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What is Thought Leadership and When Should it Be Used?

You have probably heard of thought leadership and thought leadership marketing but might not know exactly what it is. Thought leadership falls on a list with some of the most overused buzzwords within marketing and business. But, that does not make thought leadership any less important to your business. Before we discuss some thought leader examples, lets define it.

Thought Leadership Definition

If thought can be so useful, what exactly is it? Well, you can define thought leadership as establishing a business, brand, or person as an expert within a certain field. To gain the status of a thought leader, you must create content to teach your audience about a specific industry or new industry trends. You can bolster your brand by establishing the status of a thought leader within a specific industry to raise your profile among business owners and consumers.

How to Establish Thought Leadership

Now that you know the definition of thought leadership, you should know how to build your thought leadership presence. Follow these six steps to improve your thought leadership position within your industry:

#1: Share Who You Really Are

To begin your path towards becoming the number one thought leader in your industry, show the world who you are. Thought leaders earn credibility by establishing themselves as experts in the field. If people do not know who you are, they may have trouble trusting your credibility as an expert.

Whether you choose to publish content on your own website, social media, blog posts, or anywhere else, people will want to know who you are. Including information such as your brands, missions, goals, accomplishments, and even pictures representing your brand will help build trust.

#2: Learn from Other Thought Leaders

Becoming a thought leader in your industry takes time and practice. Just like learning to ride a bike, it helps to first take a look at how others do it. By finding and closely following other thought leaders in your industry, you can learn what people look for in a thought leader.

For example, if you want to become a thought leader in composting, you should pay attention to the current thought leaders of the composting industry. Monitor their social media accounts, sign up for any newsletters they publish, and do everything you can to learn from those who have already accomplished your goal.

#3: Engage!

Engaging with others online and adding value to their conversations builds your credibility. After all, thought leaders gain thought leadership status by sharing their expertise within their field. By having relevant conversations with other thought leaders or members of your industry, you spread your knowledge to others and increase your visibility to potential customers.

Since you have already discovered other thought leaders in your industry, you should not have trouble finding opportunities to communicate with others within the industry. Improving social media engagement offers one way of adding value to others. Additionally, you can engage with others online through message boards or even in person at industry-specific conferences.

#4: Start Creating Content

You know all about your industry and your business. You might think most of what you know is common sense, but there are plenty of people out there that are ready to take in what you have to share. Building thought leadership requires you to share the knowledge you already know.

Depending on your industry and your target audience, you may want to start off with easier content. You should have an idea of the type of content you need to publish based on your research in step 2, learning from other thought leaders. As a form of content marketing, blog marketing can help you build thought leadership by helping you spread your knowledge.

#5: Commit to Your Brand

Once you start publishing content to build thought leadership, the job does not end. To build your thought leadership, you need to commit to a consistent schedule, engaging and sharing your knowledge frequently. Others within your industry will not see you as a thought leader if you do not fully commit to sharing your knowledge and adding value to conversations.

Even once you achieve the title of an industry thought leader, you must keep up with your brand to maintain the status. If you stop publishing content, your brand may fall off the map within the industry. Scheduling times in each day to engage with social media and produce content will help you stay on track.

#6: Streamline Your Process

Once you hit your stride and find yourself well on your way to becoming a thought leader, you will want to streamline your content creation and publishing. One of the first things to do includes working with public relations experts. 

Finding the right PR firm can really help you structure your content and schedule in the most effective way possible. Additionally, PR firms can help pitch you as an industry expert at events relevant to your industry. Hiring an outside firm to help you with your thought leadership journey will help make sure you achieve your goals and keep you on track with your commitments.

three men sitting while using laptops and watching man beside whiteboard

Additionally, you can hire extra help to take over your content creation. Hiring extra hands to help you create social media content or write a blog for your business can give you a great ROI. As you continue to grow your business and expand your position as a thought leader, your time may become more valuable to you.

As you establish your position, you will begin seeing more opportunities. New opportunities to speak in front of large audiences or take on larger clients and bigger sales should arise. While you need to make sure your extra help can properly understand and communicate your brand, do not be afraid to go out and make that investment in your business.

What is Thought Leadership in Business?

So you know how to define thought leadership and even how to establish yourself as a thought leader, but where does it fit in your business plans? Thought leadership is a form of content marketing. By producing content to share your knowledge rather than directly selling your products or services, your marketing efforts indirectly lead to more business. Although most people might not think of writing a blog when thinking about marketing, content marketing can really grow your business.

Content Marketing

So, what is content marketing? Content marketing consists of publishing valuable, relevant, and consistent content targeted at a defined audience. Consistent, useful content will not only attract new audiences but help retain your current audience. Content marketing will help your efforts in social media marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, inbound marketing, and so much more.

When to Use Thought Leadership

Oftentimes, startups and companies working to scale struggle when trying to share their voice. Industry leaders tend to take up the majority of the share of voice within an industry. The sheer volume of content as well as the dominance of domain authority allow larger companies to share their voice easier.

If you want your business to start taking market share from larger companies, you will want to use thought leadership. Building thought leadership through content marketing will expand your share of voice within your industry. The use of content marketing will help your business get your points of view out there. Additionally, you can continue to add value to industry conversations.

Examples of Thought Leadership

Thought leadership offers one of many ways to promote your business online. By joining the thought leaders of your industry, you can build a larger audience. Just because larger businesses tend to make up the thought leaders does not mean you cannot join the ranks among your industry’s thought leaders.

Thought leaders exist everywhere in every industry. They can come in all different shapes and sizes. In the end, thought leadership comes down to producing the right content and committing to putting that content out there. Here are some of the best examples of thought leadership, which provide some valuable insights to jump start your marketing strategy:

#1: American Express Business Class

American Express Business Class provides blogs separated into four main categories: Managing Money, Getting Customers, Building Your Team, and Planning for Growth. The company consistently posts content relevant to its audience that keeps readers coming back for more. Their small business blog is of the oldest and most successful representations of thought leadership.

#2: Microsoft Stories

A big part of thought leadership comes from storytelling. By sharing stories specific to yourself, you will build trust among your audience while sharing your views. Microsoft Stories does just that with a very successful thought leadership strategy.

By publishing content related to smaller facets of their company, Microsoft builds a more personal relationship with their audience. Microsoft posts blogs related to charitable efforts, lesser know products from the company, and even employee profiles. A deep dive behind the scenes gives their audience a broader understanding of the brand.

#3: Grow by Acorns and CNBC

Acorns partnered with CNBC to produce a personal and investment blog. By working together, the two brands have built an authoritative blog that provides education and entertainment to their audience.

Despite Acorns being an investment company, the blog focuses more on other financial topics like building income and escaping debt. This has been a very successful thought leadership strategy. The focus on other relevant topics Acorns adds value to the conversation while also building trust and authority.

FAQ:

  • What is the meaning of thought leadership?
  • How does thought leadership benefit a business?
  • What are examples of thought leadership?
  • What is content marketing?
  • How can I become a thought leader?

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