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3 Things You Must Do Before Trying to Become a Thought Leader

Everyone's trying to become a thought leader, but a person often neglects to lay the groundwork. To gain this coveted prize, prepare properly.
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In an information economy that employs millions of knowledge workers, the concept of a thought leader is a powerful one. Yet many professionals jump into writing, speaking, and sharing what they know without optimizing their chances to get their content in front of the people most likely to help them expand their businesses.


When it comes to establishing yourself as a thought leader, here are three things you’ve got to do early on to turn your hard work into dollars.

1. Get Technical

There’s a good reason blogging and creating content on one’s own website has become one of the most popular ways to establish yourself as a thought leader--it works. That said, many people think that just because you publish something online, the magical Google fairies will automatically find it. Although search engines have become more sophisticated than ever before, they are still machines. If you don’t set your site up to make it easy for algorithms, bots, and spiders to find your stuff, they won’t. If terms such as site map, duplicate content, and title tags are foreign to you, you’d better get familiar with them, and fast, or find someone who is.



2. Get Local 



Most of us serve a local market, at least in part. So why do so many aspiring thought leaders forget about the potential followers in their own backyards? There are a number of online directories to which you can submit your business information that will make it far more likely you’ll come up when someone in your area performs a relevant search. In the marathon that is thought leadership, getting yourself listed locally is the equivalent of starting a marathon five miles in front of everyone else.



3. Make Friends



It’s common for business people pursuing the Holy Grail of thought leadership to create tons of content, then work to persuade people to spread it. They have it backwards. The most successful thought leaders focus on building relationships first. Only then do they work to publish material worth spreading. It is much easier to disseminate your blog posts, videos, or articles if you start out with a network in place willing to get the word out for you. You can build powerful relationships through social-media platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Google+. Most important, you should always be working to expand your circle in the real world, because the best way to become a thought leader is to have a horde of people behind you helping to make it happen.

Last updated: Jun 10, 2014

MICHAEL SCHEIN | Columnist | Founder and principal of Michael Schein Communications

Michael Schein is the founder and principal of Michael Schein Communications, a digital marketing company. He has created or facilitated the production of content for companies such as eBay, LinkedIn, Avectra, Tesla, SEER Interactive, Interneer, Arise Virtual Solutions, and Citrix. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with honors and got his start at Spin the Bottle, the production company behind VH1 hit show Pop Up Video.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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