A lot of people think successful thought leadership is about mass exposure.
Exposure is being in a lot of different places, often. It’s creating and distributing content for the sake of establishing a larger presence in an industry. Tweeting from a company account and sharing blog posts on LinkedIn and boosting Facebook ads are all ways to generate more exposure.
But that type of exposure doesn’t make you a Thought Leader—Thought Leadership isn’t about being everywhere at once, as so many people seem to think.
Thought leadership is about heightening your credibility.
And exposure doesn’t equal credibility.
Yet, a lot of marketers seem to think exposure and credibility are one in the same.
It is the fundamental problem with thought leadership efforts.
Most founders, company leaders and people looking to build their personal brand approach Thought Leadership with a “mass exposure” mindset. They assume they should be active on every social platform under the sun, and waste money trying to build an audience on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter all at once. Their profiles are polluted with surface-level content—usually sharing industry-related news or talking about how “disruptive” or “forward-thinking” their company is.
They focus so much on being “out there” and gaining as much exposure as possible, they fail to see their methods don’t validate credibility.
And if you want to be a thought leader, you need to be credible.
The point of thought leadership is to establish trust, build relationships at scale, and position yourself as ‘leading the charge’ in your industry.
In order to do that, you need to have a significant online presence. For a lot of people, “significant online presence” sounds a lot like “mass exposure.” But being everywhere doesn’t make your presence any more “significant” than any other company in your industry is doing the same thing.
What separates you as credible, and ultimately leads people to look at you as an industry thought leader, is adding value on a regular basis.
That means pushing out content that matters to people.
If you’re striving to become a thought leader, you need to question whether or not your content actually benefits your audience. If you’re unsure, here are a few quick questions you can ask yourself:
What takeaways to readers, listeners, or viewers get from my content?
What actionable advice does my content provide?
Is my content either teaching people something new or, at the very least, expanding their viewpoint?
What am I actually teaching people with my content?
If you don’t like your answers, you’re probably approaching thought leadership with an exposure mindset, instead of focusing on credibility.
The irony of it all, is that once you start focusing on being credible by adding value, the more compelling your content becomes, and the more people want to hear from you. And as more and more people start to look to you as an industry leader, mass exposure happens organically.
The more valuable you’re content, the more likely your content is to be shared. The more it’s shared, the more exposure you’ll see naturally. Not to mention, you’ll end up generating more opportunities to build your credibility and generate better exposure by being invited to industry podcasts, speaking conferences, and features in marquee publications.
That won’t happen from talking about how disruptive your company is on LinkedIn or tweeting 12 times a day.
Think about it like this:
Who would you rather follow in your space: a founder who tweets sporadically, shares surface-level blog content on LinkedIn, and who *very obviously* dumps money in to boost budgets for Facebook ads, or a founder who is frequently featured on your industry’s top podcasts and who writes an article per week on their Forbes column about ways to overcome an industry pain point?
The former may have more ‘exposure’ in the sense that they’re getting more content out there, and maybe in front of more eyeballs, but the latter has more credibility, and is generating the right types of exposure, getting in front of the right eyeballs.
That’s the goal.
Don’t focus on content for the sake of exposure.
Focus on ways you can add real value to heighten your credibility.
Instead of retweeting industry news, respond to an article with an article of your own. Instead of paying for a Forbes feature and talking about how successful your company is, write such compelling content that Forbes requests to republish it.
‘Exposure’ itself fades—it only lasts as long as you keep up with production and distribution of content. Credibility lasts forever.