4 Steps to Becoming a Business Thought Leader

Seth Godin. Sheryl Sandberg. Malcolm Gladwell. These are big names – names you’ve undoubtedly heard of. They are thought leaders – authorities, influencers, who are changing how business is done.

If you aspire to become the go-to authority in your field or niche, there are a few steps you should start taking today. Because it can take a little time to build a reputation and to amass loyal followers.


1. Take an off-beat position.

Zig when everyone else is zagging. To get noticed, you need to craft a message that is not what everyone else is saying. To stand out, yours needs to be counter-intuitive, or at least counter to the current consensus. If you’ve read 100 times that direct mail is dead, perhaps you disagree – strongly – and explain why. Or maybe, unlike Ariana Huffington, you think work/life balance is overrated.

Taking a position counter to the masses does a couple of things. It captures attention, from colleagues and the media, and it distinguishes you from everyone else.

2. Build a community.

Once you’ve got everyone’s attention, it’s time to start converting friends and colleagues into comrades. Create a community through social media so that you can continue to share your message and attract like-minded people into your fold.

Network, in person and online, to spread your message. Set up platforms to connect members of your community, such as through:

–       Facebook fan pages

–       LinkedIn Groups

–       MeetUps

–       Google Hangouts

Of course, you don’t need to do this work yourself, but it should be done systematically.

3. Speak.

Speaking engagements that put you at the front of the room and make it immediately clear that you are the leader, can only continue to fuel your thought leader positioning. Pursue local, regional, and national opportunities to share your message with your target audience.

Look into:

– Professional conferences

– Industry meetings

– Civic organizations

– Ted Talks

– Podcasts

– Teleseminars


4. Write.

Social media is powerful, but to maintain control of your message, you need to be creating new content that supports your position. This content can be presented in a number of forms:

–       Blog posts

–       Press releases

–       Case studies

–       Bylined articles

–       White papers

–       E-books

–       Pamphlets

–       Books


That content then needs to be shared with as broad an audience as possible, which is where social media can prove most useful:

–       Share links to articles and blog posts with your audience

–       Ask your community to share your work with their followers

–       Drive traffic to your blog or website to identify your followers

–       Make sure everyone in your organization is aware of your message


Associating your name with a particular position, cause, or concept isn’t hard if you’ve followed these four steps. Granted, it won’t happen overnight and it will take work, but it can certainly be done.



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