She is also the author of Marketers of Tomorrow, a step by step tool kit for inbound marketing. Prior to LinkedIn, Ty led digital marketing education at Google. She serves on the Digital Marketing Institute's global advisory council, and the diversity and inclusion council for Adweek. Here, an excerpt from her recent Masterclass on Building Thought Leadership on LinkedIn and beyond.
As you're thinking about your specific area of skill and passion, LinkedIn is an excellent place to express that. Use LinkedIn as a home base for conversations, whether it's with your employees, your customers, other leaders in the community and members. Very often, we don't get to think about how to be intentional with our influence as leaders. It's one thing for someone to follow you because they report to you or because they have to do what you say, but how can you share your voice in such a way that influences people to understand why they should invest in something? Or why an insight is important in a way that inspires them and opens that up? Influence is a really powerful thing to get a grasp on as you think about how you want to show up as a leader.
Why invest in thought leadership? It's about trust. Year over year, trust has been on the decline but one thing that still breaks through is the insight coming from those who people trust and feel a connection to. LinkedIn happens to be the most trusted platform on which those conversations can take place. When you put those two things together, it becomes a very powerful platform for you to drive influence.
The key is to get to a place of thought leadership. That means digging deep within yourself and doing the work, doing the research and navigating the thought process. If you are a C suite individual, you'll have an outsized impact on LinkedIn; we see five times more impressions, higher reach and more engagement from senior leaders who share on LinkedIn. If you build your influence, it's a powerful place for you to share these types of conversations. We live in a world now where 41% of people don't trust the information that's within marketing communications from brands to be accurate and truthful. There's an opportunity to close that gap by bringing real people in to deliver powerful messages that will make a difference for consumers, help inform them, and give them the insights they need to take that next step forward.
People now expect that leaders speak up on social issues; they expect you to talk about things like income equality and the future of work. They want to hear the perspective of leaders. They also expect brands to act to protect employees and the local community. They also expect that brands should act to increase profits and improve conditions in communities where they operate. People understand that brands have the power to affect change, and they place their trust in brands that use that power on their behalf. That represents an opportunity for anyone that wants to step into that space and really be that voice. Whether you are someone who is looking to recruit talent, to showcase your industry and/or leadership, build connections with the media, humanize or protect your brand, and you want to highlight your mission and vision, your culture, and thought leadership, then an investment in it for yourself, connected to your business, will influence results.
One of the things I've noticed is that when people introduce themselves, they often just share their role. That doesn't really get to the heart of what that person does and what they're passionate about. When we introduce our colleagues, it's powerful when we can introduce them and also add what are they passionate about and what are they committed to. It makes for a deeper connection. Start to pull these things into how you introduce yourself. This is the way for you to start to think about the area of thought leadership that you may want to invest in and explore.
STEPS FOR CREATING THOUGHT LEADERSHIP
Create Compelling Content. Define your approach. What's your strategy? Then execute on that by engaging and nurturing your audience. It's important to understand what LinkedIn members actually care about. The context through which you share content on LinkedIn is different from other social channels. For example, people love to hear about what's going on in the industry. What are the trends? What are the news, tips and best practices leadership? That’s a lens through which people look at content: how do we advance? How do we build? How do we move forward professionally? What can I learn and how can I upgrade?
It's not just about posting, it's also about the conversation that then takes place as a result of that post. Think about how you can bring some humanity to it. Keep people on top of trends, inspire people, help them with specific skills, be relevant and useful. But remember, we're talking with human beings and they want to be engaged.
Once you've invested in LinkedIn and are writing on it consistently, you want to look at the intersection of three things:
1) What does your audience want? How do you serve your audience?
2) How does that intersect with what you are an expert in?
3) What is the untapped opportunity? What is the white space? This is an area that often gets ignored. Say you’re a marketer, what is the space that you can enter into? Or what is the lens or angle you can offer that's not currently being covered?
Let’s say in your thought leadership, you’ve identified a particular niche at the highest level. For example, I am the leader of a company that does rebranding and brand transformation. At the highest level, every single year, perhaps I might put out a report called The Art of Rebranding 2021. That report could be something that people tap into every single year. I can then separate that report into pieces and segments and use that content over the course of time to reinforce that. Then in my LinkedIn profile, the theme and how I show up and introduce myself, could be “I am a champion and a pioneer for brand transformation”.
You're going to want to find the voices that are powerful in your space and highlight their content because it's about community organizational transformation. What's happening within my organizational culture that I can share and how do we empower brand transformation as a culture, and then product by product.
Don't sell. Tell the story of how your product or service helped change the lives of the customers you're working with. That way it's not about the features of the product, it's about the transformation that took place through your work.
Start with that big idea. Then you're going to break it down into various pieces as you evolve your strategy. Once you've picked the audience to invest in, you're going to think about how you can solve problems for them. What are the gaps? Or what are the trends you can start researching to actually make it truly defined as thought leadership? It's not just content, you're actually thinking through and providing value and insight around a challenge or an open question that your audience has.
How do you engage and successfully share your content on LinkedIn? It's really difficult to talk about things that you don't care about, so we don't want to do that. Instead, we want to talk about the things that matter. So again, go back to what you are passionate about. What are you committed to? Around that you can comment on trends, highlight your company's successes and share your point of view. People have limited time so you want to get to the heart of what's important.
If you're working for a company or organization, you probably have a company page on LinkedIn. You may already be sharing content from that company page. When you share content from the page, one of the things you can do is hop on a post and offer your unique personal perspective. This is a powerful and easy way for you to start to build an audience that your company is already connected with. I call this the low hanging fruit of LinkedIn strategy.
Video will be hot for the foreseeable future. You don't need fancy equipment to do it. The idea is to take someone through your thought process. Shoot a quick video sharing what you learned today. Teach it and share it. Don't think you have to speak volumes. Get comfortable with it because people definitely want to see your face and connect with you that way as well.
Try to post between one and three times a day; you might share one post, but then also comment on other people's content. It's not just about sharing a piece of content, it's also about the conversation; go and contribute to someone else's strategically. In particular, if there's an audience you're trying to reach, go in and comment on influencers' posts or go in and comment on a community post, and start to build from there. That goes to the point of diversifying your posts--80% of the content should be someone else's, which takes a lot of pressure off you. Amplify other voices. Also, don’t leave people hanging in the comments area, reply as soon as you can. That also helps people feel like you're listening to the community.
Best practices for writing compelling posts.
1) Spend some time writing a really strong title. Then anywhere between 800 to 2000 words of content tend to drive a lot of engagement, just play around and test things out with your audience.
2) At the bottom of your post tell us a little bit about you.
3) Share your posts on other social media channels that you spend time on because your audience is there too. Remember, the social feed moves, and not everyone will see your content that first time. Feel free to reframe the promotion of that piece and share it from a different angle over time. That also adds to your editorial plan, and you're making sure that more people have access to that empowering information you're sharing.
Learn from what you did and continue to evolve your strategy to reach your audience. You have to understand who is engaging with your content. Its natural to focus on how many people have seen the post, but where you want to get to is focusing more on the conversation that your post is driving. That's the ultimate holy grail of engagement we're trying to get to, where you are actually driving conversation on that post. Test different approaches and see what's resonating, you might post a type of content in a certain way and then try it in a different way next time.
1) Find your niche audience. Think about what you're passionate about, what you're committed to and what you aspire to create. That's the first step towards authentically showing up for your audience. Bring that realness to your thought leadership. We're a professional social network, but we're also human beings. We want to be inspired. We want someone to help us navigate this complex world that we're in and make decisions and offer insights. Conversation is key.
2) Focus on how you can serve your audience more. A lot of us are focused on the content we're sharing, but not as much focused on driving the conversation. So let's start to focus on how you can drive community around the conversation that takes place.
3) Give yourself time to build your thought leadership. Recognize that when you start today, you invest in yourself. It's going to take time to build, but that return on investment for your brand and for future opportunities for you is going to be immense.
Find Tyrona Heath on LinkedIn.