Thought Leadership Content: Why You Need It and How to Make It

There is certainly no shortage of content a company can create. With that in mind, thought leadership content has recently been making a lot of waves throughout the internet.

One study found that about 66% of marketers feel that establishing thought leadership is a top priority for their companies.

If you want to learn how to create thought leadership content, you’re at the right place. I’ll show you how this type of content differs from more standard content.

You’ll also learn what makes thought leadership content so beneficial and how to create a leadership content strategy of your own.

What does thought leadership mean?

what is thought leadership

When you set out to create thought leadership content, it should follow a few important guidelines.

First, a great piece of thought leadership content brings an original viewpoint to the table. Most forms of leadership content either cover new topics, an original viewpoint on an established topic, or both.

Second, effective thought leadership marketing backs up points with well-researched information. You can create even better thought-leader content by publishing original research.

And lastly, a thought leadership content strategy should get people talking. You don’t have to get people talking in a controversial way, although some thought leaders are masters of that strategy.

The benefits of having a thought leadership strategy

thought leadership benefits

Now that you understand what thought leadership is, it’s time to learn why this strategy can benefit your company. Here’s a look at the main benefits of creating thought leadership content.

Positions your brand as a leader

Creating an online business is easier than it has ever been. Unfortunately, this situation can also create a lot of competition for your business.

One effective way for companies to set themselves apart from the competition is with thought leadership content.

Imagine that your business needs to choose a new service to process payments. While doing this, you come across several companies that all look and seem the same. Then, you find a business writing original content aimed to help you solve your payment provider problem.

Chances are, you’re going to choose the company with lots of original content. This content places brands as thought leaders.

Strengthens your company’s digital marketing strategy

When you create content, including thought leadership articles, it can also help improve things from a search engine optimization (SEO) perspective.

As you continue creating and publishing leadership content, you increase your likelihood of showing up in search results for keywords related to your story.

Plus, showing up in many searches also makes your business look like an authority to customers.

Incredible for gaining backlinks and online mentions

Tying in with the previous point, a website’s backlinks are incredibly important from an SEO standpoint. Sure, you can do outreach or manually create links on other websites.

But what if those valuable backlinks came to you? With effective thought leadership marketing, they can.

First, you publish your content. With a little luck and promotion, let’s say that one of your pieces reaches the top of Google’s search results for a fairly popular keyword.

Then, other websites start using your research in their content. These actions generate valuable backlinks. This method is a tried and true content marketing strategy.

Helps your business earn more revenue

Producing thought leadership content can also help your business make more sales. When your company’s blog or social media accounts are authoritative, it builds trust with consumers.

If a consumer trusts you, they’re more likely to buy products or services from your business versus its competitors.

Creating a thought leadership strategy

creating thought leadership strategy

It’s now time to create valuable content that establishes you or your business as a thought leader. Follow these steps to form the perfect thought leadership strategy.

Coming up with a list of topics

The first step of your strategy is to brainstorm content ideas. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself if no ideas immediately come to mind:

  • What topics interest you more than anything else?
  • What industries have you worked in?
  • What can you talk about day hours on end?

As you continue thinking, you’ll begin to establish thought leadership ideas. Next, jot down or type these ideas into a spreadsheet.

Extra tip: When you start narrowing down your fresh content ideas, do a quick Google search with your topic or title as the keywords. This prevents you from publishing thought leadership content that’s too similar to someone else’s piece.

Choosing an angle to take with your content

The next step in the thought leadership process is choosing an angle for your content. While you have the freedom to write about any topic, checking out common content formats can be helpful.

Here are several common angles people or companies use to establish thought leadership.

Personal content

Some people enjoy creating personal content, which establishes thought leadership from their unique perspectives and experiences. This format lets you share your point of view in a story format, which readers love.

What’s also great about taking the personal narrative approach is that it’s impossible for anyone to already have a story exactly like yours.

Data storytelling

Another popular way thought leaders reach their target audience is with data storytelling. Personally, I love digging through data. But I also understand that most people don’t share the joy of looking through complex graphs or reading long studies.

People appreciate it when industry experts do the work of looking at complex data and turning it into something that’s easy to understand.

Offering a counterpoint

Sometimes, your point of view might not be what the majority of people think. In that case, you have a potentially valuable content idea. It’s not uncommon for a thought leader to go against a viewpoint.

Of course, there’s no need to get nasty or personally attack anyone in your content. Instead, use industry-related facts and figures to offer a well-researched counterpoint.

Performing an analysis

A thought leader can also create an industry analysis. You can perform this type of analysis over practically any subject you’re knowledgeable about. Check out industry trends and form an opinion about where an industry is heading.

In time, this content could become a go-to resource that generates many potential clients.

Performing research

Now is the time to start putting together your content. As you begin researching and writing your content, I’d also recommend seeing what existing leadership content exists about your chosen topic.

This time is as good as any to mention one of writing’s golden rules: do not plagiarize other people’s research. Citing sources and including them in your content is perfectly fine. Just make sure you give credit to your sources.

Establishing your content’s goals

Another smart move while coming up with a thought leadership strategy is to establish goals. By doing this, you determine what you want your leadership content to achieve.

Let’s go over the typical main goals of a good thought leadership strategy.

Better SEO results

Have you noticed that it’s hard for people to find your business online? Do the lack of clicks and impressions in Google Search Console make you want to throw up?

I get it.

Fortunately, well-created thought leadership material can work wonders for companies struggling to reach page one of Google’s results.

More brand awareness

Another great perk of thought leadership content is that it’s helpful for establishing or increasing brand awareness. When you create content focused on thought leadership, it helps position your brand above others in terms of being an authority.

Gaining more traffic

Tying in with better SEO results, thought leadership content can also bring massive waves of traffic to your business. Well-researched thought leadership content often ranks well in Google’s search engine.

When your website ranks highly, it typically gains a lot of traffic. And there could be a lot of potential customers in these waves of online traffic.

Promoting your content

After you produce thought leadership content, the next step is to promote it. Take it from me – effectively promoting your brand’s thought leadership content is about much more than including a sentence at the bottom of your article asking people to share it.

I’m going to help you out and go over some of my favorite and most effective ways to promote thought leadership content.

Using content distribution websites

I am a huge fan of content distribution websites. These websites are where people can create original content or share pieces published elsewhere.

Extra tip: One slight drawback of distributing content on other websites is taking a risk that this content outperforms your originally published piece.

For instance, let’s say that you published a blog post about automotive technology. And, to promote your thought leadership content, you also post this on Medium. A month later, your Medium article is the one showing up on the first page of Google’s results.

While this won’t always happen, it’s an issue to watch out for. Of course, having this happen doesn’t hurt your brand from an awareness or traffic perspective. But it might cost your company’s domain a few ranking spots.

Social media

Another one of the most effective places to share thought leadership content is social media. Popular social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are great places to share and leverage thought leadership pieces.

Before you start posting on social websites, I’d recommend learning about your target audience. This lets you know what platforms will help you reach them.

For example, B2B companies typically share content on LinkedIn because it’s a business social platform. A company trying to establish thought leadership in the travel industry might be better off making TikTok videos since this platform and industry both heavily rely on visuals.

Social sharing can also get your content in front of other thought leaders who could be eager to share your findings with their audiences.

Paid advertisements

One factor that establishes an industry thought leader is how fast they cover a topic. If a subject’s about to break and go viral, many business leaders want to get their takes out first.

Fortunately, you can almost instantly get your company’s message out to the world through paid advertising. Unlike organic marketing, paid marketing will cost money to accomplish. However, you don’t need a huge budget to get results through paid advertising.

I recommend using Google’s paid advertising network or paid social media ads to get started.

Sharing in an email newsletter

You can also share high-quality content in email newsletters. If your company has an active email audience, sharing thought leadership content in emails is a great way for it to drum up interest and shares.

Being responsive and respectful

An important aspect of thought leadership content is that it creates a conversation. No matter where you post and share your content, be prepared for people to respond to it.

Hopefully, you get lots of positive responses to your content. With that said, there could be a few people with counter-narrative opinions. If you’re like me, your instinct is to respond with a few colorful words. But I urge you not to do that and be respectful to all of your commenters.

Tracking how your content performs over time

Some thought leaders publish their content and almost never look back on it. I don’t recommend this strategy.

Coming from a content marketing background, I like to keep an eye on how all of my content performs over time. It’s easier than it sounds, I promise!

First, have a spreadsheet or list that contains where you’ll post your content. For instance, most companies will publish content on their websites. Then, thought leaders share this content on their social platforms.

Almost every major social platform will have analytics sections, letting you see how many likes, shares, and other forms of engagement your thought leadership posts receive.

When it comes to tracking how web content performs, I’m a big fan of using Google Analytics and Google Search Console. Google Analytics measures how much traffic your website gets. Google Search Console lets you know your website’s search engine rankings, clicks, and impressions.

By using analytical information, you can learn about key performance indicators such as:

  • Where your content ranks in Google’s search engine results
  • How many times your content appears in search results
  • How many clicks your content gets
  • The number of likes or shares your social content receives

Examples of effective thought leadership content

thought leadership examples

As I always try to do, I want to wrap this article up with some examples. Here are several people or brands I’d consider authorities in the world of thought leadership content marketing.

Brian Dean (Backlinko)

One of the most popular thought leaders in the world of search engine optimization (SEO) comes from Brian Dean at Backlinko. Whether it’s through seeing his videos, following him on Twitter, or seeing one of his speaking engagements, Brian Dean lives on the cutting edge of SEO.

Clark Howard

Another one of several leadership examples comes to us from the financial world. Considering the importance of money, people understandably want to know they’re being smart with it. That’s why many people follow the thought leadership of Clark Howard.

The mother of all pain points is spending too much money or always being broke. Through his radio show, books, and segments on other programs, Clark Howard teaches his loyal audience how to get better with money through tips and actionable insights.

Red Letter Media

I’ll probably show my age by mentioning this, but I remember watching the television show Siskel & Ebert when I was a kid. The two people in this show, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, were professional movie critics.

While there’s no one reviewing movies on television anymore, there’s a group of very smart guys in Wisconsin sharing their opinions about movies on YouTube. This group of movie makers created their own strategy to share their videos and reviews with the world.

One of RedLetterMedia’s most popular forms of long-form content, Best of the Worst, are hour-long videos talking about some of the worst movies of all time. And it’s hilarious. Currently, Red Letter Media has over one million subscribers on YouTube.

Ed Mylett

I’ll wrap up this discussion about marketing leaders with one of the most motivational people I’ve seen: Ed Mylett. If you’re a fan of podcasts, you might have heard of this person on his self-titled The Ed Mylett Show.

Ed Mylett’s brand voice is all about being motivated. Through his show, he interviews people from all walks of life who excel in their chosen fields. Sometimes, Mylett also shares his personal story about going from broke to being a multi-millionaire.

Thought leadership content is a popular strategy brands around the world utilize. Establishing thought leadership will take time and effort. But, while this content isn’t the most flashy to create, it is an extremely potent engine for establishing your company as a serious player in any industry.