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The term Thought Leader has been a buzzword for some time, but what does it mean, and what can it add to your business?

Thought Leaders are positioned as “best in class” in their field. They have a combination of accomplishments and expertise in their chosen industry, as well as a body of published work that is cutting edge, innovative and well respected. They are popular and well connected, and see value in utilising social strategy to get their creative ideas moving.

Positioning yourself and/or your company as a Thought Leader in your industry ensures that potential clients and other industry players will associate your brand with insight and authority in your given field. When they are looking at who to hire, you will be top of mind. Not only that, the perception of being the best in your industry will mean clients are more willing to pay higher prices for your services.

So how do you become a Thought Leader?

It’s not as simple as completing a course. Becoming a Thought Leader involves a passion and commitment to developing and refining your personal skill sets and industry connections. In addition to this, the drive to develop new, innovate, cutting edge ideas, and to publish those ideas, in order to gain industry recognition in your chosen field.

Some practical tips:

Cultivate your personal brand

Spend time building your list of credentials on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms. Be sure to note your career accomplishments, academic achievements, and industry credentials and/or awards. This will provide the base to grow from.

Online presence

Develop a robust online presence. Begin with a blog to showcase your knowledge and establish followers who like or share your articles.

Generate and test content topic ideas by undertaking google searches – to see what people in your industry are interested or excited about.

Connect with industry leaders in your chosen field and review what they are reading and posting on social media to learn, learn, learn. Comment or share on their posts to establish a presence with their followers.

Think outside the square – investigate what other industries are talking about online, and find synergies to your own industry that you can adapt and practically apply to create new and innovative thinking in your own industry.

Network – a lot

Join as many social media platforms as possible and connect with existing clients, professional contacts, those you have networked with at an event or seminar. Work through industry related groups; client related groups etc that provide articles or threads that you can generate additional connection opportunities from. Lastly interest groups – where you can contribute, but also take time to read others queries, submissions and solutions, in order to learn from them.

Flaunt your connections – the higher ranked industry players you are connected to, the higher your own profile.

Similarly, the more people in your network the more industry weight you will hold.

Engage in public speaking

Investigate guest-speaking opportunities at industry associations and conferences.

Record everything you present, and cross-reference it via twitter, Linkedin, your Blog, You Tube, Facebook etc.

Repurpose your content and presentations to multiple so that the research and effort and time you put into compiling it are fully maximised across many channels. Be bold and innovative with your ideas. Be memorable, inspirational and forward thinking.

Win awards

Investigate award opportunities in your industry and make it a goal to achieve that award.

Build your communication platform

Get published – a lot. Whether it is in industry magazines, association material or even a book!

Make bolder claims in your social media and drive new ideas and bigger predictions.

Build an email list of loyal readers who can become your brand advocates and share your content with others.

Start publishing on industry related blogs.

It goes without saying that the more often you publish, the bigger audience you will have.

Video blogs on your website are also a useful way to add additional website traffic and raise your profile.

Becoming a Thought Leader isn’t something that happens overnight. It needs hard work, commitment and innovative thinking in order to raise your profile and achieve industry guru status. But it can be done – so what are you waiting for?

NB:  This article was published in the EMA “BusinessPlus” magazine.  Enterprises of all types and sizes join the Employers and Manufacturers Association, for opportunities to learn and grow, make valuable business connections and change the world.  EMA provides its members with professional advice and training to succeed in many aspects of business.