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A LinkedIn consultant shares 8 suggestions for building thought leadership and staying top-of mind with your network

Optimizing your LinkedIn presence isn’t just about perfecting your profile. The social network offers the opportunity to develop an audience of connections who are actively interested in what you have to say. These 8 suggestions will help you use thought leadership to educate, empower, and add value to your connections — while providing you with more opportunities.

by Leslie Hughes

You are a brand. 

Back in 1997, Tom Peters wrote an article entitled “The Brand Called You” in Fast Company magazine. He stated that “You’re every bit as much a brand as Nike, Coke, Pepsi, or the Body Shop.” 

Today, you have unprecedented access to build your professional brand using channels like LinkedIn so that you can develop an audience of connections who are actively interested in what you have to say. 

You may be thinking, But Leslie, I don’t have anything to say! or, No one really wants to listen to me.

Here’s the thing: Nobody knows what you know from your perspective. You are an expert. 

You’ve learned things over your career that people can benefit from. The information you have access to could benefit someone else.

Building thought leadership not only helps to provide you with more opportunities but can help you to educate, empower and add value to your connections. By sharing quality content that helps your network solve their problems, you’ll automatically build trust and become the go-to resource in your niche. Here are seven suggestions you can use when you’re building thought leadership:


1) Solve common problems.

This is the easiest way to source content. If one person has a question or a challenge, chances are many other people are struggling with that same issue. Write a blog post, or record a video that describes how those in your network can solve that simple problem, and they might be interested in hiring you to solve the problem for them.

2) Don’t be overly promotional.

As Seth Godin says in his 2003 TED Talk, How To Get Your Ideas To Spread: “The world revolves around me. Me, me, me, me. My favorite person — me. I don’t want to get email from anybody; I want to get me-mail.” 

People don’t want to hear what you can sell them, they want to know about solutions to the problems they have.

It’s okay to toot your own horn, and share upcoming events or promotions; just don’t focus on self-promotion for each and every post. A good rule-of-thumb is to publish at least four status updates that solve problems for every sales promotion.

3) Mix up your own content with curated content.

Writing your own content allows you to provide your own perspective and helps you to shine as the foremost thought leader, but even if you publish content from trusted third-party sources, you’ll still continue to stay top-of-mind as someone who is in-the-know. 

To leverage curated content, reshare information provided by your marketing department, or turn to trusted news sources (such as Women of Influence), and include the link in your status update. With each post, ask yourself, “Is this information useful and helpful to people in my network?”

If finding insightful articles isn’t something that easily fits into your routine, you can turn to technology for help. A cool free app called Grapevine6 helps you to curate and re-share content based on keywords that you choose.

4) Get out of your own way.

Clicking “publish” can be nerve-wracking. I’ve been writing blog posts and creating videos for over 10 years, and I’m still nervous when I click publish. I’m afraid someone will judge me based on my thoughts or opinions. 

Often, after I write a blog post, I’ll revisit the draft copy just to ensure it flows properly. If I’m really nervous about clicking “publish,” I’ll have a trusted colleague review the copy just to get their input and perspective.  

Just remember that you bring a unique perspective to your network. Be brave, click “publish” and you’ll be surprised to learn how many people are looking for your insights.

“People don’t want to hear what you can sell them, they want to know about solutions to the problems they have. It’s okay to toot your own horn, and share upcoming events or promotions; just don’t focus on self-promotion for each and every post.”

5) Expect some trolls — but don’t engage with them.

The power of social media comes from two-way engagement and conversations. I even invite people to disagree with my views. I think it’s very healthy to have contrasting opinions, as long as no one is being a troll or is attacking anyone. 

Only once did I have a troll try to bait me into an online argument. He commented: You get paid for this crap? I didn’t bother to even respond because this ridiculous statement didn’t warrant a response. Nor did I delete his comment either. Other people messaged me privately to inquire about why someone would be so foolish. His comment was speaking volumes about his own brand — not mine.

6) Publish content regularly. 

You don’t have to publish every day, but to build a following of people who begin to know, like, and trust you, you have to stay top-of-mind. 

Did you know that it takes a minimum of eight to ten times for someone to see your name before they begin to build an emotional attachment or even remember who you are?

Start by publishing a status update on LinkedIn once a week and, once that’s manageable, try to publish twice a week. Focus on quality content, not just making noise.

7) Get organized.

One of the easiest ways you can save time and get organized is by assembling a content calendar. Whether you’re using a Google calendar or an Excel spreadsheet, reverse-engineer what you want to post and when you want to post it. This way, you can focus on your strategy and objectives instead of scrambling with what to post next. 

Use your marketing goals to shape the big picture. If you want to focus on an upcoming promotion or event, plot out how often you want to remind people what’s coming up next. Also, be conscious of roadblocks that might delay a post. If you’re in a compliance-based industry, you’ll need to ensure your compliance partner approves the content well in advance as well.

8) Engage in two-way conversation

What makes Social Media different than traditional media, is that it you can engage in a two-way dialogue instead of a one-way monologue. When you’re publishing content to your network, ask questions and see if you can elicit a response or some feedback. 

You could ask, “So, what do you think?” or “Do you agree or disagree with this post?

By responding to their feedback, you’ll not only begin to deepen relationships with your audience, but you’ll also get exponential reach from people outside of your network as well.

Remember that every brand relies on a combination of reach and frequency. Publishing the right content, to the right audience, using the right messaging helps to build up your brand so that you can obtain more opportunities. 

People need to know what you know from your perspective.

Leslie Hughes

Leslie Hughes

Leslie Hughes is a LinkedIn Optimization Specialist, Professor of Social Media, Corporate Trainer, Principal of PUNCH!media, and author of CREATE. CONNECT. CONVERT. She was called a "Social Media Guru" by CBC Radio and was featured on CTV’s The Social discussing how to manage your digital identity. Leslie has been working in digital marketing since 1997 and founded PUNCH!media in 2009.