Thought leadership is not a new space, but one that has been generating a lot of interest lately. It refers to primarily an individual being recognised as an authority in their field or industry. It’s essentially the difference between a ‘percieved’ expert, and a ‘tangible’ expert.
Achieving the rank of thought leader is one of the greatest achievements for an individual. It could mean more progressive career prospects, an endless supply of clients, and faster company growth.
It sounds like a great idea, though it takes dedication. There are many ways to carve your very own thought leadership niche. Starting your own blog on your subject matter is one, Tweeting your thoughts to the world or responding to Quora questions is another, but one extremely beneficial resource trumps them all in terms of getting your name out there: LinkedIn.
There’s no denying LinkedIn is huge. The network, which was founded back in 2003, now has well over 225 million professional members, and growing at a rate of two members per second.
If you’re a LinkedIn user, you’ve no doubt seen member-generated content being promoted throughout the site. You may have even read a few. This is your best opportunity to get in the mix and get your name out there to all quarter billion of them! Here’s how in seven steps:
1. Research your topic
If you want to be able to influence the LinkedIn market, you probably already know a lot about your industry. Even if you do and can write excessively on your niche, it’s a good idea to see what else is already out there.
One of the best tools to help you stay on top of subject matter is Feedly. It’s an RSS reader for the modern world, collecting the latest articles from sites you find the most useful. It allows you to organise the constant stream of relevant information in manageable, bite-sized portions. You can flick stuff away that you’re not interested in, and save blog posts you find the most interesting and relevant for later. It’s an absolute must have for any existing or aspiring thought leader.
2. Choose your headline
This is something that could really make or break your effort. No one will click to read even the most impressive piece of content unless they’ve had their interest provoked. The main way you do this is your headline. It has to be bold, punchy, to the point, and perhaps even slightly provocative. Here’s some tips to help you maximise your click rate:
- Numbers: If you’ve read a BuzzFeed article lately, you’re one of the millions they’ve influenced to click through and read. Often considered the pioneers of ‘Clickbaiting’ (the act of writing interesting/controversial headlines with elements that make you want to click), BuzzFeed often uses articles that contain numbers. Something like: 10 reasons your lack of sleep is killing you.
- Keywords: Your industry keywords are what will get you noticed. It’s important to be ultra-specific and use the simplest keywords possible to describe your article. By being specific and staying away from jargon, you’re preventing to alienate most readers. For example: Here’s what’s wrong with real estate.
- Adjectives: Words that convey ‘colour’ to your headline are a great addition, and can really make your headline stand out. Words people love clicking on are those that either assist or detract from their day to day. Words like: Easy, Simple, Amazing, Beneficial, Unbelievable, Ridiculous, Horrible, Disgusting, Free.
- Listicles: If you’re going to write an article with a list in it, try changing up the vernacular a little so that it doesn’t seem like ‘just another list article’. Here’s some good words: Steps, Methods, Secrets, Hacks, Lessons, Actions.
- Urgency: You want to make either a promise to your reader, or to provoke them in some way. This is the incentive for them to click on to your article. In this one, I used ‘overnight’ as the urgency keyword, but you can use: Now, Instantly, Hours, Days, Minutes, While You Sleep.
Here’s how I formulated this article’s headline. I wanted to write an article about ‘Thought Leadership on LinkedIn’. So I wrote the article and found I have seven main points to make.
3. Visuals get noticed
Humans are visual creatures, they need visual stimulation if their attention is going to be held captive to a piece of content. A visual can be as simple as a brilliant image, a graph, or an infographic. It’s a perfect way to break up the monotone of black and white text, keep people reading, as well as increase the click-through rates of your social sharing to the article itself. Investing in some thought when selecting your visual is the key:
- Stock is ok, just make sure it doesn’t look tired: The image above was originally a stock photo. There’s no doubt
it is being used elsewhere to promote some other piece of content, or website, or potentially chocolate. If you happen to find yourself using a stock image, there’s a few things you can do to it to make it pop right out of the page. First, import it into Photoshop and play with the filtering options available to you. Just click ‘Image’ in the top menu, then ‘Adjustments’, and then play with the multitude of options available to you. Alternatively, the people at MakeUseOf wrote a great piece highlighting five desktop apps to achieve Instagram quality filters on your photos.
- Quality wins every time: Low quality images not only detract from the percieved quality of the words of wisdom you’ve just spent your valuable time typing out, they also subconsciously add a layer of resistance. Large, high resolution images are the most effective.
- Relevance goes a long way: It comes down to two things when you’re talking about image relevance: subject matter and target audience. The image you select should amplify your headling in a way that instantly makes sense to a potential reader, the image should extend your headline and compel someone to click. If your article is about ‘5 ways to be an amazing Justin Beiber fan’, it’s a good idea to use an image that’s relevant to your target demographic. An image of a young, adoring fan in a crowd would be better than a comical image of a granny watching a record-player spin.
- Personalise or die: Some images just lend themselves beautifully to perfectly set typography. Strategically positioned wording that abstracts in colour from the image is another excellent way to increase the click-through to your blog, and will also differentiate you even more if the image you use is a stock image.
- Humanisation is relateable: People relate to people. Newspapers have known this for a very long time, and that’s why you’ll rarely see an image that doesn’t include a human. A human, caught in time, helps create a sympathetic relationship, and captures our attention far greater than a landscape shot.
4. Take a stance
Being neutral will only get you so far, though by nicheing your point of view you’ll gain clarity and a sense of direction as to where your blog post is heading. For example, a blog post that has ’10 best and worst ways to walk your dog’ would presumeably get less clicks than ’10 worst ways to walk your dog’. The second version hits harder, it also raises eyebrows and compels you to click.
5. Be slightly controversial
Neil Patel contributed an article to QuickSprout on whether you should write controversial blog posts. He talks about the time he wrote a blog called ‘Why Successful People are Douchebags’, when in reality, he says that are not. The experiment received plenty of admiration from people compelled to click on his headline, with much more traffic driven to his blog.
On the flipside, he reports he had plenty of unsubscriptions to his blog, as well as it affecting his revenue for that day (as much as 26% in his case).
The takeaway is, it’s ok to be slightly controversial, as long as you can leave yourself a way to backtrack if things get nasty. I wrote a piece on LinkedIn titled ‘Who gives a sh*t? 5 realities about your online audience’ that gathered plenty of attention and raised eyebrows, without actually crossing the line or offending anyone.
6. Encourage comments
- A great way to get more comments on your blog is to actually ask for them. At the end of each blog post, try to personalise the request for comments based around the blog material you just produced.
- Another fantastic way of ensuring future comments is showing prospective commenters you actually read them. You can do this by responding to each genuine commenter.
- Thank each commenter in your response, and make them feel good about taking the time out of their day to read and comment on your blog.
- Take criticism constructively and listen to their opinions.
- If you’re in the position to, create a contest for the best comment posted (such as highlighting them in a future post).
In my case, as it was my first post, I was looking for feedback as to whether this type of content is what LinkedIn readers would like to see more of.
7. Share vigorously
Now that the hard work is done, you need to get the word out. Via LinkedIn this will be easy enough. As soon as you hit publish, it’ll be sent out to your immediate. Here’s some more way to get the word out:
- Get Buffer and connect your social accounts to it. It helps you with smooth sharing to your Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.
- Try to share with your image to each network if possible.
- For Twitter: Include your headline, and a link, including some good hashtags that are industry-specific. This will get your post found more.
- For Facebook: As above, but you have the luxury of expanding on a reason to get people to click through. Include one of the points you’re making in the article.
- For Google+: As with Facebook.
- Other Sites: Send your post to Digg, StumbleUpon, Delicious and Reddit … these are the four main discovery aggregation sites (though they all work differently from each other).
- If you have an existing newsletter: A great way to encourage greater readership is by emailing those that already subscribe to you.
What are your tactics for successful posts on LinkedIn? Do you have any tips on how to increase your Thought Leadership by using LinkedIn? Share your comments below!