How to Establish Yourself as a Thought Leader

So many companies struggle with brand awareness and recognition.

It's because of the noise. Every market is over-saturated with others trying to do the same exact thing as them.

And in a digital world, where information is at our fingertips, a lot of people are trying to fake it until they make it (which adds to the noise). They can compete with the biggest dogs in the yard because they have access to the same tools and concepts as everyone else.

But there's a way to cut through the noise. There's a way to disrupt the market enough that people stop and look your way. Then, if you've done it right, you'll be the one they're looking to for answers.

How to Become a Thought Leader

Becoming a thought leader isn't easy. If it were, the title would have less effect as the norm.

But until that happens, thought leaders are the respected individuals within an industry who bring a fresh take to their market. They have the opinions that others seek because their thought process isn't like everyone else's.

They work through information differently, and because of it, they've stood out from the crowd. And if you have any hopes of doing the same, these four tips are how you're going to make it happen.

1. Identify Your Expertise

Eventually, people are going to look to you for all sorts of advice, but to start, you need to hone in on the one thing you're terrific at.

No one is going to Eddie Van Halen for life coaching. They want to learn how he plays guitar the way he does.

So, like Van Halen, you need to be one of the best at what you do. This requires collecting all your thoughts on a subject and understanding them in depth. You need to go significantly deeper than the norm on your content. It's the only way you can say the things others aren't saying.

The hard part is having a broad base of knowledge you can work from. For example, if you only understand customer acquisition, what good are you to other marketers? They want to learn how to take someone through the whole journey. So while people may come to you for advice on an area, you need to understand the industry you're operating in.

With the internet, anyone can collect information on whatever topic they need. What makes them more likely to listen to you?

There's an assumption that thought leaders have access to information the general population doesn't. If you make a fool of yourself by not comprehending something familiar to your industry, you're going to lose credibility.

Learn it all, then dive into your expertise.

2. Put Yourself Out There

If you expect to establish yourself as a thought leader, you need a channel for people to see your opinions.

It starts with the creation of your personal brand. This includes everything you do. It's how you present yourself. It's the mindset you have. All of your social profiles should maintain consistent branding with these things in mind.

But before you start spouting off everything that enters your thoughts, play devil's advocate with yourself. Think through your stance when it comes to challenging the status quo. What approach are others going to come at you with? Knowing will help you get a better grasp of your ideas and the arguments against them.

To further strengthen your position, you need to show people that you're living what you preach. Creating articles and videos is one thing, actually executing and achieving results in your industry is something else.

If you start in a niche, you can increase the speed at which you're noticed. Jumping into a broader industry will cause you to blend in with the noise, where everyone is trying to make their way because they didn't take a deep dive in a topic as we discussed earlier.

3. Stand By Your Opinions

To become a thought leader, you need to present something new to your industry, and you have to be willing to stand by it.

If you've built yourself as an attractive character, you need polarizing opinions to your peers, otherwise, you're stuck in neutrality where no one will notice them. This doesn't mean you need to disagree with common practices, it could be that you go all in on one.

When you take that far side, trolls will come out of the woodwork. Be prepared to ignore them. If you cave to their opinions, you're not leading, you're adopting someone else's beliefs. And while it's fine to rethink your own stance when you gain new information, if you're continually changing opinions, you're going to lose credibility.

If you're challenging convention, it threatens those who live in the status quo. They take it as a personal attack and will lash out with every message you broadcast. If you truly believe in what you're saying, and you've considered their objections, ignore them. No matter how angry or hurtful they become, stick to your guns.

4. Build a Tribe

If you want to truly succeed as a thought leader, surround yourself with others who think like you and buy into your thought process. This is your tribe.

Based on your attractive character and the status you've achieved in your industry, people will want to follow you. Because they perceive you as having finished the journey they're on, they feel as though they can trust you and seek to emulate both you and your successes.

To build that tribe, however, requires you giving them a vision. People naturally want to be part of something bigger than themselves, and if you can offer an outlet for them to place their faith, your following will continue to grow.

Because you want the tribe to buy into your thought process, you should focus on one key thing you represent. While you can have other ideas, the one key concept you cherish makes it easier for your followers to stand beside you. If you ask for them to accept too many ideas, it's going to become less likely they take action.

It's also important to understand that you're the basis for the group's identity. They've chosen to follow you because they buy into what you represent. Breaking this trust would be disastrous for your tribe.

Becoming the Expert Others Seek

Yes, it's hard to be considered a thought leader. But if you can break through the noise with your well-backed opinions, stick to your position, and continually achieve the results your audience expects, you can earn the title yourself.

As you build your brand, consider how you use social media to your advantage. Our free guide, The Inbound Marketer's Guide to Social Media Apps and Tools, will help your social campaigns reach more people in less time. And if you truly want to be a thought leader, your time needs to be a precious commodity. 

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