There is a lot of talk about how to be successful in social media. One of the core truths espoused is that you have to be a thought leader. Frankly, that is true, but I also believe that you can be primarily a content curator and gain a significant following. However, this post is specifically about how to position you as a thought leader in social. So let’s get to it.
#1 – “In order to be seen as a thought leader, you have to share your thoughts.”
It may sound simple, but when you read a post or tweet or discussion or update, you likely agree or disagree. If you agree—rather than just retweeting or liking or sharing—consider stating why you agree or adding a short, pithy comment that supports the post.
If you disagree, here’s an opportunity to share and say why. All comments and shares don’t have to be 100% positive. That’s not real life. I will comment on a LinkedIn discussion group when I disagree and state why. If it is in an open group, I’ll click the “Share to Twitter” button to encourage more engagement and dialog. After all, that’s what we do in real life, right? Debate?
The benefit to you is that you are clearly sharing your thoughts about this particular topic. You are not only joining the conversation as a listener, you are now actively engaged in the conversation. That’s powerful!
#2 – Choose your niche.
We have all heard that “specific sells.” The same holds true in a community. When you say you are in insurance, the mind of your listener can go in many different directions. However, if you say you are in long-term care insurance, now you are specific and your listener can wrap their mind around your topic.
So you choose your niche within your industry. It doesn’t mean that you can’t step outside of that. What it does do is give you clarity about the majority of your conversation. You should find discussions you can become involved in (See Step #1) as well as create your own content in the form of posts and discussions. Is that the only topic of your conversation? No. (See #4.)
#3 – Choose your voice.
If you are speaking as yourself; your voice may be easier to find; however, you will still need to decide if it is all you or just the professional you. Because I have a moniker “The LinkedIn Diva”, my decision was to have two voices. I couldn’t let someone hijack my name or my title. So I use both. @LoriRuff is a WYSIWYG… what you see is what you get! But @LinkedInDiva is my professional persona and only shares professional content. Which is better? Take a look at both Klout scores and decide.
The other consideration is whether you are speaking for yourself or as a brand or company. I also manage the company Twitter account, Facebook page and LinkedIn company page. Integrated Alliances (@IASocialMedia) speaks about Lori Ruff, CEO and everyone else on the team in the third person and as it relates to what is happening in business. During a recent survey of our community, we were accused of having dry content. Lesson learned for me: be more inspirational, even in the company voice!
By the way, if you look at Forbes Top 50 Social Media Power Influencer lists from 2012 and 2013; the 2013 list is packed with people who not only have great content, but are also inspirational. (Consider that a bonus tip!)
#4 – Learn who your audience is and what related or similar topics they care about.
For example, my primary focus is B2B Business Development utilizing LinkedIn and Social Media. That doesn’t mean I can’t talk about Sales, Marketing, Children’s song lyrics. Wait! What? Children’s song lyrics? Yes.
It turns out that many in my community have kids and grandkids, so providing them with the occasional – operative word “occasional” – post about children’s song lyrics creates some of my shared content! I chose one blogger that puts out consistently great content on this topic and share her posts no more than once a week on Twitter and Facebook. That’s on my personal account @LoriRuff. Remember, you not only need to know what your audience wants to hear about, you need to know what voice you are sharing from. (See #3)
#5 – Keep it real — be authentic and transparent.
What does that mean exactly? I’m not perfect. No one is. We don’t always get it all right. But when someone calls me out for an error in judgment or because they perceived a post or update differently than I intended it, I thank them for their insight, sometimes even ask how they suggest I might do it better next time.
This diffuses what could be a public spanking and lets people know I don’t take myself too seriously or see myself as better than them. It shows people we are all human; it literally changes the tone from criticism to critique in a public forum that helps others learn as well.
The most important advice I can offer to help you maintain transparency and authenticity is this: know your values; know your “why” you are doing what you do. If you can define your values and/or your why, and you post it beside your computer, your conversation will transform into one that is inviting, conversational and approachable.
My core values:
- Provocative transparency
- Bold honesty
- Loyalty to my loved ones
- My spiritual beliefs
- Acceptance of my humanity (fallibility)
My point is, no matter what your core values (other popular values include: Faith, Family, Finance, Fitness, Friends, Focus, Work Ethic, Faithfulness, etc.) when you have identified what they are and what that means in your life, you will focus your efforts in a more meaningful way that is attractive and compelling.
When you have followed these five steps, you too will develop a reputation of thought leadership in your space.
Photo credit: Hamed Saber