Thought leader. The new marketing buzz word.
I get it. You see the traffic that someone in your industry is getting and you think, “I want that.” Maybe you even think, “I can do that.”
But can you?
I’m going to say something that might be wildly unpopular, but it needs to be said: Most people can’t. It has nothing to do with how good you are at your job or whether or not you have amazing ideas.
Becoming a thought leader takes so much more than that.
So, let’s talk about that. Because if this is something you’re going to commit to, you need to know what you’re taking on.
Commit to your Vision
If what you’re trying to say isn’t keeping you up at night, you probably aren’t as committed as you think you are. If it doesn’t sincerely bother you that your message or service isn’t out there in the world, then you don’t yet have the vision it takes to see it through. I would even say that if there’s a doubt in your mind that you can actually make this happen…you might need to reconsider.
Take a Position
You can’t just decide, “I’m going to educate people about real estate/finance/puppies.” YOU HAVE TO HAVE A MESSAGE. And it needs to be clear and specific.
You have to take a risk and say, “This is what I don’t agree with in my industry” and be willing to allow other people to disagree with what you’re putting out there. You have to know who exactly you’re speaking to so that you can connect. You have to be unapologetically YOU – and because that’s scary to a lot of people, a lot of people do not become thought leaders.
Be the Marketing Leader
So, this is something that I think is a no-brainer, but apparently it isn’t: YOU CANNOT OUTSOURCE BEING A THOUGHT LEADER. In other words, you have to drive the bus.
Yes, you can delegate some marketing tasks, but you need to be on at least one social media platform YOURSELF every day, probably multiple times a day, delivering a message that only you can. From there, your team or consultant can take that message and put it out on different platforms and repurpose it. But YOU have to commit to this. Otherwise it will not work.
You need to be active on your social media platforms, answering questions and comments that people make – not your marketing consultant or assistant. YOU. You need to listen to their needs as you’re communicating your message and evolve your strategy to fit them. Do you need to create a closed Facebook page where they have access to you? Are people responding to the quick informal videos you’ve posted on Instagram? Are you on Twitter, connecting, retweeting, and responding to people?
Embrace Your Second Job
Unfortunately, these days, this isn’t something you can do in the extra five minutes a day you have just before lunch. Becoming a thought leader is a part-time (sometimes full-time) job, especially as you’re trying to shimmy your way into the market. So, if this is something you really want to commit to…something’s gotta give.
We’re not just talking about time creating posts, videos, Facebook lives, daily social media posts, graphics, etc. We’re also talking about the mental bandwidth it takes to be in the game. You have to constantly be thinking of new material to put out to your audience – that’s going to require a change in your schedule.
Are you able to delegate some of the tasks you have for your full-time job to another staff member or colleague? Are you in a financial position to not accept as much business as you have in the past in order to commit the time to this? Do you have the time to not only create the posts, but also learn new programs and software (or work side-by-side with a professional) to get your message out there? Can you make time to present to groups (even when just five people show up) in order to gain the traction you need?
Get Comfortable with Disappointment
Becoming a thought leader, especially now with all of the digital noise that’s out there, is a marathon, not a sprint. You might spend a year getting 150 people to like your Facebook page. Unfortunately, it can be soul-sucking work that makes most people throw up their hands and say, “Does anyone really care about what I’m doing???”
This is where the “this idea keeps me up at night” comes in. Coming to terms with that slow growth is a lot easier when you just know this message has to be out there. Your heart and mind aren’t giving you a choice. Sure, you might have a frustrating day/month/whatever as you keep plugging away, but if your mind won’t let you rest until you’ve done what you need to do…then you’re doing the right thing.
What generally happens is that after you’ve dedicated yourself to consistent commitment to the message, things suddenly start percolating. Your name is out there. People are sharing your message. You’re listening to them and responding.
And a thought leader is born.