Thursday, August 31, 2017

How to Build a Social-First Thought Leadership Program

Thought leadership is a strategy that can lead directly to brand equity enhancement and offers an incredible return for the time and effort that you put into developing this program. While you would like to think that you could pour some water on your thought leadership tactics and they instantly bloom, that's not how this works.

My own thought leadership program has grown over time, which is what you should expect yours to do if you build it strategically and continually manage its development. In implementing it over social media platforms, it's gained additional momentum thanks to influencers who share the content I've produced. Once your program is launched and getting traction, you will need to continue overseeing it, but it will pay you big dividends for doing so.

Here's a framework to build your own social-first thought leadership program, which delivers relevant, valuable, and insightful content that answers the questions that your audience is pondering as well as provides actionable solutions for issues that they are facing.

Study Your Audience

This tactic takes considerable time because you want to ensure that you know who they are, what they are asking and seeking, and how they want to engage with brands to get that assistance. Learn when and where they are having online conversations and study those to see how they respond and share with their social circles in a public environment. Also, pay attention to their values to see where you can align yourself based on your own belief system.

By arming yourself with this audience intelligence, you can figure out how to deliver the best answers as well as approach them with that information at just the right time. How do you find out the right time? Note when they are holding these conversations, including the day and time they frequent specific social platforms.

Identify the Social Platforms for Conversations

Go where your audience is spending their time. However, if you are not sure about all of these social platforms and how they work, start with just those where they are located and that you can already navigate.

Save the new social platforms for research before you announce your presence there. You want to make sure you do it right because there aren't any "do-overs" when it comes to social media. And, you don't want to blow it when it comes to trying to win their trust.

Craft Your Unique Thought Leadership Story

To stand out within your industry and even business segment, there has to be something memorable about you that people will be drawn to. Think about your strengths and what makes you the entrepreneur that you've become. How can what has shaped your evolution help your audience?

Or, what is it about your personality can you leverage to engage with others? For some, it's being completely transparent about their past and current startup experiences. Others may feel comfortable using their sense of humor to enhance what they are sharing to connect with the audience. Charisma, passion, and excitement on your part are definite musts when it comes to audience engagement.

As part of your leadership story development, research what topics related to your brand appear in your online search results. These topics will then shape the story you create on these social platforms.

Understand and Address Your Limitations

Just because you know a lot about a particular subject doesn't mean you know everything about it or other topics. Define the areas that you know and, if you want to know more, add talent to the team who can be your eyes and ears to extend that thought leadership library of subject matter.

You may also be limited in terms of the amount of time you can invest in creating the content. It's okay to bring in ghostwriters who can craft the best content that matches your voice from existing content so that they can "take over" to continue regularly publishing similar content that keeps the conversations going with your audience.

Uncover Unique and Relevant Content Types

When studying your audience, you most likely determine how various segments use the social platforms to get to content types they are interested in. If that's a silly video, live stream format, listicle or a combination, focus on delivering the content in their preferred way. This can simultaneously speed and deepen the engagement level.

Always use facts, statistics, and quotes to add leadership credibility to the content you are supplying. You can also consider curating content from other sources to further the belief that you are an expert in this subject area. The ability to know what everyone else is saying and apply your own perspective is one strategy that has really worked for me in boosting thought leadership.

Leverage Offline Opportunities to Enhance Online Awareness

You might be wondering what offline presence has to do with your social-first thought leadership strategy, but it is an important tactic that builds momentum for you. By looking for speaking engagements at conferences, trade shows, seminars and networking events, you are adding to the persona you are building online.

These offline opportunities can also be shared across your social platforms to illustrate your focus on developing personal relationships with your audience by also meeting with them, face-to-face. When you do have these meet and greets, you also get more insights into what your audience needs, which continue to feed you with the content themes to pursue.

Don't Sell

Whatever you do, steer clear of sounding like a salesman. Thought leadership doesn't involve a hard or a soft sell. Instead, it's just about providing education and specific information. It's through this assistance that you establish trust and credibility that can motivate your audience to delve deeper into what you offer and decide for themselves if they want to buy your product or service.

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