Build your personal brand as a thought leader

We usually think of brands as corporations and their products. But the Internet age has made it both easier and harder for individuals to make their mark. Nonetheless, having a personal brand pays off in the long run.

Before we dive into the how, keep in mind building your own brand is not an overnight process. Rand Fishkin’s tweet applies, and in this case, you’re “selling” yourself.

Stand out from the crowd

Though blindingly obvious, this point might get lost along your branding journey. If you don’t have a unique angle, people won’t remember you.

Some achieve this by going niche and be the expert in a specialised field; others deploy a unique tone of voice, e.g. through humour like Rand Fishkin; others focus on one content format or channel; others associate themselves with something peculiar, e.g. Larry Kim and his unicorn obsession.

Source: Larry Kim’s Twitter
Source: Larry Kim’s Twitter

Build your content arsenal

If you want to be seen as a thought leader, write articles and share your insights consistently. It’s not enough to blog once in a while and expect readers to consider you as the authoritative voice.

Long form content works well as people are much more like to share long articles, thus extending your reach.

Source: Huffington Post
Source: Huffington Post

If you aspire to be like your idols, it makes sense to start mingling or reaching out to them. A few ways to “stand on shoulders of giants” are:

  • Doing expert roundups

  • Interviewing experts for podcasts

You can also explore other avenues to amplify your written content, such as:

  • Guest blogging

  • Pitching stories to publications

  • Publishing on Medium and LinkedIn Pulse

Provide value upfront

“What’s in it for me?” is the number one question people will ask. Hence, give away knowledge and free content that helps readers address their issues first. Some even give away free courses, books, content bundles etc.

Only then can you proceed to ask readers a favour, such as subscribe to a mailing list or share your content.

You can also use two of Cialdini’s principles of influence – social proof and scarcity. For instance, give more to loyal readers and entice outsiders to join the exclusive circle by displaying testimonials.

Social media & communities

Become an influencer by showing your personality and human side on social media. No one wants to follow an account that looks like it’s managed by a robot.

In short, you need to interact, engage, provide thoughtful comments, and help others. For example, Leonard Kim – a personal branding expert – responds to every single message he receives with personalised advice.

Being active on professional or specialised forums also helps. Set aside time to start discussions on LinkedIn groups, answer questions on Quora and industry boards. Over time, you’ll wield more influence by simply being helpful.  

Source: Business Insider
Source: Business Insider


Alongside your online branding efforts, it’s always a good idea to show people who you are in real life. Networking at industry events is a place to start.

Ideally, you should try to land speaking gigs whenever possible. It doesn’t matter if it’s a free gig, or conducted for educational/non-profit purposes. Speaking requires practice and with persistence, you may find yourself on the stage of a big national conference.