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Grow Your Business by Establishing Thought Leadership Online

by Jill Foster on February 13, 2009

Shonali Burke

Shonali Burke

Guest post by Shonali Burke, ABC (Accredited Business Communicator). Shonali is an award-winning communications consultant and President-Elect of IABC-International Association of Business Communicators, Washington, DC chapter. She produces the blog Waxing UnLyrical and invites you to stop by and say ‘hello’ on Twitter www.twitter.com/shonali.

Thought leadership & more marketing with tight budgets
One of the biggest obstacles new business owners face is the lack of resources. We have scarce, if any, dollars to put into marketing; the professional development events that we could sorely use are often priced with a view towards corporate or group attendees. Hiring a public relations consultant is often out of the question, so even those of us with little or no expertise in the field try to do it ourselves.

But establishing your business, yourself as a business owner, and yourself as a leader in the field are critical to growth.

Fortunately, there are several low-or no-cost ways to start making a mark as a thought leader. How many of them are you already implementing?

Publish.
As a business owner, no doubt you have established a presence, or plan to, in the online space by building a Web site; it’s very easily done these days with the abundance of user-friendly software solutions (and by that I mean those that are geared towards non-techies, like me).

Even if getting your Web presence up and running takes a while (as mine is), start publishing your opinions and thoughts on business-related matters via a blog.

WordPress is just one of the many blog publishing tools available—and it’s free.

It’s not only a great way to promote your thoughts and ideas, but also to start attracting attention in the online space, which can be very crowded. After all, what’s the first thing you do when you want to research a business or product—you go online, right? Now, when it comes to important concepts such as Web design, SEO, etc., I would strongly recommend getting professional (paid, if necessary) advice; but with user-friendly blogging software easily available, there is absolutely nothing standing between you and disseminating your expertise online.

Some of my favorite bloggers:

Respond.
If you’re a savvy professional, you likely already have an up to date LinkedIn profile. You’ve probably noticed that LinkedIn has added a great many layers of functionality to its service over the past several months, such as allowing you to integrate your blog into your profile.

One of the best ways to continue to build your expertise is by keeping tabs on LinkedIn’s “Answers” service.

Search (or set up an RSS feed) for questions asked by other LinkedIn users that are related to your field. Whenever you can provide useful information and advice, do so. You’ll find that it begins to establish you as an expert, since the questioner has the ability to select a “best answer” from those received.

Those stamps of approval show up in your profile and, before you know it, more and more people will be turning to you with questions—who hold the potential to be customers, clients or referrals.

Network.
I can almost see you yawning… “Of course I know the importance of networking, I do it all the time.”

Well, that’s excellent, but are you networking online as much as you are offline? Forums like LinkedIn Groups are a great way to “meet” others in the same line of work and/or those who are looking for services such as yours.

No doubt you have a Facebook profile, where you keep up with friends and family—and possibly business associates.

But are you on Twitter?
This social networking platform has seen tremendous growth through 2008 and, in my opinion, is quite exceptional in its ability for one to grow relationships in 140 characters or less, as a Twitter friend of mine put it.

Like any network, online or offline, you’ll get from it what you put into it. (By the way, guess why you’re reading this post in the first place? Because of my having “met” Shashi Bellamkonda on—you guessed it—Twitter.)

Don’t let a lack of resources stop you from doing what you do best—and letting everyone know about it.

More from:
Altitude Branding’s Amber Naslund on even more ways to perceive and utilize LinkedIn.

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