LinkedIn for thought leaders

Becoming an expert in your field is one thing, becoming a thought leader something else. It’s about more than being good at what you do; a thought leader is someone who is on the cutting edge of their industry, someone with the future in mind and with insight and ideas that merit attention. However don’t be mistaken: thought leadership is not about selling, it is about adding value to conversations. However these days it doesn’t take a publishing deal, a regular slot on Newsnight or a global speaking tour to be recognised as a thought leader…

LinkedIn, the world’s biggest social network for business, is somewhat of a gift to aspiring thought leaders. Not only does it provide access to a wide range of industry-specific interest groups, it facilitates conversations and debate around important industry and business issues. Let us describe just a few of the ways the platform can be leveraged for thought leadership.

Build a strong presence

It’s essential that you establish a stand-out presence by creating a strong LinkedIn profile. This should reflect who you are and what you stand for and not just read as a dull record of where you’ve worked in the past.

Don’t neglect the visual either – choose your headshot carefully, getting a new picture taken if you don’t have a suitable one to hand. Also, take advantage of the opportunity to brand your profile with a customised header image.

Think carefully about the contents of your summary paragraph. Does it reflect your current priorities, projects and passions? Would a reader be able to infer your aspirations? It’s also worth considering the inclusion of a call to action here.

In order to establish credibility, think about how you can evidence your achievements: from listing awards and displaying testimonials from clients or co-workers to uploading papers you’ve published or SlideShare presentations showcasing work you’re proud of – LinkedIn offers a number of options. What works best for you?

Expand your network

When you are satisfied that your profile is up to scratch, it’s time to start using LinkedIn for what it was made for: networking.

Far too few people realise the power of the direct approach on LinkedIn. If you’ve got something important to say or a good reason to reach out to someone you’re not yet connected to, an InMail (a paid-for LinkedIn email) can be a great way of dodging all gatekeepers and ensuring your message reaches the intended recipient. It almost goes without saying that the content of your approach is key: it must offer value to the recipient.

Start a debate

Whilst it’s true that the majority of LinkedIn Groups are home to little more than tumbleweed and shameless self-promotion, there are quality groups out there. These are populated by industry professionals keen to actively participate in meaningful dialogues. Of course, if you can’t find such a group, why not create your own?

Such groups can be the ideal place to start a debate and explore a problem by sharing an insight or commenting on a recent industry development. LinkedIn groups can also be used to canvas opinion. Successfully engaging with members of your industry community in this way will not only help build your credibility; it can also help you make useful connections.

Get published

LinkedIn can also be a great place to share your thoughts, feelings and views on a whole host of business-related topics, both with your network and the wider LinkedIn community.

Earlier this year LinkedIn launched a new publishing platform: LinkedIn Pulse. LinkedIn Pulse offers users the opportunity to publish long-form posts visible to the entire LinkedIn community. Taking into account a variety of factors including a user’s job title, industry, stated interested and connections, LinkedIn personalises the selection of new posts it serves to each user in their homepage newsfeed.

Perhaps you blog elsewhere – are you also sharing links to your latest posts from your profile or republishing complete or repurposed versions of said posts to LinkedIn Pulse?

You may tweet about what you’re up to day to day, but are you also sharing selected highlights with your LinkedIn network via status updates?

You don’t even necessarily even need to create your own content. One way you can add value is by offering your opinion on the latest report published by one of your trade bodies.

Don’t underestimate just how powerful a platform LinkedIn can be. With over 380 million members worldwide, you never know who may be reading. So thought leaders – what do you have to say?