Want to become a thought leader on LinkedIn? Today, it’s easier than ever.
LinkedIn was once the place where you could create an online version of your resume and then…nothing would happen. These days, LinkedIn is so much more than a database of resumes, it has become the primary platform for business thought leaders to distribute their content and engage with their audiences.
In 2016, Microsoft acquired LinkedIn for $26.2 billion and since then there has been a quiet but steady rollout of new features, as well as a new tone brought by the now more than 700 million users. In January 2017, LinkedIn rolled out a major update to its interface, adding features like native video, machine translation of profiles, and hashtags. Since then, frequent upgrades have continued to enhance the ability of thought leaders to get their message out there through written, visual, audio, and video content.
Visit the site’s homepage and rather than seeing anything resembling an online resume, you’ll see a feed full of updates from your connections. Some of these may be of little use to you and may remind you of content you’ve seen on Facebook, but recently we’ve also seen the rise of the LinkedIn thought leader. These individuals are publishing valuable content for executives, entrepreneurs, and other professionals and starting conversations about sales, marketing, PR, startups, fundraising, AI, blockchain tech, and more.
Some of these individuals have amassed large followings on LinkedIn (the network caps your connections at 30,000 but allows an unlimited number of users to “follow” or subscribe to your content), are publishing content regularly, and are seeing large engagement numbers on their content. Mark Smith, Vice President of Sales at Womply, has almost 50,000 followers and his posts average 500,000 views. In 2017 one of his posts was seen more than 27 million times.
In 2017, Josh Fechter became famous for his “broetry” on LinkedIn. Some laughed at these double-spaced, sometimes overly dramatic posts, but that kind of creative writing was a key ingredient allowing Fechter to rapidly grow his agency, BAMF marketing.
I’ve written over 300 articles for publications like Time, Fortune, Mashable, and TechCrunch, but these days most of my writing goes up on LinkedIn. It’s where the attention is. On LinkedIn, I can engage with people in a way I never could through my articles, where the conversation was one-way. If you’re looking to create B2B thought leadership content then LinkedIn is where your audience is, it’s the easiest place to get started, and it just plain works.
Here’s a 7-step process to get you started.
1. Define your personal brand as a thought leader
Who are you, or who do you want to be? Gay Hendrick teaches in The Big Leap about “expert zones” and your “genius zone,” and how we often assume we need to do anything and everything we’re good at. However, just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean it should take up any of your time. Anything you’re good at is an “expert zone,” but we should be spending our time in our area of true genius where we can make a unique contribution.
To build a powerful personal brand one needs to understand what makes one unique and means combining expert zones.
For example, I’ve run a marketing agency for 20 years, so I know a few things about marketing, and you could call me a marketing expert. But there are a lot of marketing experts out there who know just as much as or more than I do. That doesn’t make me unique.
I also know a lot about skateboarding. I’ve been involved in the skateboarding industry for decades, but that also doesn’t make me unique. There are 20 million other skateboarders out there in the world. But how many people know as much about marketing as I do, and also know as much about skateboarding as I do? Maybe a few dozen. If I wanted to become a thought leader, focused on this overlap, and leverage my thought leadership into a job at Nike or Adidas, it would be a piece of cake.
That’s not the intersection I’ve chosen to make my genius zone, but this example shows how by experimenting with different overlapping interests you can find an area around which to quickly and easily build a powerful personal brand. Not that it’s quick and easy if you’re starting from scratch, but it is if you draw on the knowledge and experience you already have.
2. Find your audience
Once you know what kind of thought leader you want to be, it’s just as important to know who your audience is. As with discovering your expert zones and your genius zones, you have good audiences and your ideal audience. If you’re planning on making a living or growing a business through thought leadership then your ideal audience will be like you, want what you are selling, and be able to buy it. Also, it should energize you to work with your audience, rather than leave you feeling drained.
To find your ideal audience, brainstorm a list of all your potential audiences and then identify which ones are the best, ideally narrowing it down to one, highly targeted audience.
3. Create your personal brand tagline
What value do you provide to your audience? Once you know who you are, who your audience is, and the value you provide to them, you can combine this all into a “personal brand tagline.” Here are a few examples that describe the personal brands of well-known thought leaders. You may never hear these exact words come out of their mouths, but through their words and actions these are the personal brands they’re communicating to us.
Gary Vaynerchuk – “I teach hustling entrepreneurs how to day trade attention.”
Amy Porterfield – “I teach entrepreneurs how to build email lists and create online courses with ease.”
Ramit Sethi – “I will teach you how to be rich.”
Each personal brand tagline identifies an audience, and explains the value that will be delivered.
What’s your personal brand tagline? Once you create it, use this as your title on your LinkedIn profile.
4. Optimize your profile
Most people attempting to become thought leaders on LinkedIn skip the first three steps and jump right to setting up their profile, and that’s why they don’t get results and think LinkedIn isn’t worth their time.
Once you have your personal brand nailed down, the rest is a lot easier. Your personal brand tagline becomes your title. Your bio becomes laser focused. You know how to talk about your work experience the right way to appeal to your audience and give them the information they need.
There are many points of optimization on your profile, the most important being your photo (here’s what not to do with your LinkedIn photo), title, bio, and banner.
Read more on how to optimize your LinkedIn profile.
5. Connect with your target audience
When it comes to who you connect with on LinkedIn, quality comes first. However, the larger your network, the further your content will spread. If your goal as a thought leader is to impact as many people as possible, then pursue a strategy to consistently add members of your target audience as connections. This can be as simple as searching for the type of people you want to connect with and sending an invitation. Note: Invitations that have a custom message are much more likely to be accepted. In addition, you’ll also enjoy greater success with your invitations if you send them to individuals in your geographic area, who are alumni of the same school you attended, or with whom you share many mutual connections.
One of the best ways to find quality connections is to see who comments on the content you produce, or on content of people you would like to be like (at least on LinkedIn). People who take the time to comment on posts on LinkedIn are worth their weight in gold. Treat them like you would treat your most valuable customer or client and they will help you spread your message far and wide.
An even better way to build your audience, whether you want a large audience or a small, focused one, is to create great content that attracts them.
6. Create compelling thought leadership content
As you’re building up your network, start creating thought leadership content that will appeal to your audience. If you’re not sure where to start, follow the advice given by marketing thought leader Marcus Sheridan in his book They Ask, You Answer and start answering questions your audience has.
If you’re not sure where to start, create a post about your genius zone and ask your connections to comment with questions. Then create a post for each question, and give your answer. Done. Easy.
Creating great content on LinkedIn gets easier the more you do it, so don’t quit if it doesn’t come naturally at first. Especially post native video. Video gets outsized attention on LinkedIn right now, and it doesn’t need to be professional. I posted a video I filmed on my phone, while walking, with no more than 20 seconds of preparation or thought beforehand, and it was seen over 150,000 times, generated hundreds of comments, and even led to new clients.
Finally, what many thought leaders leave out on LinkedIn is they treat it as though it were a TV or radio broadcast. Perhaps you can become successful on LinkedIn telling everyone what you think and never listening, but you’ll enjoy so much more success if you dive in and respond to comments, and respond quickly. You’ll develop meaningful relationships, you’ll attract raving fans, your network will grow faster, your business will benefit more, and you’ll have more fun. It’s also one of the secrets to get your content to go viral.
Comments, comments, comments—it’s all about getting comments and responding to them in a meaningful way that adds value.
If you’ve achieved success on LinkedIn would you add anything to these tips?
If you’re new to thought leadership on LinkedIn, what other questions can I answer for you?Liked it? Share it!