Adapted from my talk at the May 6 Microsoft MVP Community Connection event.
Ever wonder how people get to be “thought leaders“? Becoming a go-to, trusted expert in your niche or community is a good thing to be, both professionally and personally.
In a talk I gave recently, I addressed the often-elusive How To as someone who watches thought leaders appear and grow. Here’s a synopsis, and feel free to discuss in the comments!
How I Pick Out The Thought Leaders
In the global Yammer External Network I manage for my company’s customers, I don’t know these customers personally. But I can pick out the thought leaders.
Here’s what they use this External Network for:
- First-time training jitters & veteran reassurances.
- Sharing challenge-to-success moments that end up as amazing stories they don’t even know they’re telling, because to them, it’s just what they do.
- Networking is a byproduct and happens naturally simply through conversation.
I know who the thought leaders are because:
- Simply through these customers sharing their experiences, I know exactly who I’d go to if I see a question about X type of training, or Y type of setting.
- I also know who to go to when I want to get a public blog post for our website, or an audio clip or podcast, or even a video.
- And this is done simply through them being present, prolific, and helpful.
Remember, I don’t know these people personally and I may never know them. But because they’re active and sharing, I know their names. I can see whose words and stories should be brought out for others to learn from.
How you can do it, too
- Somebody out there DOES need your knowledge. You may just not know who it is. You may never know. But what you do know is important.
- “What I do all day isn’t interesting. It’s not a story.” Cease this line of thought! Think about this: When you Google a question, someone else has always had that question too, no matter what it is.
- Through sharing your experience, you’re telling a story that resonates with others.
- As you keep sharing, people start thinking of you as a Person To Go To even if they don’t know you personally. They’ll tag you in conversations. They’ll make sure you see something pertinent to you. They’ll ASK for your input!
- Finding a community is, of course, key. It may take a few trials to find one that really suits you, and you may find yourself moving on periodically.
- Examples of communities: A Yammer network, the Microsoft Tech Community, a Facebook group, LinkedIn (posts or in general), Medium, cultivating a Twitter presence, building up your own blog, etc.
- You do need to find the “why” for yourself. What’s in it for you? You have to stay interested, too!
- Build in time to post like it’s a regular appointment. Set an Outlook reminder, a sticky note on your monitor, an alarm on your watch. Over time, it’ll become like clockwork where you don’t need these reminders anymore.