How to Become a Thought Leader on LinkedIn

By Joe Cunningham, Internet Marketing Manager

Not long ago, LinkedIn broke its own mold and started a very popular and somewhat controversial program called “Influencers” as a means by which they could generate interesting content to its 200 million plus professional users.  The most popular business networking site changed from offering entirely user controlled content to creating its own committee to select who would be the “Top Influencers.”

LinkedIn’s Thought Leaders

These influencers, LinkedIn knighted “Thought Leaders” such as Bill Gates, President Obama, Richard Branson, and Arianna Huffington – to name a few of the more notable notables.  The Influencer program application process became so sought after, so quickly, that LinkedIn has since blocked all future entries, frustrating many an executive and/or journalist whose heart was set on the coveted title.

So What?

Many a turned down applicant or “cannot even apply now-icant” (such as myself) could have a frown on their face at this news.  I mean, we are talking about a social network started by dudes in “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”  Where’s the freedom of speech there if our “Thought Leaders” are selected by a non-elected few and not chosen by popular vote?

The topic is in continual debate but that won’t immediately convince LinkedIn to change its processes.  On the one hand, LinkedIn is protecting itself from spammers who would use illegitimate means to fool the system and create really bogus leadership positions for themselves.  On the other hand, what’s popular organically has some value to the American people.  The boxing match continues.

In Any Case

In any case, there is still an open field to create organic influence on LinkedIn.  Sure, I follow Richard Branson and Ms. Huffington because they seem to have something to say with the qualities and achievements they have earned, but I also read articles and blog posts and like quotes posted by Joe Corporate and Cindy Professional-Designer, etc.  Those people have influence on my thoughts too.

I noticed this personally when I share blog posts like this in my LinkedIn groups: people comment, share, and contact me to tell me how helpful that content was for them, whether I wrote it or not.  It’s pretty cool to sit here at my desk, write this stuff, and know that somewhere, out there, I am influencing business people that are changing the world – that I have the power to change the world through them!

Marine OfficerAnd How

The application process is blocked indefinitely but, as I said, that never stopped me from becoming an influencer in my own right.  Here are a few tips on “How to Become a Thought Leader on LinkedIn.”

  • Optimize your profile.

To do this, follow the instructions LinkedIn offers to “complete your profile,” but don’t stop there.  Look at any of the “Thought Leaders’” profiles and see how perfectly complete they are: endorsements, recommendations, perfect job and personal descriptions, professional photograph, etc.  It has to scream professional, in a professional tone of voice, of course.

For more info on how to optimize your profile, see my blog post on “How to Supercharge Your Social Media” here.

  • Create awesome content.

Not only should you share cool content, but a “thought leader” creates their own.  That means you have to be a “bangin’” writer, but you also have to have something to say.  I may not have a lot of experience in the biz world, but I do a lot of research.  Others, like my bosses, Paul and Gail, have over 35 years’ experience!  You can’t give what you don’t have but you should figure out what you do and give that.  I found a talent to absorb info and communicate it.  Throw in some experience there too.

Anyway, you get the idea.  A leader speaks authoritatively but with humility as well: he knows what he knows and he doesn’t become pompous and overstep his bounds just because he knows people must or are pressured to obey him.

  • Be a real connector, mentor, leader, and helper on the business network.

A leader is one who serves for the sake of the larger common good outside their own.  Seeking fame and fortune is good in a way, but if you do that on LinkedIn, people smell a rat, just like they do offline.  Be authentic.  If you are a leader outside of the computer, you will be on.  Just do the right thing.  That stuff carries over into all you do.

  • Get help!

A leader knows when to ask for help.  If you find LinkedIn cumbersome or don’t know how to apply the steps, be humble enough to ask.  The humble man learns exponentially more than the proud man who thinks he “knows it all.”

  • Lead!

I kind of mentioned this already but a leader is a leader when they are leading.  “It’s a tautology.” – Zero Dark Thirty

LinkedIn is just a tool.  If you don’t use it, it will never automate itself for you.  Stand up and wield it for the better of the business world.

The world is always waiting for great leaders.  Are you one of those?


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