If you’ve been working on growing your personal brand lately, you’ve probably heard of the term thought leader once or twice before. Connecting with thought leaders in your industry can lead to better work opportunities, increased knowledge about your respective field, and even potential mentorship or collaboration. In fact, we mentioned connecting with thought leaders last week as one of the best ways to build your personal brand.
But first, you might be wondering: what is a thought leader?
Thought leaders (or influencers) are people who are well-respected in their field. They don’t necessarily have to have a gigantic following, but they do typically have an audience that engages with their content and respects their opinions. Thought leaders have credibility and are established in whatever it is that they do. Generally speaking, they have some notable accomplishments, whether it’s a high-ranking position at a company, a book, an online community, or a few keynotes under their belt. They’re great people to learn from, and can be a great source of inspiration for building your own personal brand.
Ready to learn how to find and connect with them?
Find thought leaders online
One of the easiest ways to find thought leaders who are relevant to you and your business goals is by consuming a lot of content yourself. Make a list of the most popular publications in your industry — then keep an eye on who the writers are, and who is being featured in their articles, podcasts, or videos.
Using a site like Feedly is another great way to automate some of this process. Just type in a topic, website, or RSS link to get started. Feedly will then suggest different sources to follow that are related to the original topic. It’s a great way to build your reading list and find new people and publications to follow.
This part is relatively simple, but each social channel does have a unique process. LinkedIn, for example, allows you to directly connect with people… but be careful with that. We’d recommend simply ‘following’ unless you have a relationship with that person already or if there has been mutual engagement between the two of you (we’ll get to that part in a minute…)
For a site like Twitter, you can not only follow but also add to a list. We’d recommend creating a private list for thought leaders, or accounts you’re working on building relationships with. This will allow a dedicated feed just for those people, so you can cut out some of the noise from the other accounts you follow. To create a list, just head to the ‘Lists’ tab on your Twitter homepage and create a new list. Tick the box for a private list, add a name, and start adding people to it! To add people to your list, find their profile, click the three buttons to the left of the ‘follow’ button, and choose ‘Add/remove from lists’.
Learn from them
Thought leaders are generally interesting people, so use this new connection to your advantage! Read what they post, study their social media strategy, and take a cue from them when it’s appropriate. You certainly shouldn’t be copying anyone, because your personal brand is all about you and what makes you unique, but paying attention to their content strategy and studying how they engage with their audience can give you good insight into what’s working in your industry, and how you may be able to do something similar for your own brand.
Engage with them
Lastly, take the time to actually get social and speak to them! NO — this doesn’t mean dropping your link anywhere that you’re given the opportunity to. It does mean dropping insightful comments when they ask questions on LinkedIn, retweeting their posts on Twitter when it makes sense for your audience, and lending a virtual hand if they ask for help in your area of expertise.
If this is new to you, it might seem overwhelming — but it doesn’t have to be. Start by designating a 15 minute block each day for social media engagement. Maybe it’s during your lunch hour, or the last few minutes of your workday. Whenever it is, getting into a routine will help you stay consistent. Engagement is truly one of the most important parts of building your brand online… it’s called social media for a reason.
…But none of this matters if your digital presence isn’t up to par.
What if one of these folks searches your name after an interesting conversation and sees something that doesn’t represent you in the best light? Can you afford to miss out on a connection like that?
Marple is a tool that allows you to take a look at what others will see when they google you, so you’re always portraying yourself in the best way possible. It’s simple: we let you know when we find your name in search results, you take a look at it and mark it positive or negative, and you carry on building your brand without stressing about what potential connections will see when they search for you.