A hot topic in content marketing is thought leadership. You watch YouTube videos, read articles online, and see posts on social media that tell you the secret to growing your business is to become a thought leader. You should be seen as the authority in your space. In our experience, it’s pretty rare that business owners or organizations actually achieve this goal. But it’s still the carrot at the end of the stick… if only I could achieve THIS. In fact, according to one SurveyMonkey survey, 66% of marketers consider thought leadership to be a major priority of their organization.
A thought leader is an expert who, “based on their expertise and perspective in an industry, offers unique guidance, inspires innovation and influences others.” (BusinessNewsDaily)
So, here are the top themes of those who are successful at reaching the goal of becoming a thought leader.
- They share their own opinions, even if they’re unpopular.
A lot of content is recycled and simply a reworded version of someone else’s thoughts or information. But thought leaders share their own thoughts and opinions even if they’re unpopular. Typically, thought leaders will take stands on topics that create a reaction. Once they see there is a reaction to that topic, usually they continue creating content on this topic.
- They clearly define and then, stick to their area of expertise.
Thought leaders are most effective when they’re focused and dial into what they know best. Typically they’ll focus on one industry or even just one niche of that industry. For example, one thought leader we love at The Social Brand is Donald Miller with StoryBrand - he focuses on clear messaging in your marketing. He has created videos, written books, and built an entire business around this one topic. Another great example is Mike Michalowicz, author of Profit First. He focuses on profit for entrepreneurship. He has written many books and creates a lot of content around these topics. Both of these thought leaders have clear messages about what they talk about.
- They consistently deliver content.
In order to be a thought leader, you have to be consistent. It’s not enough to write a book or have one viral video and then forget all about it. Thought leaders are on social media consistently speaking to their audience about their topic.
One common thing we hear back is, “Well how much do people want to hear about (insert your topic)? The thing about thought leaders is that people eat it up because they are interested in the topic that they talk about. Going back to our examples, if you aren’t interested in entrepreneurial profit, you probably won’t follow Mike Michalowicz. But if you are and you agree with his methodology, everything he releases is going to be interesting to you. So he has a captivated audience!
- They are passionate about their topic.
This isn’t a phase for them. This is their career, the stake they are putting out to build upon. This isn’t the same thing as jumping on Twitter and sharing random opinions. This is their passion and it’s not something they’re going to get tired of talking about.
So is thought leadership for you? Pursuing the path isn’t for every business or business owner. But one valuable lesson to be learned from thought leaders is that they aren’t for everyone and they are okay with that. The fact that they share their unpopular opinions ensures that everyone is not going to be their follower. But the ones who are followers are dedicated and engaged.
Another thing to note here is that this type of content is difficult to outsource. Although there are certainly ways to do it, it requires a lot more participation from the leader or organization to flesh out this type of content than more generic content. That’s not necessarily a bad thing at all. Just something worth noting.
As business owners, understanding that every person isn’t our customer is often a hard but profitable lesson to learn. But, for some of us, the idea of sharing unpopular opinions online in a frequent manner makes us squeamish inside. If that’s you - you’ve probably found your answer to whether or not thought leadership is for you.