This week on #bufferchat, we discussed what it means to become a thought leader with our guest, Emad Rahim! We talked about our definitions of thought leadership, when and how we consider someone to be a thought leader, and much more. Explore the recap below for lots of wonderful insights from the chat!

Catch our weekly Twitter chat, #bufferchat, at TWO times every Wednesday for valuable industry insights and networking with nearly 400 other smart marketers and community managers. Same topic, same place, just at different times – feel free to join in to whichever chat time works best for you!

For our community in Asia and Australia (or anyone in other timezones that like this time the best!): 4 pm AEST (Sydney time, UTC+10)

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Bufferchat on August 17, 2016: Becoming a Thought Leader

This week’s stats:
1st Bufferchat: 88 participants; 475 tweets; reach of 1,129,105
2nd Bufferchat: 252 participants;1,663 tweets; reach of 1,891,623

Q1: How would you define “thought leadership”?

From Emad:

  • Thought leaders are people with expertise in their field. SMEs that make informed decisions with positive impacts.
  • They share innovative ideas, help others to replicate a path to success.
  • Thought leaders have a brand name [that’s] affiliated and respected within their field of expertise.

From the community:

  • “Answering questions that keep your audience awake at night, from an informed perspective, w/opinionated stance.” @Greencognito
  • “It is about more than just talking. It’s about being introspective through work to formulate original & meaningful thoughts.” @DomGarrett
  • “Thought leaders drive shared conversations. They seek separation from the pack, take risks, and challenge accepted norms.” @rmacklinrecruit
  • “Thought leadership is a way to build a relationship based on knowledge—not on selling something.” @iScottJohnson
  • “I’ll define it as inspiring people to be innovative and turn ideas to reality.” @Dhaar_mhie

See all the great answers to question 1 here!

Q2: What makes you consider a person/brand to be a thought leader?

From Emad:

  • Thought leaders are influencers with a brand that is associated to their chosen subject matter.
  • [They] provide thought-provoking advice on subject. Creative & innovative perspective. Makes it relevant.
  • Followers are engaged with your ideas & share [them]. Insight is being sought after in field.
  • Google your name – what comes up? Does your brand gets associated to your expertise?

From the community:

  • “When I think of a brand as soon as I think of a topic, they’re the thought leader.” @notothequo
  • “You have followers. People trust you. You have something unique or different to say on a soap box.” @rouxroamer
  • “I’ll consider a person a thought leader if they’re authentic, innovative, willing to share without hoping for profit.” @jesswlms
  • “Thought leaders actually have thoughts, they don’t just retweet and push curated content. The have their own perspective.” @sheldonpearce
  • “When his/her opinions always shed light to new ways of understanding the subject at hand.” @HinoIII

See all the great answers to question 2 here!

Q3: How long does it take for someone to truly become a thought leader? Is there a metric to reach?

From Emad:

  • It depends how relevant the info you are sharing is. How it’s being received/applied. Positive or negative.
  • In the platform you are using to share this “thought” – how large are your followers?
  • Do people in the field know/respect your ideas? How often are you cited, referenced, asked to speak?

From the community:

  • “I don’t think there’s a single metric. You still gotta hustle for it though. Time + effort + real value.” @andymci
  • “It’s not about metrics, such as # of followers. Providing value to 100 loyal followers = thought leadership to them.” @MktgInnovator
  • “Maybe when someone asks a question and everyone goes, “I have no idea, go ask *insert name*” Is that a metric?” @NatashaWest_
  • “You can be a leader of 1 or a leader of many – don’t look to become a “thought leader”, rather let others see you as one.” @GoldStarMedia
  • “It’s a relentless effort in creativity without expecting any rewards in the end. Metrics are just the by-product.” @zipview

See all the great answers to question 3 here!

Q4: Once you have great ideas you want to share, how do you find your audience?

From Emad:

  • Research, find out how people gather, share & find info. What media/publications get the most hits?
  • What media platform has the most members? Who in the field gets mentioned the most and why?
  • With those results, you will know what to write, how to share, where to share, who to engage.

From the community:

  • “Personally, ideas come from conversation. The ones you are talking w/ to formulate the thought IS the audience. Share there!” @DomGarrett
  • “Experiment with different modes of getting your message out there. See where it resonates most. Test, test, test.” @Wilde_Agency
  • “Umm… I think this is backwards. Have to know your audience first (& hopefully how to reach them).” @dariasteigman
  • “Keep a pulse on where your audience lives and seek them out. you’re achieving thought leadership when THEY seek out YOU.” @mollybuccini
  • “Learn about your audience, their likes/dislikes, values etc. Go to where they hangout (online + offline) + serve + add value.” @_KirstenT

See all the great answers to question 4 here!

Q5: What are strategies for growing your brand as a thought leader?

From Emad:

  • Publish creative blog articles on platforms that your followers are on, with clever titles and ideas.
  • Create videos, vlogs, Snapchat content sharing your thoughts in exciting way. Show your personality.
  • Guest write on other blog sites. Get featured in publications, podcast interviews & contribute papers.
  • Here are other strategies:

From the community:

  • “Ask ‘Why’ five times…leads you to new frontiers with deeper insights. Then solve for that.” @copperinsights
  • “1) Consistently engage w/ the Community 2) Be helpful 3) Hustle! In the end, create content that YOU find useful & share it!” @SocialDave
  • “Facilitate. You don’t need to be a celeb. Connect people to others + resources. Recognize and thank those who help you.” @andymci
  • “This question doesn’t sit well with me; can you plan to be a thought leader? Influence yes, plan? I’m not so sure!” @TrafficJamSarah
  • “Create content that answers the Q’s your audience is asking (before they’ve even asked!) & engage every single day!” @GrainneLogue

See all the great answers to question 5 here!

Q6: What is your advice for being an impactful thought leader?

From Emad:

  • Using your influence for good. Don’t be an opportunist, but seek opportunities to help others.
  • Thought leaders provide resources, insight, tools & research to help improve profession & support its members.
  • Engage with followers, 2-way network, solve problems, educate the mass. Think #SocialResponsibility.
  • Checkout my @TEDx Talk where I share [my story].

From the community: 

  • “It’s not just about giving solution/ advice, It is also about learning while you are helping others at the same time.” @navya1089
  • “Share something real, lived and meaningful; not plastic, theoretical and ubiquitous.” @MuchClearer
  • “An impactful #thoughtleader proceeds with humility and gratitude. They take calculated risks, but admit when they’re wrong.” @mr0ach
  • “Don’t try to be something you are not. Be authentic with your audience.” @JSimmsSocial
  • “The most impactful one for me has taken the time to know me since day one.” @danielleirogers

See all the great answers to question 6 here!

Q7: Who is a thought leader that you really admire, and why?

From Emad:

  • #Entrepreneurship: : innovative ideas made simple for new #SmallBiz, but apply to establish ventures.
  • #Leadership: : down to earth management & leadership ideas, examples and strategies. Personable stories.
  • #Business:  : real-world advice. Practical knowledge from corporate giants. / grads.
  • #Education:  : trends, policy, research on academics. Search his & you will be become groupie

From the community:

  • “Love Seth Godin. He cuts through the noise – simply and clearly.” @juliabreathes
  • “Easy – – Forever giving, constantly evolving, walks the talk, humble, human & is always my go-to motivation.” @AdamCinemre
  • “I’ve got huge respect for . Inspiring digital marketer, great person, great energy.” @mwilton13
  • for helping me find my tribe. Giving us the inspiration to do our own things and be unconventional.” @rouxroamer
  • “I admire . He’s able to extract the extraordinary from the ordinary, optimise it and multiply exponentially.” @ClintPietersen

See all the great answers to question 7 here!


Thank you so much to Emad for sharing all of his awesome insights, and to everyone who participated in this chat!

Catch #bufferchat each Wednesday at 9 am PST, 12 pm EST, 5 pm BST (GMT+1)  OR at 4 pm AEST (Sydney time, UTC+10). Join our Slack community with over 2,000 members to continue these awesome conversations all week long!

Do you have any comments or answers to these questions? Leave your thoughts in the comments! We’d love to hear from you!

Image sources: UnSplash

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Written by Arielle Tannenbaum

Community Strategist at Buffer. In addition to her love of community building, Arielle also loves vegetables, cooking, practicing yoga, meditating, living mindfully, and exploring the connections between health and happiness!

  • Rich Drees

    I didn’t make this week! Nooo! ^o^

  • Babrivin19

    The Leadership is the quality which everyone can’t have. It’s some approach which has by someone. The aim for the target and vision for the goal. The entire efforts for the development and moving ahead. The unique responsibility with talent.

  • Shawn Wood

    Whoa! This is impressive. I leaned back in my chair a bit and was just sitting here pondering everything you said. Really cool.