As I mentioned in my blog post last week, using social media is a great way to gain exposure and build your personal brand. One point that I briefly touched on was about sharing your unique industry experiences through social media channels, and how this will make you a thought leader. But what exactly is thought leadership, and why is it important?

The term itself is pretty self explanatory. It’s someone who has established authority in their work field and has become the “go to” person when you need to know about a specific topic. I’m not going to explain how to become a thought leader, as there are plenty of articles that do a great job of detailing how to create thought leading content. However, I do have three main reasons as to why you need to be a thought leader – and one cautionary piece of advice:

Kills Competition – The best thing about being a thought leader is that you’ll instantly kill your competition. Think about it, if you were a potential customer and had to choose between two different companies, which would you rather choose: the company that has a president who regularly produces content as an expert in their field, or just a regular company?

Lead Generation – Speaking to the point above, generating knockout content that provides your audience with great value isn’t just useful for building a following. There’s bound to be people who’ll take a look at your content and decide that your product or service is worth the price of admission, based only on the fact that you’re an expert at what you do.

Increased Exposure – Another benefit to thought leadership content is the amount of exposure it will get you and your company. This will bring many visitors to your website or blog, and with the proper linking techniques,it can be great for your SEO, PR and content marketing efforts.

However, be Prepared to be in the Spotlight – The piece of cautionary advice that I mentioned links directly to the point above, and most entrepreneurs don’t consider it. Love it or hate it, once you’ve become an established thought leader every piece of information that you publish will be under scrutiny, which can lead to some nasty dialogue between you and your newly expanded audience.

It takes a long time to position yourself as a thought leader, but the sooner you figure out why you should become one, the sooner you’ll begin the process of becoming one. Of course, I myself am still on this journey, but I’m glad I started sooner rather than later. Are you trying to become a thought leader? What pieces of advice would you offer anyone starting out?

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