This extensive article will help you learn how to use social media to establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry.
Let’s talk a little about becoming a thought leader in your niche or industry. It is all about establishing yourself as someone worth paying attention to.
If you think of yourself as a brand in your own right, not just your company as a brand, you can imagine instant name recognition by those in the know in that niche. If we say Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, most people know who we are talking about and what they are famous for.
Becoming a thought leader in your niche can take some time and effort, but the financial and professional rewards can be well worth it long-term.
Let’s get started with a few things you can do to lay the groundwork for becoming a known, liked and trusted leader in your community of followers.
- Do market research, by asking yourself these questions:
Where do people interested in your niche spend their time, and money?
What social networks do they visit?
What do they talk about?
What are their pain points and problems in relation to the niche?
What solutions are they willing to pay for and how much will they pay?
Who are your main competitors and how good are their products/services?
What are niche customers saying about those products/services? Can you come up with even better ones?
- Create great content.
Use your niche research to create content readers/ followers want. People learn visually most of the time, but offering a range of content gives them a choice. The more content you create, especially free content, the more traffic you will get from search engines and social sites. Seeing your name and (good) content appearing repeatedly will make potential customers check you and your products/opportunities out more closely.
- Connect on social media.
The secret to success in social media is in the name itself: social. People are on social networks to connect with others, not to see your latest promotion. However, people are always on the lookout for products and services that make their lives easier. Be helpful in all your interactions and people will appreciate and remember what you do for them.
- Make the most of groups.
Are there social media groups you can join in order to connect with your target audience and other like-minded people? Facebook and LinkedIn have some very active groups. Some popular Pinterest boards allow guest pinners and can provide another way to get you noticed.
- Convert connections.
Rather than focusing on quantity of posts, tweets, and pins to convert your connections into email subscribers, focus on quality. Use the information you gained from your research and insights to provide a special offer that is specific to your followers on a particular social media platform. For example, a cooking related niche could provide an exclusive and free offer, available only to Pinterest followers who sign up for updates during a specific time.
Using social media to establish yourself as a thought leader can take time. However, the sooner you get started, the faster you’ll reach your goals. Put these ideas into action to begin your journey to success.
Let’s talk about how to build a strong online community to help leverage your influence.
A strong online community is not just about numbers. It’s also about how people engage with your business or brand and the ways they do it. Now let’s go over a few strategies you can use to start growing your influence.
- Make the most of your blog
Your starting point should be your website and/or blog. Yes, we know it is tough to come up with great content consistently, but it is the only way to prove what you know and that you are worth doing business with.
In addition, if you have a WordPress blog, you can use it to build community through the plugins and themes available. Creating a discussion board or forum, inviting guest bloggers, getting comments, and actively asking for endorsements and testimonials are all signals that you are a thought leader in your niche.
Offering free special reports or ecourse as an incentive to register for your email-marketing list also creates community, rather than visitors who come once for a few seconds and never return. The repeat visitors are the ones who will form your community over time. Using the plugins that allow people to share content on the social networks will also build a strong online community that will create all new opportunities for your business.
- Connecting with other leaders
We are often judged by the company we keep. Being seen at the same sites as other “thought leaders” in your niche is always a good idea. Even better, this can create the opportunity for new product creation and joint venture (JV) partnerships. For example, you can interview each other online and publish or sell the resulting product to build brand and/or make more money.
In a JV, you would email each other’s lists with a special offer. Anyone who signs up from their list would be your customer and possibly listed as your affiliate. Even if their list has 5,000 people and you have only 1,000 people, you can offer to mail 5 of their offers during a specific time. JVs then split the profits 50/50 or each gets a special affiliate link. This allows you both to profit from more exposure and/or sales to people interested in your niche. – Social profiles.
If you have not already taken the trouble to build a full, robust profile at each of the major social networks, put this at the top of your marketing list. Social search, that is, search within a network, is rapidly overtaking search through search engines like Google. You can only build community if people can find you. They will only want to join your community if they see things on offer that interest them, products, services, information, and eye-catching content.
- Making the most of groups
One key aspect of top social media sites is whether or not they have groups you can join in order to connect with your targeted audience and like-minded people. Facebook and LinkedIn are examples of social media sites that have popular and active groups, where you can connect with prominent influencers in your niche and position you as an authority.
Other groups you may want to consider include active Pinterest boards that allow guest pinners. This will mean more of your pins are shown around the clock, not just the times you pin. Don’t forget Yahoo groups and Google+ circles. Both of these can also help you build a strong online community related to your niche.
- Be helpful, not pushy
Finally, the best way to build a community is to participate in communities. Join groups, participate, share, and don’t just try to push all of your products for sale. Social media is all about connection and community.
Try these tips to start a strong community or even fine-tune your existing community. It’s never too late to get your group or community on the right path.
Let’s talk about where you should focus your attention.
There is an ever-increasing number of social networking sites, but paying attention to the top 6 will create the most opportunities for building your brand and promoting your business, in order to increase reach and profits.
Currently, the top 6 social media sites include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram and Google+. Let’s take a closer look at each of these to help you decide where to focus your social media marketing attention.
Facebook now has more than a billion users. It allows you to set up personal and business pages, and a variety of written, video and promotional content. Despite reports that Facebook is decreasing in popularity, it is #1 in the world and packed with consumers who have money to spend.
The audience tends to consist of more women than it does men. Both use social search to learn more about products and services and get recommendations. Women socialize more, and keep in touch with friends and family through their account. They are also more likely to access their account on a mobile device.
They participate more in groups, polls and surveys and tend to respond better to ads. The ads at Facebook are highly targeted and a good deal cheaper than the Google AdSense network, so making the most of all the free as well as paid marketing opportunities at Facebook is the best way to build your audience rapidly and stay connected with them.
Twitter has over three million users. Many people like it because they feel it is fun and easy to use. The posts, called tweets, can only be 140 characters long, so it is a fast way to update your followers about your business. More women than men are on Twitter and tweet more actively. They also re-tweet, or share your tweets. This helps you to reach a wider circle of people. Twitter also has an easy-to-use advertising program to help gain followers and feature tweets.
LinkedIn, geared towards businesspeople, has over two hundred million users with more men than women using the platform. LinkedIn works well to connect with people you know and tap into business-to-business opportunities. They recently added advertising to their offers in relation to lead generation, that is, focusing on getting people to sign up for your email marketing list. They also bought SlideShare, the #1 site for sharing PowerPoint presentations. Use all 3 opportunities to build your brand and reach if your product line appeals to business people.
Pinterest is a social media platform that focuses on images. It too has over two hundred million users, with women accounting for 80% of users and a majority of this sector is over 35. It is a visual social network where people pin pictures related to products, services, and more to virtual pinboards related to particular topics. They also re-pin to share interesting content with their social circle.
Studies have shown that around 60% of users have made a purchase based on what they saw at Pinterest, with an average payment of $55. If your products are highly visual, ideal for women, or you wish to tap into the female market, this is the site for you.
Instagram is a mobile photo-sharing app and social network that was created in 2010 by founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger. In 2012, Facebook purchased it for one billion dollars and it currently has more than four hundred million active users with more than seventy-five percent of those users outside the U.S.
Since its launch more than thirty billion photos have been shared on this popular network. Unlike other social networks, Instagram is completely photo and video oriented, allowing users to post mages and short videos of up to 15 seconds. There are no text updates like you can use on Twitter and Facebook.
Because Instagram is primarily a mobile app, to use it to grow your influence you’ll have to download it to your mobile device and sign up for an account. While this does have some disadvantages it is great for doing business on the go.
Google+ (Google PLUS) has over a hundred million users. It links to all your Google activities through your free Gmail account. This also means you can connect it to your YouTube channel if you have one.
YouTube is the most used video sharing site in the world and the third most popular site on the Internet after Google and Facebook which makes Google+ a good fit for gaining influence from both channels.
There are also Hangouts and Hangouts on Air which allow you to use video to attract a larger audience and meet face to face with your followers which can help grow your influence very rapidly.
Good social media marketing is all about making connections. If you’re not already using at least one or two of these sites, what are you waiting for? Go open an account and start growing your social influence.
Let’s jump right in and talk about gaining insight into your audience by monitoring your social media accounts.
Most entrepreneurs who use social media are mainly interested in cranking out as much content as possible and getting ‘eyeballs’ on it. Smart ones know that social networking is not a one-way street, but a means of building relationships with your target audience. That is how you will gain real social influence in your marketplace.
It’s not just about eyeballs, it’s about engaging with your visitors, customers and followers on social media and getting them to take the actions you want them to.
It’s also be about market research and using what you learn while monitoring your social channels to help support your marketing and product creation decisions.
- Niche marketing
One of the reasons online marketing is so effective is because it allows unprecedented access to people interested in what you have to offer. Instead of broader types of marketing such as newspaper, radio and TV advertising, which aren’t very precise, niche marketing can be conducted through topic-related discussion boards, forums, and on social sites.
By monitoring the social channels, you use you can discover the answers to some very important sales and marketing questions such as:
- What does my target market care about?
- What are the most common ‘pain points’ of those interested in my niche?
- What is trending in relation to my niche?
- What trends are driving sales?
- Who are my main competitors?
- How do my products compare or differ?
- What social media marketing efforts on their part might be worth imitating?
Remember, engagement, not eyeballs!
Niche marketing is like fishing in a well-stocked pond. You know your target customer is in there; you just have to come up with the right bait to get them to nibble. All of your social efforts can be the bait, showing that you have the answers they need and are worth doing business with.
Engagement can take a variety of forms. It’s up to you to create the opportunities to engage with you and monitor the results. For example, if you want to add more people to your email list, create a special-report or short course like this one, and then announce it to your list. Make sure you monitor how many new subscribers you get.
If you want to know how your social campaigns are working, then create a special offer for each social media platform’s you’re using to reach your target audience. Resist the temptation to run the same offer on all platforms during the same time. Then track your results for each social media platform. This will give you a good idea of what is working and what isn’t!
To get insight about building brand and increasing reach, create content that is so compelling that your followers will be willing to share it with other people they know, who are also interested in your niche.
In terms of advertising, track your click-through rate and engagement in taking the action you are expecting. Facebook and Twitter advertising is a lot more targeted than Google AdWords, yet a lot cheaper too.
- Riding the trends
Another important reason to monitor social media sites is to see what is trending. You don’t need to try to be topical in all of your postings, but if there is a chance to tie in your products with breaking news or a hot topic, it might be worth a try. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr will all show you listings of what’s most searched for or engaged with. Join in the conversation in a helpful manner and see how much exposure you and your brand can get.
- The power of social search
One of the most important reasons to monitor your social network activity is to discover who is finding you through social search. That is, searches within the network, not via search engines like Google. Social search is important because it will lead to your account and to groups.
You have to be active in the network to be discovered, but once you’ve created your account, you will be amazed at how much traffic you can drive through free and paid means. Don’t just monitor the eyeballs but the engagement, and see what a difference it can make to your social influence.
Finally let’s talk about how to simplify your social marketing strategies, so you can grow your influence faster.
Social marketing strategies can be extremely confusing and time consuming when you don’t know exactly what you’re doing. It seems like there is always more to do and so little time to do it. However, there are ways to keep it simple and actually get more done without making yourself crazy. I have laid out a few basic things for you to keep in mind as you plan your next social campaign.
- Know your niche
The niche research you did when you first started your business should have revealed your people’s interests, pain points, problems, and spending limits. If you’re not sure, do some research. Above all, find out where they spend their leisure time on the Internet and target those sites. There’s no point in banging away on a social network if the ideal customer in your niche isn’t hanging out there.
- Brainstorm hot content
Hot content is the kind of content that will appeal to those in your niche. As you do your niche research, you will probably see the same questions coming up repeatedly. Make a list of them and create content that answers these questions. Be sure to create paid products that do as well. Free products lead to paid products.
- Leverage the content you create
Make every piece of content you create work hard for you. One of the best ways to do it is to put it into more than one format. For example, your content could be an article, top-10 list, or a PowerPoint deck. Your deck could become a video on YouTube which you would then embed on your site. You could also share the deck at popular sharing sites like SlideShare, owned by LinkedIn, which has very convenient sharing buttons for all of the major social networks.
- Create a publishing schedule
Once you leverage your content, schedule it. You obviously can’t publish leveraged content on the same topic back to back, but you can use your blog scheduler to set the date and time in advance and, for example, publish one each month for several months.
Make video your priority, though, to build up a robust YouTube channel full of interesting content that will gain followers.
If you are working alone, create your own calendar and follow it. The plugin Editorial Calendar for WordPress is incredibly useful. If you are working in a team, set up a shared calendar to make sure something of value is being published regularly.
- Use automated tools
WordPress has a wide range of plugins that will create share buttons so people can just click to share on the social networks. In addition, they have plugins that will announce your new content on your social sites automatically.
Then there are specific tools that will allow you to schedule posts in advance, such as Buffer, which will link with a number of different networks, and Hootsuite, which allows you to schedule posts in advance. These tools have both free and paid levels, so you have nothing to lose by trying them out and seeing how useful they are. If they make your publishing on the social networks easier, the cost will more than pay for itself in terms of the amount of time you will save.
- Have a set time to be social
Social media can consume your time if you’re not careful, so schedule your social posting time and stick to it! I like to block out an hour a day in two thirty minute chunks. One in the morning and one in the evening.
This way you can focus on your followers and minimize the danger of getting sucked in and wasting hours of your valuable time wandering from one cool thing, funny picture or heartwarming video to the next.
It’s up to you to decide what will work best for you, just keep in mind that you are on social media to grow your influence and connect with your consumers not to spend all day clicking the like button.
Lastly, once you get things organized, outsource the work to a reliable virtual assistant to help manage your social growth. They can handle answer questions, general replies, social shares and monitoring for you.
This doesn’t have to cost you a fortune. You can recruit your teen (which is what I do) a neighbor or find someone on Elance, Freelancer or even Fiverr.com to do the job which will free up your time to focus on creating the meaty content that will help you connect with your consumers on a level that will help take your social influence in a big way!
I sincerely hope that this course has helped you learn a lot about growing your social influence online.
And remember, I’m always available to answer your questions, so please feel free to ask.