Influencer thought leader

Succeeding as a marketer means labeling yourself as a leader rather than a follower.

Of course, this revelation can be incredibly daunting for those just starting out in the marketing world. Likewise, those trying to garner more attention for themselves or their product often feel like they’re spinning their wheels when it comes to growing their followings.

Here’s the deal, though: establishing yourself as a thought leader in your niche is more than possible.

Are you confident in your industry knowledge? Can you solve the problems of your clients, customers, and competitors?

If so, you probably have what it takes to become a thought leader yourself.

It’s not about “who you know” or “what you know,” but rather how you position and present yourself. We’ve outlined six strategies that beginners and veterans alike can use to climb the ladder in their niches and label themselves as a go-to problem solver versus another face in the crowd.

1. Publish an e-book

Want to win over the admiration and attention of your audience?

Teach them something.

Brands and marketers that produce educational materials on behalf of their readers and followers automatically gain a leg up on their competition who aren’t doing the same. Think about it: being an author labels you as an authority figure regardless of your industry.

Derek Halpern of SocialTriggers has a variety of free e-books for download that show off his marketing know-how and build his email list simultaneously:

ebook marketing

Think that you don’t the chops to write an e-book? Think again. Something as small as a “worksheet” or “cheat sheet” is more than enough to win over influence. Check out how writing guru Elna Cain leverages a 18-page guide to build her list of thousands of subscribers:

e-book marketing

If you have a hack or trick that your audience is hungry for, you can sow the seeds of some sort of e-book. You may also consider a bite-sized digital marketing flipbook, serving as a short, easy-to-read alternative to longer works.

As long as you have something of value to provide your readership, you’re good to go. Similarly, if you’re scoring downloads and interest as a result of your e-book, you know you’re on the right track in terms of your marketing.

2. Boast a sizeable social following

Social media is often a huge thorn in the side of smaller marketers, especially when beefing up your follower count feels like a time-consuming, uphill battle.

When dealing with social media, it’s important to think “quality over quantity.” After all, a following of 500 that regularly engages with your content and converses with your brand is infinitely more valuable than 10,000 silent followers.

Even so, boasting big numbers is impressive at a glance. Likewise, a sizeable following serves as a form of social proof that tells people in your industry that you’re a big deal, especially when you’re someone like Gary Vaynerchuk:

Gary Vaynerchuk

If you’re starting at your few dozen followers with little hope, don’t freak out.

Thankfully, growing your presence on Twitter or getting Instagram followers mostly comes down to consistency. Amassing thousands of subscribers might take more legwork, but by following these principles you can score followers relatively quickly:

  • Post at least daily. Social networks vary in terms of appropriate posting frequency and timing, so don’t make the mistake of needlessly spamming in an attempt to win followers. Whether using a paid solution or free platform such as Tweetdeck, having your posts scheduled in advance ensures your content doesn’t get missed.
  • Engage with others. This may seem like obvious advice, but commenting and reposting the content of others draws more attention to your own. Dedicate a portion of your time marketing day after day to giving others a boost, tagging them in your posts when appropriate. Remember: social media represents a conversation.
  • Focus on one network at a time. Comparing Facebook to Twitter or Instagram is like apples and oranges. As a rule of thumb, spend most of your time on the network most relevant to your niche and audience. In some cases, it might make more sense to focus on Instagram or Pinterest versus Facebook, for example.

While these tips won’t result in 10,000 followers overnight, they’ll set the foundation for an organic, legitimate following over time.

3. Become a serial commenter

The more active you are in your community, more familiar your face becomes in the blogosphere.

Blog comment marketing is an incredibly overlooked marketing strategy, which is all the reason that you should get on board with it sooner rather than later. Sharing your thoughts and opinions on popular blogs within your industry allows you to put your name out there to a larger audience and drive attention to your site and social profiles.

The key to effective blog commenting isn’t to spam “Nice post!” but instead offer insight and questions that’ll catch the attention of peers and influencers. Blogs of huge sites like Moz are known for their engaged comment sections where the authors, who are huge in the SEO world, regularly respond to commenters:

comment marketing

If you want to be acknowledged as a thought leader, you need to get your thoughts out in the open wherever you can. Blog comments are a fantastic, time-effective way to put yourself out there.

4. Keep your blog up-to-date

This might seem like a no-brainer, but keeping your blog brimming with fresh content is ideal for those looking to break out as a star in their niche. Beyond the ability to consistently push new ideas to your fans and followers, marketers that blog regularly get nearly four times as much traffic and more leads than those who don’t.

But doing so is easier than done when you’re already swamped with your day-to-day duties, right?

Even though long-form content typically ranks better in search engines, there’s no harm in writing shorter, 500-word posts to beef up your blog. As long as you’re sharing legitimate advice or experiences with your audience, it’s all good.

If you can’t commit to blogging at least weekly, you might also consider removing dates from your blog posts. This has its ups and downs, but effectively won’t turn off visitors who might think your site has gathered cobwebs because you aren’t blogging on a consistent basis.

But here’s some food for thought: the less you blog, the fewer opportunities you have to drive traffic to lead magnets and products. This leads directly into our next tip…

5. Focus on your email list

The importance of having an email list goes far beyond email marketing’s awesome ROI and the fact that you can sell to your list time and time again.

Email lists are the bread and butter of thought leaders. With an email list, you quite literally signal that you have people hanging on your word and looking to you for advice. The aforementioned tips such as creating e-books and having a healthy blog go hand in hand with building your business and influence simultaneously

Attracting email opt-ins is a cinch when you have something concrete to teach your audience. Check out how Brian Dean of Backlinko drives hordes of traffic to his mailing list:

Brian Dean Backlinko

Even if your marketing efforts are modest right now, building your list now will pay big returns down the road. If nothing else, having a list of any size shows that you mean business.

6. Snag some testimonials

Have you done an exceptional job on behalf of your clients or customers?

Yeah? You need to let everyone know.

Testimonials and positive feedback serve as concrete evidence of your abilities and influence. Don’t think of advertising your satisfied clients and customers as bragging, but rather an illustration of what you’re capable of.

Again, social proof is so important toward building up your name. Whether through testimonials on your homepage or examples of client success, you need strangers to understand from the word “go” that you know your stuff. Here’s a shining example from the aforementioned Brian Dean’s homepage:

influencer testimonials

As a quick side note, never be afraid to ask for positive feedback. Acquiring testimonials is somewhat of a snowball effect: the more good work you do on behalf of clients and customers, the more they start rolling in.

What are you doing to signal yourself as a thought leader?

Breaking away from the flock and attracting your own following is a marathon, not a sprint. At the same time, it often requires a fine-tuned strategy and rarely does such influence happen by accident. Think of these strategies as the building blocks of being seen as a bigger player in your industry, regardless of what you’re saying or selling.

Taken any of these steps already? Is there a mental block holding you back from being a full-blown thought leader? Let us know in the comments!

Jonathan is the Content Crafter over at Foundr.
You can check out more of his writing over on the Foundr blog.