Social media for thought leadership

How to Use Social Media to Become a Thought Leader

Kerry Butters Social Media 16 Comments

In one of my recent posts for SitePoint, I discussed how you can guest blog in order to help position yourself as a thought leader in your industry. Today I’ll be discussing how you can leverage social media in order to get your name out there and build your reputation.

It’s worth pointing out at this stage that in order to shine on social, you should focus specifically on your niche. You can even further whittle this down and look to become expert in a certain subject. For example, if you’re a designer with a specific interest in UX design, then you could focus on spreading the word about just UX and UI.

First Steps

Decide which networks you would like to have a presence on first. While there are plenty of them out there, start with a core few, which should be made up of the main social networks.

  • Twitter – personally, I find this to be the one where I get most interactions.
  • Facebook – while there are plenty of people who believe the site isn’t worth it since organic reach has reduced to next to nothing, it remains the most social popular site in the world and its advertising platform is great, with extremely powerful targeting.
  • LinkedIn – for publishing and your professional presence.
  • Google+ – many people discount G+ and say it’s effectively dead. I find that I get a good amount of interaction and posts get picked up in search, so it’s worth it.
  • Pinterest – if you have visual products or ideas, Pinterest can’t be discounted as it sends a good amount of traffic to sites that use it.
  • YouTube – video should make up a part of your social strategy, Facebook video is also worth considering as the site has now surpassed YouTube for desktop video views since it introduced native video.

You should also identify and use any niche social networks for your industry. These can be very useful for connecting with people that are specifically interested in your area of expertise.

It might also be worth jumping onboard new social networks. It’s never easy to decide which of these might take off. Ello was billed as an alternative to Facebook for a while but it’s seriously lacking in functionality and despite receiving $11bn in funding since it hit the headlines, it’s still really not very user friendly. A better choice would be Minds, which has been in and out of beta since 2012, but is now looking excellent. Minds also promises to reward brands that post regular content through their points system, which allows you to promote any post.

Minds is fully functional and you can upload video, images and blogs. I’ll be very interested to see how it fares (you can connect with me on the site username: kesbutters).

Preparing For Social Launch

social media influencers

Before launch, prepare the images that you’ll be using for your profile and cover images. Check out Sprout Social’s Always Up-To-Date Social Media Images Cheat Sheet for size guidelines and ensure that you create images that match the templates. Your image choices are up to you; it could be that you prefer to brand yourself with images of yourself, or you could get creative and make something abstract. Whatever the choice, make sure that it’s contextual and that it represents your industry and what you do.

I had the below created for me by the talented Alex at ScribbleStache. It’s a bit of fun and it represents what I do. I get plenty of comments from people telling me that they love it, so it also serves as something of an icebreaker.

kesbutters twitter

Building Your Following

Once you’ve got all of your social images in place, it’s time to start building a following. It’s at this stage that most people are tempted by the numerous services that promise to populate your accounts with 1000s of followers for a small fee.

Don’t do this.

The followers that you will gain (if indeed they’re real followers at all) will not be targeted and so it’s unlikely that they’ll engage with you or show any interest in your posts.

It’s also very easy to spot when people have bought social fans as many of the accounts don’t have profile images or very many posts.

Create a Strategy

Instead, you should develop a posting and following strategy for each network that you’ll be using. This is because users differ on each and so does their behavior. For example, on Twitter, higher followings are correlated with those accounts that post often. This works on the micro-blogging site because it moves very quickly. Adopt the same strategy on Facebook or LinkedIn though and you’ll soon lose any fans that you’ve gained. The pace of these sites is very different and people on them don’t enjoy being bombarded with your updates.

You should use research and analytics to inform how often you post, and what times of the day. The latter is much discussed, but it’s important to understand your own audience above and beyond anything else. This can be difficult at first, as your following won’t be large enough to deliver accurate insights.

Following Others

following on social

On Twitter, you can use Follower Wonk or Twitter Lists to help you to identify people with interests that match your content. On Facebook, it’s more difficult and you will need to spend money if you want likes in the first instance. On LinkedIn you should only connect with people that you know on a professional level and it will take time to build a good list.

With G+ you can follow the same principle as Twitter, searching for people with interests that match your industry and expertize.

To Automate or Not To Automate

As your followers begin to grow, you’ll find that you start to have trouble keeping up and that’s where automation comes in. For posting, automation is great. I use Hootsuite and Rignite to carry this out; both can save huge amounts of time and contain other tools such as analytics.

These tools allow you to post at any time of the day, so you can schedule posts for when you’re working during the day, or even when you’re sleeping. This is great for reaching those followers that you otherwise wouldn’t.

Automated Follow/Unfollow

There are lots of services and software available that allow you to bulk unfollow people who haven’t followed you back on Twitter. You can use these tools if you like, but it’s worth pointing out that the majority of them (if not all) do break the site’s terms and conditions.

What Should You Post

You should, ideally, create blog content that you can share in order to showcase your expertise. You can do this by posting your own blog content, the posts that you might publish through LinkedIn Publishing and any guest posting activity.

You should also curate interesting and useful content from other industry sources.

Use images too. Infographics always do well, especially on G+ and Pinterest. So do images with ‘inspirational quotes’.

You can make your own with very little design knowledge using resources such as Piktochart and Canva.

Appeal to the Emotions

Social media posts should appeal to the emotions in some way.

This is what gains engagement and what makes posts go viral.

Positive emotions are the best, such as happiness and laughter, but negative emotions also work. However, I would always go with appealing to positive emotion as it’s easy to find yourself in the middle of an argument if you post controversial material.

Posts that perform well give value to the follower.

So they might solve a problem that they have.

This is the reason that list posts and how to posts always do well, as they promise to solve an issue quickly and easily.

Getting Noticed

social media and business

In order to position yourself as a thought leader, you’ll need to write great content that attracts the attention of other influencers in your niche and others.

You can do this by linking to content created by others that are well-known in your industry and mentioning them in your posts. Influencers tend to use social listening tools to manage their online reputation and to pick up any mentions. So if you do link to them within your posts they will pick it up. You should also tag them in the social media posts when you share the content.

Another good means of getting noticed is to carry out interviews with high-profile people in your niche and post this on your blog. You’ve probably seen expert round-ups, where a blogger will ask several influencers to list their routines, favorite tools, etc. This allows you to really get to know the experts, begin to build relationships and to have these experts (who will have a good social following) share your post as they are mentioned in it.

Putting the Work In

It takes time to get noticed and come to be thought of as an influencer. And I don’t mean months, it tends to take a couple of years to build your own following and for others in the industry to begin to pick up on what you do.


  • Work on your following and post every day.
  • Take time to personally interact with your audience, it makes a big difference and you will begin to build real
  • Write often and make sure that you get involved with comments on your own and other, high profile, industry blogs.
  • On LinkedIn, join industry-related groups and get involved with discussions.
  • Answer questions on Quora and other similar sites in your niche.
  • If your writing skills are not up-to-scratch, then work collaboratively with a writer to polish them up.

Once you have built a following, you can begin to add to the kind of content that you’re creating. For example, webinars are a great tool for building your email list whilst at the same time getting your name out there and interacting with others.

You can also use Google Hangouts to get you started as webinar software can be expensive.

Good luck in your endeavors and remember that in order to make the most of social media, you have to get social. Interact with as many people as you can, and remember not to spam people with your business message and you’ll be flying before you know it.

If you have any further tips I’d love to hear them, so leave me a comment 🙂

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Kerry is the founder and director of markITwrite, a published author and an established authority in the technology niche. Kerry has a background in both publishing and tech and writes extensively across corporate & business tech, web development, SEO, social and marketing and gadgets. A lover of all things internet and the written word, Kerry is an avid reader, a prolific writer and something of a geek.

Comments 16

  1. Thelma

    Even though I read this a few months after publication, I find this a good post. Also to be used to clarify things more to clients. Only thing is I miss Instagram; it is by far a great Social Medium when target group is young and your product or service is in the fashion or design industry for example.

  2. Ricardo

    Love the post, it’s good to point out that images, infographs etc… all drive better engagement than the standard text and link posts. I love a good visual but as time is sometimes limited to create visuals the focus should be on 1. great content that can add value and 2. A great summary! Thanks for the post Kerry!

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  3. Judy Caroll

    It’s worth pointing out at this stage that in order to shine on social, you should focus specifically on your niche. You can even further whittle this down and look to become expert in a certain subject.

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      Kerry Butters

      Absolutely Judy – my niche is quite broad as I’ve an interest in technology, how it’s applied to business, company culture and all that goes with it. I’ve also always been a writer, so to marry tech and writing seemed natural to me when I first started out as I had a background in tech (owning a small computer business for consumer supply and repairs and managing SMB networks). If you want to become an expert, think about what you’re really passionate about and apply it – if you love fashion and make-up, then come up with fresh and interesting work that nobody else is or has.

      Social media works best if you love what you do – as does business and writing.


  4. Tony Lopes

    Thank you Kerry. Inspirational as always this post has become my to-do list for the next while as I build my own personal brand and help others in digital marketing.

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  5. Asafu Chijere

    Thanks so much Kerry for sharing the wisdom. How to utilise social media is a big challenge and the ideas you have shared are of great value . Keep it up. Thank you.

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  7. Jodi

    Thanks for your incite and very helpful advice Kerry. I have just started my own business (about 4 months in) so this advice is gold for me. Thank you!

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