5 Signs You’re a Thought Leader (And How to Become One If You’re Not)

So, you know your stuff, you’re confident of your abilities and you’re widely considered an industry expert, but are you a thought leader?

So, you know your stuff, you’re confident of your abilities and you’re widely considered an industry expert, but are you a thought leader? Here are five ways to tell–or to make it happen:

1. You have a Twitter following all your own: You have a substantial, engaged Twitter following on your personal account. When sharing content from your brand’s blog, people tend to credit your personal Twitter handle.

Not quite there?

  • When writing posts, always include your Twitter handle in your byline.
  • Check that the opinions and content you share on your personal profile align with those of your brand. Discrepancies here will harm cross-pollination between your brand and your personal profile.
  • Make sure 25 percent to 40 percent of your tweets are personal, yet professional–this shows that you’re human and that you’re there to make connections.
  • Keep your followers/following ratio in your favor by unfollowing:
    • Inactive accounts
    • People who don’t follow you
    • Users who aren’t relevant to your professional or personal interests

 2. People interact with your LinkedIn posts: When a user comments or likes your LinkedIn posts, it suggests they value your opinion. It also reveals something more: They feel that associating with you will make them look good. When someone comments on a LinkedIn post, it shows up in their connections’ feeds, so people only tend to do it when it’s going to reflect well on them.

Not quite there?

  • Post more! Busy professionals often neglect their own profiles, particularly when they’re content in their current position. Don’t be afraid to curate content, just as you would for your brand page.
  • Regularly update your profile. Your connections will be alerted when you do, which increases your visibility; and it makes you look more organized and professional.
  • Make use of headline real estate to tell people what your expertise is. Putting your job title here is a waste of space. Save that for the descriptions below.

3. You’re approached for comment:  Do you get emails from strangers asking for your input on their content? If yes, you’re a thought leader. Be sure to respond graciously to requests (though feel free to ignore the link-builders and hacks).

Not quite there?

  • Show that you’re open to collaboration. Take the initiative and reach out to industry contacts, asking if they’d like to work together on a joint article. To increase exposure, buddy up with someone outside of your area of expertise. For example, a search-engine optimization expert could write a collaborative piece with a web developer about finding the right balance between search and design.
  • Open a dialogue with other thought leaders. Write a roundup post asking experts for their input in your next blog post. A carefully crafted outreach email will position you as a peer, rather than simply an admirer. They’ll remember you next time.

4. People pull quotes from your blog posts: Regularly check linking domains in Search Console (or your SEO software). If people are using your quotes and linking out to your blog posts, consider yourself an authoritative figure.

Not quite there?

  • Start by making sure your blog posts are top-notch–and that goes for your content recommendations, as well. “It’s critical for the most well-respected media brands to maintain the high quality their users are accustomed to,” says Katherine McDermott at Revcontent. Conversely, “One of the fastest ways to drive your audience away is low-quality content recommendations.” And low-quality content, period.
  • When reading industry blogs, pay attention to the kind of content people are linking to. Is it actionable lists, or opinion pieces? Try incorporating that into your strategy.
  • When editing your blog posts, make sure you have at least five short snippets. As a test, imagine them as a tweet–if they make sense and sound good on their own, bloggers will be more inclined to include them in their own articles.

5. You’re a search term: While you’re in Search Console, check the search terms driving traffic to your website. If you see your name anywhere, people are Googling you–and unless you’ve recently embarrassed yourself in public and gone viral, that’s a really good sign.

Not quite there?

  • Network more. Start conversations, both online and offline. Most thought leaders are excellent networkers, so brush up on your public speaking skills and get used to talking to strangers.
  • Establish a presence that extends beyond your website by posting on industry news sites and blogs.

Bonus: Be sure your specialization excites you. Being a thought leader takes passion. Without it, you’ll never be more than an expert. If you’re not enthusiastic, try focusing on a particular sub-niche that does fascinate you, and write about that exclusively. You’ll have an audience. There’s an audience for pretty much everything online. Besides, if you don’t love what you’re doing, what’s the point?

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

@MaryCLong maryclong@digitalmediaghost.com Mary C. Long is Chief Ghost at Digital Media Ghost. She writes about everything online and is published widely, with a focus on privacy concerns, specifically social sabotage.