How to Establish Thought Leadership on Emerging Social Platforms
The competition is tough.
You have your products or services but they are not moving as fast as you would like.
You have a presence in all the major social media platforms. Still, you are lagging behind.
One of your competitors seems to be the one setting the pace. He is so much ahead of you and it’s difficult to rival him.
You know that your product is superior to his. Even your loyal customers testify to that. But just why are you still playing catch up?
Despite all your content marketing campaigns, you need to get to a level higher than the one your competitor is at. Only then will you be able to perfectly promote your product and give customers something that truly serves them well.
From your research and consultations, you have probably heard about thought leadership.
You have figured out that it is what you need in order to experience the growth you desire.
So you decide to go for it.
But just how do you go about it?
UNDERSTANDING THOUGHT LEADERSHIP
Before you get started in pushing a marketing strategy in pursuit of growth, you need some knowledge. Whenever there is a new idea, people go out and say much about it. In many cases, even in ignorance.
To a large extent, this is what has happened in the marketing industry in regards to the idea of thought leadership.
Many say that thought leadership is part of marketing. They go on to describe a process which is meant to help people have more conversions because they have become an authority in their field.
But this is not thought leadership. This is just marketing by another name.
Pure thought leadership is beyond marketing. It is beyond content creation and marketing.
Sure it can play a role in marketing but in itself, it is something totally different. And this is what you need to understand before getting into it.
If you go into thought leadership just for marketing purposes, you will miss the point. As such, you will misuse the term like many others and consequently diminish its value.
Also, you might end up being disappointed when you still fail to achieve your goals.
Thought Leadership Defined
Thought leadership is really about being a leader. Not in sales or strategy, but in providing solutions.
Again, not the kind of solution called products and services, but solutions which go beyond the average current understanding of the problem.
To borrow from Denise Brosseau, being a thought leader is not about being known. It is about being known to make a difference. And making a difference has nothing to do with primarily promoting a particular product.
There is a very clear difference between a thought leader and a marketing expert. This shall become more evident when we discuss how to establish yourself as a thought leader. That is a few paragraphs below this but before that, first get the basics right.
An expert marketer knows how to study the market, analyze figures and strategize on how to make use of his findings.
On the other hand, a thought leader studies the industry and the whole situation at large. That means he understands not only his niche but also the key influences from other industries.
With this knowledge, he comes up with a solution which is more future-proof than what marketers provide.
This means that becoming a thought leader is a far bigger investment than becoming an expert marketer. And that is why there are way fewer thought leaders than mere experts in any field. Including marketing.
For a thought leader to really make future-oriented solutions known, communication is definitely key. And just as it is with much of everything, strategy has to be applied when it comes to communication.
It is obvious that there can be very little success in communication unless the social platforms are used.
If you have decided to go for thought leadership, then you need to be strategic about it. And one of the ways is to ensure you look for the best place to build a social network.
There are popular social platforms you can build your network on. But in this article, we will look at doing it on newer platforms.
HOW TO DISCOVER EMERGING SOCIAL PLATFORMS
Many of the big names directing conversations today on social media got there while others were yet to even recognize the platforms. While they quickly grabbed the opportunity, others were still in the “wait and see” mode.
Although some brands have gone ahead of you, you have an opportunity to get to them through a different means. Emerging social platforms offer you great mileage if only you can get there before others.
Here is how to pick the platform of the future where you can invest in as you wait for it to become big.
Stay Ahead of Technology News
Very rarely will you get news about emerging technology from the mainstream media. If you hear it announced there, then it is no longer “emerging.”
If it is already in the limelight, then you are late.
There will be many people pushing their way into it and the competition will be high. You therefore need to stay ahead of all the major news channels.
How do you do that?
By checking or subscribing to online channels which major primarily on technological news. Ensure you avoid news aggregators who have technology as part of their reporting. These are not experts.
They only pick what is hot or what seems to be promising.
But those dedicated to tech will give you virtually everything. It will then be upon you to choose what to closely follow and what to sideline.
In case you are not a technology fan, then it’s time you made some small adjustment. This won’t be very hard on you as you can safely ignore anything which is not about social platforms.
Understand the Motivation of the Platform Creators
After pinpointing a new platform you think is interesting, you need to move into research. Primarily, find out what made the creators develop the platform. What exactly motivated them?
This is important because it is their motivation that will determine the direction the platform goes. Although it is common for startups to be acquired by bigger companies, they often maintain control of the development and day to day running.
This means they will control how it progresses so as to maintain their philosophy. To get an idea of this, check out Instagram’s story below when the founders were interviewed on Today’s Sunday Sitdown.
So don’t just look at the features they offer and rush into it but get to know the thoughts and potential future as envisioned by the startup founders.
You may need to check online for videos.
You can even ask some of your friends to try it and listen to their opinions before making the plunge.
Align Your Strategy Accordingly
Ideally, the best platform to dive into will be the one that stands for the values you stand for. This will make it easy for you to attract the kind of people you are looking to have in your network.
This is why you can find some thought leaders in certain platforms but not in others. Even if they are in all the major ones, they will typically be active in one or two.
Find out what the founders stand for in matters like privacy, advertisement and any other thing you deem necessary to check.
What is the founders’ country of origin? Maybe that can impact your freedom of communication.
Having this information, it’s time to design your communication style to fit the platform.
Just as texts are the more usual mode of communication in Twitter and longer posts and pictures the order of the day on Facebook, you should adapt accordingly with the new platform.
HOW TO ESTABLISH THOUGHT LEADERSHIP IN NEW PLATFORMS
We have now come to the main part of this article. This is where the real work starts.
But don’t worry because the efforts you put in will surely pay off.
We have divided this section into two parts because there are distinct phases of the process.
Below are the details discussed.
Part 1: Self Development
If you want to have the kind of influence thought leaders have, then you must first of all become one.
This is what this part of the process discusses.
This part of the article will guide you into the things you should look at so as to build yourself up for the position you desire.
Know Your Industry
Since you are becoming an expert in the industry, you need to really know your industry. You need to know it inside out.
Thought leaders are usually the ones sought after when an understanding of a situation is required.
Many questions are asked in such situations and the last thing you want is to be unable to answer one. Or give the wrong answer.
So get to work and read wide. Anything related to your industry should be known to you.
Of course you cannot know everything but there are things you have to know. You must have all the basics, intermediate and as much of the advanced as possible. Whatever you don’t get now you will learn as you continue on the journey.
You are probably getting to see that being a thought leader isn’t an easy thing. Remember we said earlier that thought leaders are interested in long-term solutions and not just making short-term gains of increased sales.
One way to gauge yourself to see whether you can become a thought leader is to determine your passion in a subject. The amount of learning you need is a lot.
It is possible that only the truly passionate person will be able to consistently learn so as to become knowledgeable enough.
There are three aspects of your industry which you must understand pretty well.
- History – you cannot help shape the future if you don’t know the past. You must therefore learn the history of your industry. How and when did it start? Who pioneered much of what became popular and acceptable? What were his inspirations?
While studying this history, do not shy away from going deeper than most people have.
You are preparing yourself to be the expert and so you have to be the best.
Moreover, you are preparing to be the leader of your industry, you must have dedication and passion.
- Challenges – there are challenges which have been troubling your industry all along. Some may be from centuries ago while others may be just a few years old. Understand these challenges in terms of what really made them become challenges.
For example, instead on settling on a challenge like manual labor in the farms being too tiring, find out what was behind that.
Maybe there was population growth which meant more people had to be fed.
This means more work had to be done.
Or maybe there was need to improve the economy.
As such, there were plans to export food and that caused the people to want to increase their farming output.
This could have brought about this challenge in productivity.
- Current solutions – from there, now study the current market and what it is offering. Considering the far your industry has come, are the current solutions solving the problems identified earlier? Are there other problems coming up as a result of implementing the current solutions?
Take a look at the various solution providers and analyze their offerings. Are they really solving the problem? Are the solutions they offer able to tackle the problem in a long-term manner?
Understand the Trends
During your study, you will be able to pick on some trends. Looking at your industry in view of what you have learned so far will shine the light on the trends. It is again time to ask yourself questions.
Who started this trend? Was this trend a solution? How long did it last? How successful was it? When was it replaced? Who replaced it and for how long did it last?
Understanding the trends is as useful for you as analyzing the figures is for the expert marketer.
If for example you identify a similar solution with minimum modification presented to the public twice in the past, then you know what kind of products will never be a solution.
Anticipate the Future
You now understand what has been happening in your industry for the past, maybe 100 years. This gives you a great advantage at coming up with real solutions. Knowledge is power and whoever has it has an advantage.
Thought leaders know where the world is headed towards.
Not about the apocalypse but the human development and its potential impact.
With an understanding of the history and past challenges, you are well able to see how the current solutions haven’t done much to change the world significantly.
But when you add that knowledge to the trends you have also studied, then you become capable of knowing how the next 5 or 10 years will be like.
Consider the below video in which 12 CEOs, the people who make big decisions, sought to predict the future.
Lots of data will be required here. But more than that, the journey you have so far taken will have shaped your mind. Your opinion of the situation at hand will be very different.
In fact, after the studies, just speaking with you will make your friends notice the difference. Your perspective will have changed. You will be advising them on matters in which they get stuck.
You may notice your friends and colleagues asking you more questions and probably also referring to you for answers.
Once you become an expert within your circles, then it is time to go out. The time has come for you to expand your influence.
Part 2: Leading the Way
If you started as a marketer, you could be tempted to now change tack and start taking a marketing approach. Please avoid that. Taking that direction will mean that you have abandoned a vision which was to benefit many.
Remember that the thought leader operates with a long-term perspective and is not tied to one product. Or line of products.
All the same, you will be required to provide solutions and for them to be embraced, there is need to reach out to people.
As you do so, consciously take the lead in preparing the way, leading the way and staying on that way.
Conduct Studies and Surveys
With the knowledge you have acquired, you are certainly powerful and useful to your industry. But for the best results, you would rather do some more studies. These can be in the form of surveys.
To make it easy for you to start, consider performing meta-analyses on studies already done by others. Just ensure that they are not very old.
This is to help you stay relevant to what many people are currently experiencing.
The solution you provide will however take into account the history you know.
If you can find studies done in the last 3 years that would be good. If not, then maybe the last 5 years.
If you cannot find any, then you will have to rely on your own original study.
If you work in an organization, you can include the marketing team in this. If you are operating alone, you can always go to the internet where it’s easy to conduct online surveys.
You can use your current connections and their connections to do this with relative ease.
The survey you do should aim at proving or disproving your hypotheses and cementing your place as a knowledgeable expert.
Nothing really can beat facts and figures.
Once you have these, you will be good to go.
Share Your Knowledge
You should now start communicating your findings.
If you are operating alone, prepare a professional profile of yourself and brand yourself as a consultant.
This way, you don’t necessarily have to be tied to an organization.
And if you go about this part well, you will start receiving invitations to shed more light on your findings.
In sharing your knowledge, consider the below:
- Speak to your audience – remember that you are working in a certain industry and utilizing an emerging social platform. Focus on this and you will succeed in your plans. Since you understand the pains and problems faced by those in your niche, you are able to draw them to a solution.
Keep in mind the preferred way of communicating in the platform you chose. If the language is completely informal, then flow with it. If semi-formal, like it’s the case in most platforms, then go with that.
If however the language sense is informal but your industry is a serious one, or you want to build yourself as a serious brand, then communicate accordingly.
If you chose the platform well and the players in your niche will be joining, then you have no reason to be worried at all.
- Engage with your audience – communication is always two-way. Being the expert doesn’t mean that you are lecturing your audience. You have to make room for them to talk. If you don’t, you may deny them the opportunity to connect with you as a brand.
Be open to questions and answer as many as possible. When people ask you whether you are available to speak at events, make time for it.
Part of engaging with your audience is in the way you communicate your knowledge.
When writing, consider doing it in a way that will keep readers hooked till the very end.
You can learn how to be a great writer so as not to lose the audience you are gaining.
Something else to consider here is engaging well-known industry experts. These are the people who influence your industry. Share with them what you have gathered from your extensive research and study.
It is likely that they will be interested and end up acknowledging you as an important resource to the industry.
They may not call you a thought leader yet, and do not seek this title anyway.
It is supposed to come by itself. Just focus on pushing for long-term solutions.
- Use different communication formats – communication rarely happens in only one format. Especially on social media, you cannot stick to only one way of communicating. Text is the primary and traditional mode of communication but others have their place too.
You cannot be effective in communicating on social platforms without using videos. You can shoot live action videos or explainer videos. Either way, you have to include them in your communication strategy.
Apart from video, there are pictures and other forms of visuals. These may include illustrations, GIFs, infographics etc.
Do you remember that you are an expert?
Propose solutions as experts usually do. You did all that hard work so that you would be able to guide people in the right direction.
Make an effort to come up with some proposals which you firmly believe in. If the solution is in the form of a product, look for a reliable manufacturer and get the product created.
Depending on your business plan, you can either have the product as yours or engage in a collaboration.
When you are the leader, it is good to have something to present to others. However, it will be better for you to focus on building yourself as a consultant.
This way, you are free from anything which can tie you down and can easily advice others accordingly.
Remember that you will also have many invitations to speak and share your knowledge and expertise.
There will also be many people commenting on your posts and articles and you will do well to reply to them where possible.
This is especially true when you are getting started.
Don’t just post content on the platform then go your way. Ensure you remain connected. Hopefully, the platform will be having a way of tracking your traffic.
If not, you will need to be checking out your posts regularly to see how things are going.
You can also contact the developers and ask them for such a feature. Possibly, when they see that people are becoming interested, they might add it.
Build Your Network
You are building your network on this new platform. This is strategic since its success will automatically mean your success.
But have you thought of how to speed things up?
It’s quite easy.
Look to your current platforms.
Yes, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and any other social media platform you are on. Announce the good news that you have discovered a new app which works like a charm.
Do the marketing for them. Help them become big because you stand to benefit.
A word of caution though. Do not do this until you have considerably built yourself up on that new app.
When you send newsletters, include a link to the related content you have on the new platform. Include their logo alongside Facebook, Twitter and other social sharing buttons you have in your emails.
Avoid Aggressive Sales Tactics
If you will have taken the route of selling a product, then be careful how you promote it. Remember the key distinguishing factor between a thought leader and an expert marketer.
The main concern for you is to educate and provide a great solution. And for you to stay different from a salesman with great product knowledge, you need to do subtle sales.
In fact, if there is something that should be prioritized for CTAs on your blog, is a free ebook detailing the state of your industry. If your industry is a technical one, like engineering or IT, consider writing a whitepaper.
Whitepapers are by their nature authoritative. The content will help you attract the attention of experts. You can even print some and give to industry experts.
When they read and become interested, they will follow you where you are active.
And that happens to be on the newest social platform.
Won’t that be a double win? You will become an authority and at the same time a pioneer of the newest thing in town.
The same way that leaders are not just born but can also be made, so can you become a thought leader.
It requires great commitment.
Put in the effort and after discovering a new social site, use it to conquer your industry.
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