders and authorities in other industries.
Organizations are also able to enjoy the benefit of longer customer lifetime value and shorter sales cycles.
To achieve the position of a thought leader, one has to be very careful and meticulous, because a silly mistake might forever put you in the black book of some individuals that are among your targeted audience.
6 KEY TIPS ON HOW TO BECOME A THOUGHT LEADER
- SET A GOAL AND EDUCATE YOUR AUDIENCE: The question you should firstly throw at yourself is “why?” You should know your reason for wanting to become a thought leader.
Your purpose will determine the goal to set and how to educate your audience. It could be to raise funds, for awareness, for promotion, to change careers, and many more.
- POSITION YOURSELF: You should decide how you want to be described by people. You should be known for at least one thing, and this is left for you to decide.
Identification of goals, expertise, passions, and supporting facts can help you appropriately position yourself.
- THINK LIKE A RESOURCE, RATHER THAN A SALESPERSON: In this present world, people react angrily at plainly apparent sales presentations.
People prefer informational outlets, so it is important to follow the trend. Quite frankly, it is more than thinking like a resource – you have to become a resource.
- DEMONSTRATE CREDIBILITY: At this point, I believe you must have discovered your expertise, set a goal, and identified the value you are offering. The next step is to start building credibility.
Share testimonials, and it is even more realistic to share your challenges and your approach of solving them.
- BECOME A DRIVER OF CHANGE: If you successfully influenced a consumer to reassess their perception of your industry, congratulations, you are a major step close to becoming an authentic thought leader.
This is because you have won the trust of consumers and indirectly overshadowed your competitors.
- BE CONSISTENT: All of the above steps without consistency is simply filling a basket with water. Thought leadership requires that you get attention regularly.
Your content creation and engagement with the targeted audience should be consistent.
AUTHENTIC THOUGHT LEADER VS INFLUENCER
A fundamental difference exists between an authentic thought leader and an influencer. It majorly takes having a large number of followers to become an influencer. Sadly, this has become something that can be bought.
Thought leaders, on the other hand, do need not only considerable amounts of a fan base but also need great expertise and knowledge. While influencers can easily feed their audience with regular information and practices, thought leaders firstly identify the best practices that exist and then work on coming up with better practices.
Genuine Thought leaders are instigators of change. They project the future and develop courses for it that people will follow.
Let us give some practical and easy to understand example of authentic thought leadership vs. Influencers:
For instance, Diana is a fitness model with 300,000 followers on Instagram. She posts pictures and videos of her working out, and because of her perfect body shape achieved with workouts, her followers, likes, and comments keep increasing. She gets some fitness products and money in exchange for an advertisement on her page. Evidently, many of her followers buy these products. Questions thrown at her are barely replied because she has little or no fitness pieces of advice.
Mariana also exists on Instagram with just 100,000 followers. Mariana is a personal trainer with NASM personal trainer certification. She has a degree in nutrition & dietetics and represents a particular fitness brand. She shares informative contents on how to be body-perfect and gives nonpareil answers to her followers’ questions.
Quite clearly, Diana is a social media influencer, while Mariana is a thought leader.
STRATEGIC CHANNELS TO HELP YOU ESTABLISH AUTHENTIC THOUGHT LEADERSHIP
- WRITING CHANNELS: This is perhaps the most popular channel, which is due to the low barrier to entry.
This channel includes any form of written content, which could be blog posts on your website, guest posts on websites of others, or e-books.
- OTHER DIGITAL CHANNELS: Another remarkable channel for thought leadership is non-text mediums, in which podcasts, audio/video contents are the most prominent examples.
Audio content marketing is shrewd for reaching an audience that prefers elongated materials but dislikes e-books.
Video content marketing, on the other hand, is good for the same reason, in addition to the visual flair, it adds to the contents.
- NON-DIGITAL CHANNELS: The fact that digital contents are favorable to thought leaders does not mean that there is no other option.
You can publish a formal book or speak at conventions to build authority if you do not want to go through the digital approach. Although this channel is more effort-consuming.
Authentic Thought Leadership should be the goal of the aspiring leaders, and entrepreneurs. If you are not planning to effect positive change, to inspire and drive new concepts, practices, ideas, or business models, then you have no business calling yourself a thought leader. In fact, it’s not something that you choose to call yourself, it’s how people perceive you.
An example of thought leaders in recent times would be the late Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, who brought a new concept of what a domestic computer should look like, the iPods, iPhones that people love so much and are incredibly loyal to are a fruit of his drive and passion for innovation and his ability to lead the change and stay on top.
The list with examples of thought leaders could go on and on, but essentially I wanted you to understand that it takes a lot of planning, and effort to get to that point. Check out other articles on this blog on how to plan, and strategize to ensure you/your company become a thought leader.
REFERENCES & FURTHER READING
Shel Israel. What makes a Thought Leader? https://www.forbes.com/sites/shelisrael/2012/03/05/what-makes-a-thought-leader/#1a6cdf35c45f . Accessed on 08/07/2019.
Amelia Keyser. What is Thought Leadership? https://brandyourself.com/blog/guide/what-is-thought-leadership/ . Accessed on 08/07/2019.