How to stand out as a thought leader

With 70 billion pieces of information and media shared monthly on Facebook alone, the challenge isn’t creating online marketing material for your small business. It’s how to stand out from the crowd as a thought leader.

These three tips can help your business do just that, and boost customer awareness and search engine visibility — not to mention your bottom line.
How to stand out as a thought leader

Position yourself as a thought leader

Instead of being another choice on a checklist for customers, become the relied upon expert in your field. Literally write the book or training manual on the subject your small business knows best, and you can become a recognized expert in short order.

Begin by compiling a tip sheet. For the time-swamped small business owner, write down one tip every day until you’ve compiled a couple dozen. Thanks to the rise of e-readers, books can now be as brief as 2,000 to 3,000 words. Better yet, to create them, all you have to do is export to a PDF (free using Microsoft Word) or email your Kindle reader’s unique email address with a copy of the document, which will quickly be formatted for display on the device. Voilà: Just like that, suddenly, you’re a published authority.

Still can’t find the time to jot it all down? Create a system: Write articles, blog posts and newsletter clips about a topic until you’ve got enough for an entire volume. Or, work backwards, taking content you already have and compiling it into a larger manuscript. As added incentive, any material you create can also be reincorporated as posts into your website, blog or newsletter, and used for content marketing and outreach efforts.

Get audiences talking

Grab audiences’ attention at a glance. How? Stop playing it safe. Take a singularly arresting approach that grabs and pulls in readers and viewers on sight with eye-catching themes, headlines and descriptions that demand they stop and look.  (The more nondescript your titles or promotions such as New accounting trends for 2014, the less interest they’ll generate.)

Then create supporting videos or articles that take a contrarian or unique stance (e.g. 10 reasons to fire your accountant), and make a point to pull readers into the narrative by stating your case in the first two lines or 10 seconds. It’s not about being pithy or controversial; it’s about being different and being succinct. The more unique your opinion, stance or insight, and the more quickly you can convey this stance at a passing glimpse, the more likely you are to stand out from the crowd.

Don’t be afraid to invite audience response either. Ask thought-provoking questions, and ask your customers and fans to weigh in. For example, you might offer your opinion on the latest breaking industry trend — one whose slants breaks with seemingly common wisdom — and ask your Facebook followers to respond with their take on the subject.

Make it personal

Put a human face on your business. The more you do so, the more you’ll boost empathy and enthusiasm.

Just one example? Photo- and video-sharing solutions make it easy to provide a guided, behind-the-scenes tour of your operation, introduce your team members and promote your enterprise’s values.

Likewise, don’t be afraid to surprise and delight readers or viewers with your personality either. Where appropriate, you may wish to consider inserting the occasional laugh, unexpected surprise or guest appearance from like-minded business owners or community all-stars. As long as you keep things polite and professional, the more original, entertaining and true to form you are (for example, we often skewer industry buzzwords in our event speaking videos), the more content will resonate with customers who share the same interests and values. People buy brands as much because they empathize with brands’ values as the actual value of the brand itself. Build a sense of connection and community, and you’ll continue to build your business as well.

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