Sharing your point of view on a professional network like LinkedIn might seem a little daunting at first, but if you approach it in the right way, you will be adding value, building trust, contributing to a like-minded community and earning a reputation as an expert in your field. In the long term, all of these things will build your brand and contribute to your bottom line.

Step1: Have Thoughts

Even if you don’t think of yourself as a thought leader, chances are there are a few topics on which you can make a valuable contribution. These are things you think about, have opinions on and ideas about. You may even bore your friends and family talking about it on the weekend.

Step 2: Choose a Topic

You don’t need to come up with a ground-breaking new concept, but you do need to choose something that you, as a person or as a company, are passionate and knowledgeable about in your industry. If you’re in the fashion industry and your passion is sustainable textiles, start by writing about that. It may seem like a more general post about fashion would have more reach, but the goal with thought leadership is to add your unique view on a topic you know intimately. Don’t worry about how many people see it, focus on reaching a small audience of people with a shared passion and help them understand your vision. Think of it like a dating service for business.

Step 3: Solve a Problem

The content you create should be interesting, fresh and useful. Share your expertise to help your audience address an issue or overcome a concern. Answer questions you know people have on your topic. The more niche the topic, the more targeted the audience. You don’t need to be an expert on art, you can be an expert on the sketches of Picasso during his African-influenced Period (1907–1909).

LinkedIn suggests there are three types of thought leadership posts. The first is Industry thought leadership, where you express your point of view on trends, news and the future of your industry. The second is product thought leadership, which might include how-to guides, best practices or strategy. The third type is organizational thought leadership, where you can add insight on company culture or talent development.

If you are stuck for ideas, here is a list LinkedIn put together in their Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to Thought Leadership;

What concrete advice would you give to someone hoping to enter your field?

  • What your industry will (or should) look like in 5, 10, or 15 years and how it will get there.
  • What is the biggest problem your industry needs to solve?
  • What skill is essential in your job or at your company, and why?
  • How has your job, profession or industry changed since you started?
  • What else would you do if you started all over again and why?
  • How did you get your start in a certain profession?
  • Advice for career advancement in your function.
  • Challenges for the future of your function.

Step 4: Don’t make it all about you

Instead of approaching thought leadership as a way to show off your super-experty knowledge, consider it a tool to help others. Brian Solis, Principal Analyst at Altimeter Group and Author of What’s the Future of Business (WTF) told LinkedIn we need to define thought leadership as “thinking about people and how to provide these people with value, how to help them solve problems, and how to help them achieve aspirations and goals…..True thought leadership starts with empathy. Can you tell me the top ten problems your audience has at any given time? How about the top ten aspirations? Are you thinking through where your audience wants to be, compared with where the market is going?”

At every stage you need question whether you are providing value to your readers by asking yourself “Who cares?” Make sure you are writing for a human being, rather than writing for an entire industry, create a persona, a single person that typifies your audience and write for that one person.

Don’t be afraid to link to other work. If you’ve sourced some info or stats from another source, link out to it. This shows that you are well informed and supports your ideas. Just don’t go overboard, sticking to around one link per paragraph is a good guide.

Most importantly, don’t try to sell. Readers will pick up on this instantly and turn off. If you become a valuable resource and build trust, the sales will com

Step 5: Add pictures and videos

People love visuals, and adding a visual to your post will ensure it is read and shared more. You might even want to create an infographic or SlideShare instead as a written post. Because of their visual nature SlideShare presentations and infographics drive more engagement and SlideShare integrates into LinkedIn to display beautifully on the platform.

Step 6: Start a Conversation

Once you’ve published your post, you need to get out into the LinkedIn community. Your contacts will all see you post, but for the most impact, you need to build your community. You can curate content on LinkedIn from influencers and other relevant third parties, adding your own thoughts, comment on LinkedIn articles and join relevant groups. Groups are a great way to be part of the conversation by asking and answering questions and engaging in discussions

Step 7: Keep on Truckin’

Thought Leadership doesn’t come overnight, it takes patience and dedication, but will pay off in the end. As you produce more useful content you’ll start to get noticed more and more, and build your network of passionate industry professionals. Sometimes it will be hard work, but it should also be fun, so enjoy!