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How to Navigate Impactful Thought Leadership on LinkedIn

by LinkedIn Marketing, LinkedIn Training, Thought Starters

In this article we explore impactful thought leadership on LinkedIn thanks to research from LinkedIn and Edelman’s B2B study.

Research from LinkedIn and Edelman’s 2022 B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study* found that Thought leadership is one of the most effective tools an organisation can use to demonstrate its value to customers during a tough economy – even more so than traditional advertising or product marketing, according to B2B buyers. If you’re a Marketer reading this or, perhaps you’re the HR or Communications person responsible for your organisation’s LinkedIn presence, I encourage you to work closely with the leaders of your organisation to develop a strong sense of your brand’s content pillars and ‘tone of voice’ for LinkedIn.

A promotional and salesy approach or ‘algorithm content hacks’ on LinkedIn, should not be your primary focus.

Exploring Impactful Thought Leadership for Your Leaders

Specific qualities that high-level decision makers are seeking out in thought leadership content includes the following elements:

Offers provocative ideas that challenge existing assumptions

Contrarian views are extremely effective as a tool to help move the dial on issues you care about and advocate for. Consider your content pillars, or focus for LinkedIn, and don’t feel like you have to commentate on everything. Develop a strategy and decide the ideas you want to share that challenge existing assumptions. Examples of how I apply this element to my thought leadership is the idea that you should love LinkedIn more than social media, my interest in Cal Newport’s work on Digital Minimalism and my increasingly held belief that social media (in large doses) is really not that good for you.

Features deep subject matter expertise on specialised topics

This relates to one of the ‘must haves’ in relation to your LinkedIn Profile, and also applies to the content you choose to share on LinkedIn. I recommend you give some deep thought to narrowing your focus on LinkedIn and deciding why you’re there, and what specialised topics and the related conversations you want to start, lead and contribute to.

Includes third-party insights from other trusted sources

You can not be an effective thought leader without also reading and analysing a wide range of information relating to your subject matter expertise, and beyond. Including third-party insights from trusted sources is an important content marketing principle. It gives the perspectives you share more authority as it demonstrates you are tuned into the insights from trusted sources and not just ranting about an issue that frustrates you.

There’s a lesser known upside to sharing insights from other trusted sources that many people overlook. It means you can be less focused on content creation and more focused on strategic and intentional content curation. Did reading that last sentence make you breathe a sigh of relief?

I get it! Content creation fatigue is a thing.

Some of your leaders may be reluctant to create their own original content, while wanting to share their opinion on issues and trends with your organisation’s professional community here on LinkedIn.

Widely reading and reflecting on the views of trusted sources is a great way to cultivate your own voice and opinion. It’s how to learn to ride the bike of thought leadership.

Some of your leaders who may identify as introverts or are quieter and more thoughtful folk will probably love the idea of getting started on LinkedIn by sharing their views about what they’ve read (articles or books). They will welcome the opportunity to ease the mounting pressure on them to be more active on LinkedIn. Perhaps they have been instructed to be more active on LinkedIn, but aren’t sure where to start, and certainly do not currently have the capacity to write a full article or post that requires them to ‘put themselves out there’.

They feel like LinkedIn is an overcrowded place where their posts may become just another opinion amongst all the shouting.

If you’d like your leaders to be more active on LinkedIn, begin by encouraging them to clean up their LinkedIn newsfeed. This will instantly improve the content from people and organisations they’re interested in. Read this article to learn how to clean up your LinkedIn newsfeed.

Focuses on current trends likely to affect the industry in question

Focusing on current trends relevant to the industries you serve is a must as it demonstrates the previous point that you need to read and analyse a wide range of information relating to your subject matter expertise (and broader) to effectively add value and be relevant.

Strikes a more human, less formal tone

There’s been an increasing trend of what I refer to as the ‘vulnerable’ post where an individual pours their heart out (via a LinkedIn text post, with or without a photo) about a very personal aspect of their life. This is not what we mean by striking a ‘more human, less formal tone’.

Instead, think about the way you would speak in a conversation with a colleague. Consider the issues you care about in the context of this type of conversation and how you can share your perspective in a more human, less formal tone when you write here on LinkedIn.

Always maintain your professionalism and remember that LinkedIn is a professional networking platform, not a place to vent your anger or frustrations with others.

If you’re constructive and intentional in the posts you share and the content you comment on, the ‘more human’ side of your personality will naturally reveal itself, while avoiding the overshare.

Both intellectually rigorous and fun to consume

Consider how you show up on LinkedIn versus other more social media. There is a more serious tone on LinkedIn and you do need to be more intellectually rigorous, but the introduction of the ‘fun’ reaction has confused things for some LinkedIn members.

Is the ‘fun’ reaction really relevant for LinkedIn? Some would say yes, but the suitability of a tone of ‘fun’ is situational, so please decide what makes sense for you.

Another way to look at this is to consider a lighter perspective on the issues you wish to commentate on. At the very least, mix up your content, maintain your authentic self and trial the suite of free LinkedIn Marketing features available via your LinkedIn Profile, including:

  • Conduct a Poll: Ask your community how they’re feeling about a particular issue right now.
  • Share a PDF document or multiple images: If you have tips you wish to share, consider the creative impact of sharing them in visuals. Canva is a great tool to help you get started with this fun idea. Also include deeper insights in articles or text based posts to balance this out with intellectually rigorous content.
  • Photo of yourself: As humans, people relate to photos of people on LinkedIn. Don’t be afraid to consider sharing photos of yourself from time to time in relatable situations to help people understand what you stand for and your subject matter expertise. Try to go beyond the ‘humble brag’ and share the latest book you’re reading, and a quick review. Or perhaps you’d prefer to share a photo of your favourite place in nature and write about why this space is important to you.
  • Video & Events: There are lots of options to choose from here on LinkedIn. Consider the role of video, LinkedIn events, LinkedIn Live and audio events. Do your research and consider what is right for you. Try to avoid your desire for perfectionism, but don’t do anything because you feel you ‘should’.

2022 B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study

Karen Hollenbach, LinkedIn Expert Consultant, Educator & Mentor

Karen Hollenbach, LinkedIn Expert Consultant, Educator & Mentor

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