What do leaders like Steve Jobs, Seth Godin, and Thomas Edison have in common? Although they created legacies in very different industries, they were all considered thought leaders. So what exactly is thought leadership? And what does it mean for your practice?

What is Thought Leadership?

According to Thought Leadership Lab, thought leaders are “the informed opinion leaders and the go-to people in their field of expertise.” They work to move or inspire others with innovative ideas and usually have a dedicated following that helps them replicate and scale their ideas and create change in their industry.

Thought leaders look different depending on their industry, meaning that there is no roadmap to becoming a thought leader. That doesn’t mean, though, that you can’t join this group of elite innovators.

Who Can Be a Thought Leader?

There are no rules on what a thought leader looks like, but most thought leaders have created an exceptional product, service, or company. This is a good stepping stone because followers are more likely to trust someone who has something great to share. This product could be as simple as offering a unique service model, or as drastic as creating a revolutionary smartphone.

The trick isn’t to fit a criterion, but instead make the decision to dedicate time, energy, and resources into a robust content marketing strategy. After all, strong content is the gateway to becoming a thought leader online.

Why Should I Become a Thought Leader?

In the marketing world, there is a term called “strategic visibility.” Strategic visibility is getting in front of people that matter and who are going to take action. By being a thought leader, you become a go-to resource of information for your clients and prospects while increasing your strategic visibility. This means your ideas and innovations will be exposed to the right amount, and the right type, of people.

Another benefit of being a thought leader is that it aids in building your credibility. Imagine two service professionals: one has an outdated website, never shares anything on social media, and only communicates with his core group of clients. The second has a beautiful, informative website full of helpful content, posts strong content on social media regularly, and takes the time to communicate with his various audiences. Which professional would you be more likely to trust, or refer to a friend? The second professional is an example of what the beginning of being a thought leader looks like.

How Do I Get Started?

Becoming a thought leader isn’t an overnight process. Just as creating an effective content marketing strategy takes time and dedication, becoming a thought leader in your industry is no different.

The first thing to remember when starting to consider thought leadership is that content is king. You are competing with every other professional publishing content in your industry, meaning that your content needs to be unique, fresh, and informative. The better the content, the more it gets shared, and the more it gets shared, the more your strategic visibility will increase.

Another thing to consider when deciding what to publish is to examine what questions your audience has and how you can help answer them. Education and guidance are an excellent way to establish yourself as a beacon of hope in a sea of content. Be an educator, not a salesperson.

Becoming an innovative leader capable of change may seem overwhelming, but it is possible. Every service professional has the potential to continually educate themselves, share and create compelling content, and engage with their audience by answering their questions. By taking one step at a time, you can become the next thought leader in your industry.