What’s holding you back from building a strong online personal brand based in thought leadership?
Social media is a tough game in 2023. It can feel nuanced, crowded, and tough to break into. But what if I told you that you’re thinking about social media in the wrong way? All too often, we put influencers with thousands (or millions) of followers in the same bucket as people with strong personal brands but the two are distinctly different. Understanding why they are different and what your goals are will help you succeed on social media. Let’s break it down.
In marketing, we consider influencers people who inform or guide the action of others, particularly when it comes to making purchase decisions. Traditionally, influencers have been classified as having ample followers and the ability to sell products by making organic posts about them. Influencers tend to have a selling niche and a primary social media platform with which they work. The are viewed as trendsetters. In 2023, being an influencer is a career.
Personal branding defined
People with strong personal brands, on the other hand, are thought leaders. In other words, they are experts or authorities over a particular subject matter. Personal brands (thought leaders) existed before the internet existed. The number of followers you have does not define whether or not you are a thought leader. However, sharing ideas and expertise on social media often leads to enhanced job security, a pipeline for new client leads, and/ or unsolicited career opportunities or recruitments.
- You can be a thought leader with ONE follower on social media. Way too many people and small businesses hold themselves back from branding themselves on social media because they don’t think they have enough followers, and it’s a wasted opportunity.
- To create a strong brand as a thought leader, you need to have expertise in a PARTICULAR subject matter. I started consulting when I was 33 years old. That’s pretty young to be a consultant, but I knew through my freelance work that I had a novel approach that worked better than my competitors. I wrote about that approach in my client pitches. Eventually, I packaged those things into intellectual property and turned them into marketing training programs for corporations and nonprofits. I do not have millions or even hundreds of thousands of followers and I’ve never tried to achieve that. However, the people who do listen to me on social media listen to me for specific reasons, and it’s created a pipeline for my consulting business that keeps my team and I overworked… an ideal situation for any business owner.
Now that you know the difference between what it means to be an influencer and a thought leader, ask yourself again, “Why am I hesitant to develop a strong online personal brand based in thought leadership for myself or my business?” I hope that some of the barriers have been taken down. After all, the average American currently spends over eight hours a day online. If you’re not creating a personal brand for yourself, others already are.
Now go start talking about your expertise, your why, your secret sauce online (or make sure you are doing it on behalf of your business). You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.