Establishing yourself as an industry influencer can do wonders, especially during your first year in business. It's important to come out the gate strong to transform industry peers into loyal fans and followers.
That's exactly what I did after I launched my public relations and digital marketing business Flackable in 2014. I knew that an impactful online presence was necessary to grow a business, so made it a priority, particularly focusing on gaining prominence in my own industry.
And by becoming an industry influencer with the following three steps, I established credibility in my niche market, formed valuable relationships and earned respect and recognition as a thought leader--and you can, too.
Start writing. And don't stop.
The first and most important step to becoming an industry influencer is writing: consistent, honest and thought-provoking writing. When I left an established New York public relations agency to launch my own agency, I began writing--constantly. I was intentionally railing against the old public relations model. To captivate readers and grow my following, I wasn't afraid to pick fights and expose the problematic practices of traditional public relations firms.
When I was an employee at a large agency, I didn't have the luxury of being this bold--I couldn't share my thoughts freely. But as a fledgling business owner, I could finally say publicly what I had been holding back without fear of getting fired--and very fired I would have been.
I found the courage to blow the whistle on some serious flaws in my industry, growing support by bringing attention to what so many others were thinking. Sure, I may have ruffled a few feathers, but at the end of the day, I gained visibility, relevance and influence in my industry, which is what I wanted.
Writing is the best way to solidify yourself as an industry influencer, but it's crucial that you write with the goal of showcasing a unique voice. Write as regularly as possible. You won't stand out by echoing what everyone else in your industry says, so don't be afraid to be bold. When you write, it's integral to find the right pulpit to speak from, such as an industry publication or a reputable blog platform. You then can utilize your social media accounts and digital marketing tools to promote these articles with your larger network of followers.
Build a following that matters.
If you're already active and influential on at least one social media network, that's a good start. Choosing one social media network as your forte is more pragmatic than having a mediocre presence on multiple.
Twitter has always been my go-to, and a major goal after I launched my business was to become verified, which raises your credibility substantially among new and existing followers. The challenge is that to become verified, you must be a person or brand of public interest. For me, building a large following certainly helped, but it was the actions I took in the prior and following sections that sealed the deal and elevated my Twitter presence to the next level.
Build your industry audience by joining relevant conversations, groups, chats and using the right hashtags. Only engaging in one-way communication or self-promotion won't get you very far. If you want to build industry influence on social media, you need to be social. That means building genuine online relationships with others in your industry, ranging from college students and job-seekers to well-established industry leaders.
Win awards and earn press.
A lot of business owners don't bother pursuing awards, either because they don't think they're worthy or they simply don't know how the process works. That's a big mistake, especially for those seeking industry influencer status.
About a year after launching my business, I was selected to Adweek's PR Industry 30 Under 30 list. It was a big deal--I can't overstate that. It gave me and my business an instant credibility boost, and it was the catalyst that helped other award and press opportunities snowball in.
Beyond putting together an award strategy, establish yourself as a go-to source for industry publications. Build relationships with those journalists, and maintain a steady presence to cement your name among the top of your industry.
Like any worthy goal, becoming an industry influencer in your first year of business requires hard work, strategic thinking and persistence. Write often. Build a following. Win press and awards. And most importantly believe in yourself--that's the only way you'll get others in your industry to believe in you, too.