How thought leaders use online content and social media
The internet provides a wealth of knowledge. An internet search on any topic produces many results, from articles to videos to the chance to discuss the issue on online forums and social media with other enthusiasts or experts. Internet expertise has to be taken with a note of caution, though. Not all search results are equal, with plenty of articles giving false information and many an ‘expert’ setting themselves up on social media when they are anything but. However, the internet remains a fertile ground for research and information. As long as people check their sources, they can often find expert knowledge and even connect with thought leaders who are genuinely experts in their field.
What is a thought leader?
Thought leaders offer informed opinions and are the experts you should talk to in a particular field. It takes time for someone to become a thought leader, but eventually, they can become the go-to person for a specific area, as well as the people who can make changes happen.
The internet not only makes thought leaders more accessible to the general public but also provides multiple platforms that thought leaders and those who aspire to become thought leaders can use to gain recognition in their field.
Becoming a thought leader
Thought leaders come from all walks of life and all backgrounds. They need to build up their expertise and knowledge, as well as their reputation for that expertise. Often, thought leaders have created a product, organization, program, company, or initiative that has given them experience and proof of their expertise, or it may be that they hold a leadership position in a company, industry, or non-profit organization.
A good way to increase your chances of reaching a leadership position is through education and qualifications. As well as the expertise and knowledge you attain through study, the qualifications gained demonstrate your skill level to the audience you want to build. This is essential online when, as stated previously, anyone can publish an article or promote themselves as an expert. However, by holding a recognized qualification, you can demonstrate that you know what they are talking about.
There are many different qualifications, and the best one for you may depend on your area. However, a good one for those aspiring to leadership positions is a Doctorate of Education in Leadership (EdD). This can qualify you for jobs in various fields, including business, human resources, non-profit, education, and public service. An EdD can be studied at university either in person or through online study, which enables you to continue to work while qualifying. A good course to consider is the online EdD in Leadership at Spalding University. Through an interdisciplinary, collaborative, and globally conscious program, this course prepares current and future leaders to lead ethically and strategically to create meaningful change. It can be completed in just two years.
With accredited qualifications, you can demonstrate your expertise as you build a platform as a thought leader. There are many ways that you may tackle this, but creating online content and social media is a good way to reach a wide audience.
Social media and online content
Social media and online content go together when establishing and maintaining a reputation as a thought leader. Online content might include articles on your website or your company or organization’s website, but it may also be guest posts you write for other websites and online publications. It could also include videos and podcasts. However, on their own, they may not get a lot of visibility, and this is where social media promotion comes in. If you promote your articles on various social media platforms, you will drive traffic to the websites where your articles are published.
Similarly, only posting on social media and having no other content is unlikely to be effective. Most social media platforms limit post lengths, so it can be hard to get into the detail required to make a persuasive argument. Additionally, people looking for a thought leader will expect them to have written, visual, and audio content that marks them out as a genuine expert. However, using the two together will demonstrate that you’re an expert and give you an audience to share your expertise.
Know your audience
There are many social media platforms, and posting regularly on all of them would be a time-consuming task. Instead, it is a good idea to focus on the forum or platforms where your audience is most likely to be. Articles, videos, and podcasts all add to your body of work, but they are also time-consuming to produce, so make sure that you are posting content in formats that your audience likes to view.
When building an audience, it may be hard to know where is best, so don’t be afraid to experiment. Post on various platforms and see where you get the most engagement. You can also use analytical tools to know where the best place is to post articles or whether a video is getting a lot of views.
A good way to widen your reach and to find out which platforms work is to guest post. People are often very glad to have expert content written for their websites and will happily promote it on their social media channels and your own. They will usually also be pleased for you to share links so readers can easily find other content you have written. This can be particularly valuable when you are starting, as it is a good way to get your content onto an established platform with a reach that is far wider than your own.
You can do the same with video content and podcasts. Hosts always look for people to interview for their podcast or video channel. Starting in this way is a good method to build your confidence in speaking to a camera or microphone, and it will help to increase your follower count on social media. It will also help you decide if there is a wide audience for audio or visual content on your topic, which may prompt you to create your podcast or channel.
One of the factors that make social media such an effective way to build an audience is its interactive nature. People love being able to ask questions to an expert to find out information or clarify their thoughts. If they are considering a career in a particular area, it is useful to chat with a thought leader about getting started. This means that when you post on social media, you are likely to get several responses – and as your reputation grows, so will the number of answers to your content.
People will be more likely to follow you and respect your opinions if you engage with them on social media, so the time taken to answer a question, respond to another point of view, or thank people for reading is time well spent.
It is important to be professional in your responses as this will help to establish your reputation. If someone disagrees with you, engage with them politely, showing respect for their views even if you do not agree with them. Consider your responses carefully and support your arguments with evidence, as this is a good opportunity to show how you have reached your conclusions. It will also make you appear more authoritative. Regardless of who wins the debate or if you agree to disagree, try to end it on a positive note. Both your followers and their followers will undoubtedly be forming their conclusions, and at the very least, you want to establish yourself as a professional, thoughtful contributor. Online debates, particularly between thought leaders and experts, will create an online buzz that can increase your follower counts.
A thought leader’s social media posts should not just consist of their content. After all, a good thought leader will recognize and appreciate high-quality content from other experts in the field. It is also a quick way to keep your profile active during busy periods when you do not have the time to create so much of your content. It also builds goodwill with other thought leaders in your field. As you have shared their content, they are likely to be more willing to share yours, helping to increase your reach and reputation.
You can also collaborate on other online content. As stated above, it is a good idea to guest on other people’s websites or podcasts. However, equally, you can invite others to write articles for your website or to be interviewed on your podcast or video. A debate between thought leaders on a podcast creates content that is both entertaining and informative. As long as you are both respectful in the discussion, you will likely emerge with your reputations enhanced.
High-quality, evidence-based content
Online content needs to be high quality if you are to use it to enhance your reputation and become recognized as an authority in your field. It should be well-written with power in a way that allows your readers to easily understand you without feeling as if they are being talked down to. If you are writing articles, then good spelling and grammar are essential. It doesn’t matter how innovative your thinking is; if your writing is riddled with spelling mistakes, few people will read it, and even fewer will appreciate the points you want to make. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, so use relevant images with your articles and ensure that they are of high quality.
If your content is to a camera or microphone, again, think about how you present yourself. Speak clearly so that you can be easily understood, and if you are talking to a camera, consider the impression you are giving with your clothing and appearance. There is no single rule on how best to dress, as it depends on the type of information you are conveying. A thought leader in business would be expected to wear a suit or other appropriate business wear. Someone talking about animals and filming outdoors must wear weather-appropriate clothing suitable for the terrain.
Back up all your content with evidence if you present it as fact. Otherwise, make clear that it is an opinion or theory that you are discussing and show the evidence that has led you to this conclusion, even if it is not conclusive. With the internet, everyone can search for facts, so if your pieces are not fully evidenced, you can be certain that someone will point this out, which could damage your reputation as an authority.
Social media platforms generally require a profile, which will include a picture and often some general information. This may be the first impression potential followers get of you, so it is vital to make it a good one. If it is done right, then this is an aspect of online content that will last, helping to boost your authority and recognition without continually needing updating. It is, therefore, well worth taking the time to do it well.
As with speaking to the camera, think about the image you want to portray with your profile picture and have the photo professionally taken if you can. Social media bios tend to be short, so choose your words carefully to explain to potential followers who you are, what you do, and why they should recognize your expertise on a subject. It may be worth including any qualifications you have, such as an EdD, as these are well-recognized and will mark you out as an authority in the eyes of others rather than simply a self-proclaimed one.
Your website may have an ‘About’ section. In this section, you may be able to go into a little more detail about who you are and the company or organization you lead if appropriate. However, please resist the temptation to make it too long, regardless of how many achievements or qualifications you hold. People do not usually want to read long bios, so present enough information to give visitors to your site the reassurance that you do have the expertise to make you a thought leader.
Keep up to date.
You, your social media platforms, and your online content must be up-to-date and relevant. Nature hates a vacuum, and so does social media! If you do not post regularly, your followers will lose interest and instead look to an expert who posts more often. Your posts do not always have to be new, original content. You may have a backlist of articles, videos, or podcasts that you can repost at busy times as long as you regularly introduce new content. You can also repost someone else’s comments. However, be aware if reposting from your backlist that research and ideas may have moved on since they were first put online. This does not mean that you cannot repost them. It can be a good talking point and provide you with a chance to update your previous material with the latest research.
This also means that you need to keep your knowledge up to date. A thought leader is always educating themselves, carrying out their research, and following the discoveries and ideas of others. In today’s fast-paced world, knowledge can go out of date quickly, so subscribe to publications, blogs, and channels that will keep you informed of the latest scoop. By being the one to share this information with your social media followers, you can enhance your reputation even when it is not you who has completed the research. It also builds goodwill with other thought leaders in the field, and when you have a new theory or information to present, they will be eager to share your discoveries with their followers.
Take your time
Using social media and online content to gain recognition and establish yourself as an authority in the field will not provide results overnight. Instead, patience and dedication are required. It takes time to build up followers to a sufficient number, but each new follower gets you a bit closer, and each share of your content will amplify your reach. You can also use this time to gain additional qualifications, which will help demonstrate your expertise to be a thought leader. While it may take time, by creating interesting, relevant, and well-researched online content, you will help establish yourself as a thought leader and be in a position to influence change.