Creating a reputation as a subject matter expert in a specific area is both simple and difficult. On the one hand, some say it takes 10,000 hours of study and hands-on experience to become an authority in any given field. On the other, others would argue that all it takes is a little marketing and social media savvy, so long as you’ve got something unique, insightful and important to say.
Astute observers will often note that in the age of disruptive innovation, leaders often boast only two defining qualities – the ability to solve problems and create results. Happily, there’s always room for the ranks to be swelled. Read the books, taken the classes, and watched all the video clips, and feel you’ve got something relevant and singular to add to the conversation? Here are seven ways to establish yourself as a thought leader online, share your knowledge, and let the world know you’re someone worth paying attention to – all of which can help you shave a few zeroes off the time it takes to enter the ranks of the elite.
Publish a Book – Writing and marketing an eBook is a beneficial way to demonstrate your talents, establish credibility in any given topic, and generate interest and awareness. Nor does it have to be a strenuous one: Thanks to the rise of Kindle Singles, short-form works and free giveaways, the average size of these volumes is rapidly shrinking, with some reaching just 20-30 pages in length. Can’t seem to find the time to pen original volumes? Many authors simply anthologize or republish preexisting articles or blog posts into digital or print-on-demand works using services like Lulu, SmashWords and CreateSpace, while services like Hyperink will actually assign journalists to write the work for you. Simply choose your topic du jour, create a title that contains popular search engine keywords, submit it to iTunes, Amazon, Kobo and various self-publishing solutions (total time typically clocks in at under 15 minutes per platform) and you’re off to the races.
Start a Podcast – Dream of starting your own radio or TV show? Podcasting’s just a fancy word for recording audio or video programs and uploading them for sharing onto the Internet. All you need to get started: A smartphone or audio/video recorder, many of which are perfectly capable of taping crisp video dictation or capturing high-definition film clips. A great solution for do-it-yourself aficionados, segments can quickly be recorded and distributed with only an Internet connection and some inexpensive AV equipment. Once you’ve recorded your first few sessions, try sharing them through online aggregators, and promoting them on your website, blog, social media channels and via email – whether you aim for 3 minutes or 30 in length, segments are easy to download, consume, and share at audiences’ leisure. Trade secret: All let you create concise, yet engaging clips that are great for showcasing organizations’ and individuals’ personality – and, since they’re designed for short-form consumption, can often be recorded or filmed in cost-effective batches.
Host a Webinar – Looking to educate audiences, providing teaching and training, or boost awareness for various topics? Webinars let you cram in all the ideas, content and insights viewers would get from learning seminars while eliminating geographical and financial barriers that would prevent them from attending. Since webinars can be cost-effectively produced and streamed online, as well as recorded for later archiving and republishing, they provide a uniquely efficient way to connect with customers. Best of all, they can be attended by anyone, anywhere, whether at home or the office, and provide fans a chance to engage with you directly.
Write a Whitepaper – A white paper is persuasive report or guide from a reputable source designed to educate and inform readers about an issue, give them the information they need to solve problems, or provide the expert learning required to help facilitate better decisions. Usually five pages in length, a white paper is not a direct sales pitch, but rather offers information, ideas and insights designed to deliver audiences with valuable information that can help them craft better solutions. As a marketing tool, these documents often present facts and logical arguments that build a favorable case for the sponsoring company. There are three distinct types of white papers starting with the backgrounder, which explains the benefits of a certain vendor’s product and services. Problem- and solution-oriented white papers, on the other hand, recommend new answers to problems, while a numbered list white paper contains a set of points, questions or tips about certain business issues.
Create an Online Newsletter – Dozens of online email marketing services such as ConstantContact, AWeber and MadMimi let you craft custom communications solutions or draw upon template designs to build unique digital mailers and newsletters. Using these tools can help you provide a one-stop source for information on issues concerning various topics and fields, and establish a regular pattern of communication with readers. Not only do they provide a handy and cost-effective way to compile a variety of thoughts and insights in one single solution, but also curate and aggregate content of importance to your audience. Bearing this in mind, many of the most successful may even contain little original writing – they simply serve as a one-stop shop for the latest details on new topics and trends that save readers the time of separately hunting down each story.
Become a Curator or Connector – There’s an entire community of millions of individuals just waiting to be entertained and informed online – if only someone can help them sift through all the pointless white noise. Thousands of articles, videos and announcements are competing for audiences’ attention daily: Helping them filter out the chaff by serving as a trusted source and aggregator for news, information and opinions presents an opportunity for you to become not only a valued curator, but also powerful connector. Want to quickly gain visibility? Pick a topic that matches your areas of interest, reach out to supporting audiences, and begin sharing links, posts, videos, photos, podcasts and more of pressing interest. Likewise, consider starting your own groups, communities and forums online, where like-minded individuals can congregate and share opinions – all, of course, under your sage oversight and aegis.
Speak Out and Be Heard – Volunteering to speak at conferences, industry events, and other public engagements can help you promote your name and brand as a recognized thought leader. Getting in front of key influencers in the industry and its supporting community consistently not only boosts empathy and awareness. It also lets you put a personal face on your brand, showcase your singular talents and helps prospective clients better comprehend the expertise you bring and values you stand for. The trick in both the online and virtual worlds is to become a trusted, welcome presence that travels wherever your audience goes, and consistently be demonstrating singular insight and worth.