Developing yourself into a ‘thought leader’ is harder than you think. It’s not just about becoming an expert in your field, but also about creating content that has a large enough audience. For that, your audience needs to know you, appreciate your content and trust you.
People, of course, tend to listen to authority figures. A person with the title of doctor or PhD student or one in uniform will automatically have more authority than persons without title or uniform. Thought management is the English term for when it comes to having and radiating authority. A title or uniform is associated with knowledge, experience and expertise. But how can you become an authority in your field without a title or uniform?
The concept of authority can be divided into four types: unknown, preacher, expert and. thought leader† Unknown means that the person or organization posts little or no content and also has a limited audience. A preacher has a large audience but little content. An expert is the opposite of the preacher: a lot of content, but a small reach. Thought management is the ultimate goal where there is a lot of content which also has a huge reach.
Steve Jobs is the perfect example of such a success story. With Think differentlyadvertising campaign gave Apple energy to the target audience to break the status quo and do ‘it’ differently. This influence of Steve Jobs on the world is still clearly visible today. A minor example is someone in a business who uses storytelling creates a large network on LinkedIn and thus ensures efficient lead generation.
Know, like and trust
To create thought managementcontent, it is important to focus on your pre-selected audience. The terms ‘Know’, ‘Like’ and ‘Trust’ are important here. First and foremost, of course, make sure that you are visible to your target audience and that your name often appears on your target audience’s screen. After this exposure the target audience will decide if they like you or not. On LinkedIn, this can be controlled by a change in the number of connections, followers, likes and reactions. Gaining trust is the final step in the process by which a person will see you as the ultimate person thought leader within a specific field.
Storytelling on social media
LinkedIn is the leading enterprise sharing platform thought managementcontents. Content can end up on the timeline of a second or third degree connection through a like or comment. This creates awareness of your expertise among the reader. The next step is to make sure your content is actually shared inside and outside your network. Concept storytelling is the solution to this. This way you play as potential thought leader on the concept of ‘Know’.
Each individual has a different approach to content sharing. Do you want that thought leader attack the status quo or do you want to give tips about your expertise in a friendly way? The former will cause many reactions where not all reactions will be equally positive. You have to be pretty strong if you want to use this method. When giving tips in a friendly way, it’s hard to stay interesting. Kicking open doors is not exciting content and therefore not interesting for your network to share. People would much rather see provocative ideas that challenge the reader’s assumptions about a particular topic than content that simply confirms existing ideas.
No matter what approach you take, there will always be people who support you and people who disagree with you. In any case, most people will show their appreciation.
How do you get on?
An important concept thought management and the third link in the ‘Know, Like & Trust’ model is building trust. This can be done through vulnerability, integrity and authenticity. The vulnerability to admit when you know nothing or that you are wrong. To show integrity where you actually are the person you say you are. And the authenticity that clearly shows who someone is or what a company stands for.
Trust is the reason why, for example, potential customers do business with certain companies and that people want to work for certain companies. Biology has also shown that humans place great emphasis on trust. The limbic system is the part of the brain that is involved in behavioral and emotional responses in humans. It is therefore extremely important to respond to this system in order to thought management to realize.
Building trust can be done by sending information. A business can do this using multiple channels. Videos, webinars, live presentations and postings on social media are examples of how a company can build trust with its target audience. This allows a company to show expertise. A study (pdf) by Edelman and LinkedIn has shown this thought management 47% of B2B NERIs have discovered and subsequently bought a product from companies that were not originally seen as market leaders. A company’s recruitment also benefits from producing thought managementcontent: 50% of B2B NERIs say so thought management can play an important role in attracting the best talent.
Why do people read thought leader content?
Thought management is a learning process. It is important to post content, but especially to read content from others and to interact with this content. By reading thought managementContent allows you to stay up to date with the latest ideas in your industry. With these insights, you can, for example, get new ideas for your own or your colleagues’ work. Of course, you can also interact with that person and show your own perspective on a particular topic. This allows you to convince the outside world with your expertise in the field.
Another important reason is to react to trends and developments. Thought leaders post content on both current and future trends and developments. You can make good use of it by actively responding to these insights. At the personal level, you develop your own knowledge, and at the company level, you can also ensure that your company deals innovatively with these trends and developments.
How to produce good content and what are the pitfalls?
In general, it will be difficult to produce the right content on a constant basis. A content calendar can be the solution to this. With a content calendar you can work forward, and then you always have a buffer for the moment when you no longer have inspiration. This scheduling allows you to anticipate future events and happenings.
Also, make sure that your content is not too sales related. Such posts are generally not instructive and not interesting to your target audience. The percentage of interaction with this posts will be lower than the one where you exhibit your expertise without anyone visible call for action† In addition, sales-related content generally has a negative stigma. This stigma will spread to the rest of your profile, making people less likely to share useful content.
Third party data is important to validate your insights. For example, can anyone say that 80% of NERIs would rather see provocative ideas than existing ideas, or that 80% of NERIs would like to see thought managementcontent is supported by third party data. These insights must of course be confirmed using the correct quote.
Thought managementWhen done correctly, it provides many benefits. On the business front, there will be an upward trend in sales and recruitment results. As a writer, the beginning can be difficult, but eventually there will also be benefits on the personal level. Building expertise and a large network can ensure that you can easily find new challenges in the future. Reasons enough to start sharing your expertise right away.
About the authors: Jordi Bron is the CEO of Red Panda Works; Boyd Visser and Jason van der Drif are both Growth Hackers at Red Panda Works.
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