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Establishing Thought Leadership Through the Power of Social Media

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Thinking a thought doesn’t qualify you to be a trendsetter in thought leadership. Being a seasoned social media user doesn’t either, for that matter. What does?

One of the most highly regarded thought leaders in today’s ever-evolving business world is published author and speaker Brian Solis. Brian has written several books on the topic of new media and has achieved greatness as a sociologist and digital analyst. He has studied how businesses can grow, thrive and measure success through the power of social media. As an individual, Solis has nearly 157,000 followers on Twitter. To put that in perspective, Solis has more followers than the Ford Motor Company and Chevrolet, two American-made brands that have quite the loyal following indeed.

What if I told you that you can establish a following in thought leadership the way Brian did? It’s not easy, but it’s easier than you may think.

So what exactly is a thought leader?

A thought leader is an innovator, someone whose passion for their industry or craft inspires others to create conversations and seek guidance through their expertise.

How can you establish yourself as a leader in your field or industry?

Keep your ears open, i.e., a little less talk and a little more listening action.

Create conversations and dialogues, but listen more than you speak. No one likes a know-it-all, and there is always something to be learned from someone else in your field, or, plainly, any related field. Make sure you are well-versed before you speak on any topic in your industry and others will respect the considerate and well-chosen words that you use to get your point across.

Know your audience.

How old are they? What are they looking for? What social media outlets are most useful in reaching them? Pose questions that will help you get to know your audience better … what they read, what they want to see, what their personal passions and industry interests are. Once you have all of that info, you can spring forward into action.

Take a leap and think outside the box.

Your individuality and unique practices are what makes all the difference. Your innovative way of looking at the world and your industry will set you apart. Don’t be afraid to be bold and speak your mind to what you know to be true. If you have found success, don’t be afraid to share your knowledge with others through social media outlets.

Focus your own content.

If you want to be recognized as a leader on a particular topic or niche in your industry, be sure you are following your own advice. Blog daily about what you want to be known for (keep your personal life separate) and establish a timeframe when you publish; as your following grows, people will seek out your blog when they expect to see it, whether it is at 8 a.m. or 4 p.m. Make sure your content is sharable on multiple social media platforms.

Be thoughtful; share content.

Sharing is a beautiful thing, something your mother likely instilled in you from a young age when you were surrounded with toys and games and that annoying younger sibling. Sharing content from other people in your industry (whether it be blogs, articles or insightful Tweets and Facebook post observations) will help you establish relationships. Have each other’s backs and support others with similar goals in mind, thus establishing yourself as a leader in your industry and someone people admire and trust. A major part of thought leadership is the ability to believe a person’s convictions; their advice is much more valuable when they are a trustworthy individual with proven results.

Be diligent.

Answer any questions that come your way in a timely manner. Reply to comments to show your interest in reader feedback and your respect for others in your field. Accept constructive criticism (or even general criticism) with tact and understanding. It’s also vital to provide answers to commonly asked questions across the Internet. A clear answer to a question asked in a LinkedIn group forum or an expert advice request on HARO (Help a Reporter Out) will get your name out there and a solid link to your blog or website. Lead by example and you will reap the rewards.

Network, network, network.

Get your face out there with live chats and join or host a Twitter party focused on your area of expertise. Apply for a spot on a panel or as a speaker at a local organization that would benefit from your expert opinions and advice and to build a reputation with potential clients or create new business partnerships.

Show off a little.

Link to client testimonials or solid recommendations on social media. If others see how much the top businesses or organizations value you, they will likely follow suit by taking an interest in your content and by adding you to their social media network.

Utilize social media moderation tools.

Social media tools can help you organize your efforts and set up a time schedule. Here are some of our favorites (both free and paid services):

Google Alerts: Receive email updates about keywords and trends you care about. Also utilize Google Trends to see what terms are trending by day, time and location.
Radiant6: Get the latest news and measure how your social media strategies and brands are engaging the public.
HootSuite: Manage multiple networks and enhance your content with this management system.
Tweetdeck: Connect with all of your social media connections on one platform.
Klout: Measure signals by network with the Klout Score.
HowSociable: Find out how visible your brand is on the Internet.
Lithium: Build brand advocacy and aggregate data across social media.

Is there a social media tool you use that you believe to be a cut above the rest? Do you have aspirations in the the area of thought leadership? Let me know!