28 Jun 2023

Expert to influence: 7 steps to becoming a thought leader

In today’s interconnected world, it’s never been easier to share information. As an expert in your field especially, you will have valuable insights and ideas to share. The hard part, building an audience that is listening and engaged. With the right social media strategy, however, you can leverage your expertise, expand your reach, and become a thought leader in your field.

Becoming a thought leader isn’t just about personal growth or followers on LinkedIn. It can bolster your professional credibility as well as unlock opportunities for career advancement. You already have the knowledge, now you need to develop your brand.

We’ve put together 7 steps to building your audience and establishing your voice:

1. Earn trust through authenticity 

Being transparent and principled in what you say and do online is the foundation for building respect for you and your ideas. Open and honest communication helps your audience better understand your perspective, and trust that your ideas are well-founded and positions genuine. Perceptions of perfection are easily shattered by even small mistakes. If you are seen as authentic though, mistakes can be explained and understood. Even those that don’t agree with your ideas will be more likely to discuss them if they believe you are approaching the issue from a position of good faith.

2. Craft a distinctive, personal brand

Just like corporate brands, your personal brand needs to be unique and memorable. Cultivating a captivating personal brand will help you create a lasting impression on the people you engage with, and make them more likely to talk to others about your content. Your personal brand should be inherently linked to your own personality, background and skills. Whether it’s a passion for sustainable innovation, or an interest in quirky gadgets, your character should shine through. This will not only make your brand more natural and easier to maintain, but it will also make it uniquely yours. 

3. Build a community by giving back 

Whether offline or online, strong communities are built through mutual support. Being active in your community, especially by offering help and advice, will set an important example and help it grow. A vibrant community is more than just a collection of individual relationships, it’s a powerful resource to draw upon. It can be a catalyst for sharing and receiving ideas, and bring in people that otherwise would never have been exposed to your content. 

4. Don’t just state facts, tell stories

People will be more interested in your narrative, than your fact sheet.  Stories and narratives, especially personal ones, will keep an audience’s interest and make them more receptive to your ideas. Academic papers are great sources of information, but not what people want to be reading while scrolling through LinkedIn or Twitter. Giving a story to your ideas doesn’t mean diluting them. Instead, framing them in formats and examples people can relate to will make your audience more receptive to the point you’re trying to make. 

5. Liven up insights with creative formats

The right format can bring your ideas alive, while the wrong one can see them falling flat. There are a plethora of different formats to choose from when it comes to presenting your ideas, finding the right one is important to achieving maximum impact. Data that might be confusing as a graph or table can become clear as an infographic. Points that would fade into the background as a post may stand out when set over a video. The correct format will not only grab people’s attention, but can increase their understanding of your ideas as well.

6. Keep the stream of content flowing

There are many channels out there to explore, each with its own audience. Making use of a range of social media can help broaden your reach and make you a consistent point of reference in your field. Different channels are more suited to different content and you may find that not all of them are valuable for you. However, choosing relevant platforms, and tailoring your approach to their audience, can help you grow your audience and engagement. Whether it’s LinkedIn, Twitter or Tiktok though, consistency is key. A constant flow of relevant educational, inspirational or entertaining content is important to keeping the algorithms on side and your audience engaged.       

7. Stay curious

Wherever you are on your journey, always stay open to new ideas. Learning and sharing with others is important for personal and brand growth. Asking what your audience thinks, or inviting their input, fosters debate and helps show your personal side. People will be more interested in engaging with you if they feel you listen. This includes other thought leaders who you can engage in discussion, demonstrating your professional standing in the community, and opening up their audience to you and your ideas.