Thought leadership 101: 3 places to build your online authority

Since the birth of commerce, business owners have assumed that directly promoting a product was the best way to sell it. For a long time, this worked. Over the years, thanks to the drip drip drip of advertorials, paid reviews, and infotainment, consumers became deeply suspicious about promotion. So business owners needed a different way to sell.

Enter thought leadership.

What if you could promote your product by becoming a wise, neutral and trusted person in your field of business? With thought leadership, your reputation as someone who knows what they're talking about can easily persuade people to explore (and buy) your products and services. To build up a rep as a thought leader, you need to set a foundation to promote your knowledge. Here are three places to do that:

LinkedIn
Most people use LinkedIn to build up business contacts, but thanks to thousands of topic-focused groups, the service is a publicity machine. Your first task is to flesh out both your business and personal profile. Next, find groups focused on your business. While most of the people in these groups will be your peers, many groups let outsiders (consumers) ask questions.

By finding questions by potential customers and acting fast to answer them, you'll not only earn the respect and interest of the person asking the question, but the others viewing the conversation seeking the very same info. Driving people to your site through LinkedIn is quick and effective, and you can limit yourself to one or two short answers per week if you're busy with other things.

Your Google+ Page
Over the last few years, Google has made major algorithm changes that have changed the very nature of SEO. In fact, with Google, keyphrases are no longer king. New SEO rewards the knowledgeable thought leader, and keyword-focused content has been shoved to the back of the line. Google+ is a huge component of “new SEO”.

For huge search engine visibility, create a Google+ post in two parts. The headline should be a question commonly-asked by your customers. The body copy should be – you guessed it – the answer. With Google's SEO changes, your answer to a popular question will get you far more mileage than a page stuffed with keywords. When people seek answers to very specific questions, they'll find your profile – and your response.

If you want a big impact, build up your Google+ author reputation by following lots of other people and giving their content a “+1”. The more people you have in your circles, the better chance you'll get +1s on your own posts.

Your Blog
If you want to be a thought leader, you'll need a home for all your knowledge: a blog. Connect your blog with your website, and use it to dispense tips, opinion and news. Forget about the the hard sell – you want people to come to your blog to get unbiased info. Worried about coming up with content? Search Google news and trade sites for the latest developments in your field. Create FAQs and tips sheets for customers, and if you're really ambitious, you can create a series of posts on one particular topic.

Once you've written a handful of good posts, expand to guest blogging. Start by finding blogs in your niche that welcome guest writers. Use the posts on your own blog to show that you can write neutral content, and come up with a small list of articles you'd like to write. Ideally, you want to guest blog on sites that have a better Google Page Rank or Alexa Rank than yours, but if you just want to broaden your audience, don't restrict yourself with those guidelines.

When you spend most of your waking hours running your business, finding the time to build up your rep as a thought leader might seem both trivial and impossible. Don't be intimidated. Set aside several hours per week to work on your rep, and eventually your sales (and customers) will thank you for it.

By: Jennifer on September 29, 2013, 12:08 pm
Jennifer Anne Perez is a former Los Angeles Times reporter, foreign correspondent, and current technology writer and publicist. Her work has appeared on CNN.com, the Jerusalem Post, Business Insider, and more.


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