The terms “thought leader” and “influencer” are amongst the biggest buzzwords in business these days. True thought leaders drive innovation, inspire positive change and share their expertise in an effort to make their industries better. So, if your goal is to become an influencer, how do you gain the credibility needed to build a following? After all, there’s no formal training on becoming a thought leader.
Dorie Clark has a few ideas. The marketing strategist, consultant, author, and professional speaker counts Google, Morgan Stanley, and the World Bank among the clients she has helped make an impact. For her book Stand Out: How to Find Your Breakthrough Idea and Build a Following Around It., she spoke to 50 thought leaders from across vastly different fields. Clark outlines and analyzes the paths of experts like entrepreneur Seth Godin and productivity consultant David Allen to find out how they became a recognized authority in their field.
Clark spoke to The Venture to discuss the key elements of building a following, and offers advice on how you can best position yourself as a future influencer.
Create a constant flow of content
“Content creation is the most important element,” Clark says. “If you don’t share your ideas, no one will know what they are. It’s essential to find a medium that suits you—whether it’s writing, videos, podcasting, etc.—and produce material regularly. Before long, if you’re hitting the mark, people will begin quoting you and sharing your work, allowing you to grow your following organically.”
The most important way to ensure that your voice doesn’t disappear is to insist on it being heard. As Clark says, producing regular content that stays true to your voice and brand will establish your voice as one that people can trust and to look to as an authority. If you’re more likely to be comfortable with a certain medium or workload—say, a weekly hour-long podcast rather than posting daily on a blog—choose the one that will keep you consistent.
Find your niche topic of expertise
Making yourself an expert on cars will pit you against thousands of people speaking on the same topic. Choosing a niche within the auto industry, say hybrid electric cars, gives you the chance to delve into and, importantly become a part of a community. Instead of a broad, undefined audience, you would be marketing your message to a niche, but well-honed community of like-minded individuals. Discussing Apple's rumored plans for an electric car hits a specifically defined demographic of people interested in the evolution of sustainable technology and automobiles, versus the small number you might reach starting a site dedicated solely to the auto industry.
Clark illustrates this point in her book Stand Out. “It is much easier to make a mark in a narrow, uncrowded space, as compared to a broad, well-covered area. Once you’ve established your expertise and built connections, you can expand your sphere of influence and the topics you focus on.”
Know how to showcase your specialties
Clark uses the example of Coca-Cola as a company that can afford the resources necessary to occupy every social channel. As an individual or a small, burgeoning startup with other time commitments, being on every platform (and giving the necessary attention to each) would be overkill—and likely turn into a second job in itself. Clark recommends prioritizing one to three platforms as communities you want to invest and excel in.
“Once you’ve decided where to focus based on your own interests and where your customers are already spending their time, you can take the time to engage personally with influencers and potential clients, not to mention generally interesting people, on that channel,” Clark says. “That’s not necessarily scalable if you have a million followers, but it’s essential as you’re getting started.”
Seek out feedback from a trusted audience
So you have ideas you want to communicate, and a community to direct your message to. It may seem that the next step is simply to find a platform to begin growing your audience. Clark warns that there’s a crucial step prior to this that’s easy to forget: find a group of trusted friends and colleagues to bounce your ideas off. She puts it simply: “Having other smart people around you allows you to vet and refine your ideas before taking them public, and gives them a better chance of succeeding.”
First published by Chivas The Venture on http://www.chivas.com/en-gb/the-venture.
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