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Thought leadership is not a new concept. It has been around for decades and it is still one of the best ways to gain credibility, establish your expertise, and impact your industry in a positive way. The way you think about your business, your industry, and the potential of your products can go a long way when it comes to building a solid reputation, winning over clients, and engaging employees.

Here are 5 steps to get you started today.

Step 1: Determine your goal

The best way to start is by setting a goal and figuring out what you want to achieve. What do you want from this? What are your long-term and short-term goals? How can you use social media to help you reach your goals? Setting goals is important for any strategy.

There are many different goals you might want to achieve through thought leadership. Great thought leaders tend to focus on building an audience, building relationships, getting more/better clients, and attracting the best talent, so these would be great goals to set.

Step 2: Determine your role

Choosing one of four roles—visionary, subject-matter expert, mentor, or evangelist—can help you become a more focused and professional thought leader, thus helping you achieve your objectives.

Visionary: ​A visionary is someone who looks into the future and tries to predict what might happen next.

Subject-matter expert: ​ A subject-matter expert is someone who has a lot of knowledge in a specific topic.

Mentor: ​ A mentor is someone who is experienced but also willing to help less experienced people.

Evangelist: ​ An evangelist is someone who actively tries to persuade others to join a cause, product, or idea.

Step 3: Determine your niche focus

A person can focus on one of three areas: Industry, organization, or product​​.

Industry thought leadership: Would talk about the type of business you are in. Examples include the technology, telecommunications, and consultancy industry.

Organization thought leadership: Refers to the organization or company you work for.

Product thought leadership: Is based on the product or solution you are selling.

Once you have decided on a niche focus, you can choose a subtopic within that niche.

Step 4: Determine your approach

There is an endless amount of formats to choose from. There are, for example, long-form opinionated articles, audio, memes, quotes, videos, third-party content reviews, or news. It can be DIY, created by your marketing team, or even outsourced. A simple trick to maintain your focus is to decide what works best for your target audience, your team, and your resources.

When you decide on the type of content you want to use, keep in mind these tips:

Long-form content is better for establishing thought leadership, authority, and trust. Short-form content is easier to share, which makes it great for reaching a wide audience.

You can’t assume that all of your readers are interested in reading a long-form article. With that in mind, you can segment your audience by giving them the option to click on a link to view a short or long-form article.

You also might not have the resources to create long-form content. In that case, you can summarize blog posts or give a quote from an article in a visual.

Step 5: Determine your style

As with styles, it’s personal but also related to the goals you want to achieve. You can for instance choose between Informal/formal, provocative/approachable, inclusive/exclusive. These are mostly about what you want to convey to your audience. A formal style might sound a little stiff and might not be the best way to reach out online. Provocative topics might make people feel uncomfortable. Exclusive topics might not be the best way to make everyone feel welcome. It’s important to understand that these are not set in stone and that you can mix them up. You can for instance use an exclusive topic to provoke thought and then follow it up with an inclusive topic to make everyone feel welcome.

Building your thought leadership is not easy. It takes time, patience, and a lot of hard work. You have to invest in yourself and your business to be a thought leader. We help you develop your strategy, create content, and build an online presence that will help you grow your business. Sign up for our free on-demand 3-part webinar series: Embracing Connected Leadership. In this series, you will discover how to find your own voice and craft a strategy to earn that coveted thought leader title and start reaping the benefits.