In an era where personal brand is the marker of success, everybody wants to know how to become an industry leader with a huge following online.
Nicolas Cole, whose written content has garnered over 50 million organic views online, has spent nearly a decade working with C-level execs, Olympians & best-selling authors to turn their industry experience into viral content that grows their brand. As people grow their status online, their number of opportunities grow too, from five-figure brand contracts to speaking gigs and book deals.
The most common question that Cole gets is: How do I become a thought leader with influence too?
According to Cole, if you want to become an industry leader with influence, then you need to know these four essentials.
1. Don’t confuse a badge as industry leadership.
What does it mean to be a thought leader? Cole says that people mistakenly think it’s about appearing in a major publication or on a morning TV show and getting that well-known brand logo, "As seen in..." on their site.
The biggest mistake people make is that they confuse these accolades or badges of credibility with thought leadership. It is easy to get a badge. If you want, you can pay for a sponsored spot in a media outlet, but that doesn’t make you a thought leader.
Thought leaders provide industry knowledge, insights and advice that are so helpful and valuable that people come back to them repeatedly. In the hit book Smartcuts, author and content expert Shane Snow compares YouTube's Michelle Phan with the Double Rainbow Guy. Both have had millions of views on their content, and both can boast that they've been featured in a major media publication. However, Michelle’s consistency over the course of years has given her the trust of an audience and momentum to keep going, where as Double Rainbow Guy is a one-hit wonder.
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2. Produce a lot of content, consistently.
The creative genius who becomes an overnight success is a myth. Many would agree that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is one of the greatest musicians, but what made him great? Mozart and other successful creatives are often portrayed as having flashes of genius. However, when you look at music, the one-hit wonders are never considered the geniuses.
According to Allen Gannett author of The Creative Curve, a book that explores what creates successful creative people, the greatest musicians of all time, from Beethoven to Beyoncé, simply outproduce everybody else. They produced more music consistently, so that with that quantity came quality.
Cole believes, that when you produce your own content, it’s the same. You have to be consistent. You won’t create gold every time, but if you have consistency, you can build a reputation. Getting in the habit of creating triggers inspiration, and the refinement of skills.
3. Niche and expand.
People often think that they need a presence on all social platforms. That’s a mistake. You move faster when you focus on one first. Build your audience and presence on one channel, and it will be easier to expand into others.
Cole cites the question and answer platform Quora as one of the lesser known, but highly valuable platforms for thought leadership. Cole, who is a four-time top most read writers on Quora, says that he would submit answers to questions every day, but there’s a trick.
Instead of just submitting a quick two or three sentence answer, he wrote them in article form. Not only were they more valuable that way, but they were more likely to be upvoted, shared and syndicated from Quora to major publications.
The key is to focus on one area, or as Cole says, “Become a king of one community, then expand your land.”
4. Further the conversation.
Listen before you talk. Before you start sharing your own ideas, assess what ideas already exist.
It's easy to repeat others’ ideas, even if you think they are your own. This doesn’t mean that you have to come up with completely original content. Instead, see how you can push existing insights one step further.
Share what someone else has said and expand on it or disagree with it. Bring ideas from other industries and show how they apply to a specific topic within your industry. Take the industry trends that have been compiled for the previous year and make your own predictions for how they will play out in the new year.
Everyone says that content is king, but it will take more than a few blog posts a month to build a kingdom. To become a leader in your industry, you’ll need to focus on one channel, create valuable content every day, and explore ideas in ways that are new and insightful. If you do all this, you have the greatest odds of becoming an industry leader.