How to be a LinkedIn thought leader

If we had to choose the top three marketing buzz phrases from the past year, they would be “influencer marketing”, “storytelling” and thought leadership”. In this article, our Director Marie-Helene looks at how to be a Linkedin thought leader with some inspiration from the biggest names on the platform.  

LinkedIn Thought Leadership

Linkedin thought leadership - The Stats

  • 47% of execs and decision makers said thought leadership content had a direct impact on awarding business.

  • B2B buyers spend 1-3 hours per week reviewing thought leadership content.

  • 49% of B2B buyers said their opinion of a company decreased after reading poor quality content or no thought leadership.

  • American consumers say authenticity is one of the top qualities that would attract them to a brand.

Why Linkedin?

All the influencers and cool people are hanging out on Instagram so why focus on being a thought leader on Linkedin? The answer is simple. Linkedin is where most Fortune 500 decision-makers and executives spend their time. In fact, decision makers are actively scrolling through Linkedin looking for valuable, relevant content that can impact the way they do business. Enter thought leadership. Positioning yourself as an individual with useful ideas, ground-breaking innovations and relatable stories is a sure-fire way to build your brand and get noticed in your sector.

First The Basics

Like any great marketing plan, it’s essential to get the basics right first. Becoming a great Linkedin thought leader won’t happen overnight so first you should:

·      Identify your thought leadership space – what are you going to focus on and who is your audience? What do you care about and can you bring something fresh and innovative to that space? This is what a thought leader will look to do. Craft your professional story by asking  yourself questions like “What obstacles have I overcome?” and “what were my learning lessons from a particular role?”.

·      Invest in a professional photo- thought leaders have taken the time to care about their professional image. That’s not to say you need to be suited and booted. Not at all. But an image that suits your sector and a good profile photo are essential.

·      Compile your social proof – start keeping a file of your awards, appearances, magazine clippings, press mentions, and anything else that further establishes your credibility.

·      Complete your bio- your Linkedin bio should be up to date and written in your own words. Avoid trying to make yourself sound like a superhero or worse still “fabricating” your achievements. Thought leaders keep it authentic.

·      Optimise your profile- identify 5 keywords that are most associated with your thought leadership space. For example, content marketing ,content, author, content strategy, content strategist. Now use them consistently throughout your profile, articles, posts and hashtags.

·      Craft your own identity- your Linkedin thought leadership strategy should focus on you as a person and your thoughts and insights. Don’t make it all about your company, especially if the company is not yours!

Practical Tips for becoming a Linkedin thought Leader

#1 Publish Relevant Linkedin Articles

One of the best ways to establish yourself as a Linkedin thought leader is to publish articles. Strangely, there are 500 million LinkedIn users and only 0.2% of them have published an article using LinkedIn’s publisher platform. Native posts published on Linkedin get more love than external links thanks to the inbuilt algorithm, making this an even greater opportunity to shine.

Your Linkedin article should be interesting for your target audience and reflect your passion for your subject. Look at Linkedin thought leader Richard Branson.

Richard Branson LinkedIn
Richard Branson LinkedIn Virgin

Of course, we all know Richard as the leader of the Virgin empire, but his thought leadership is so much more than that. Through his Linkedin articles Richard discusses topics close to his heart like climate change, starting a business and overcoming failure.

Marie Helene says “Richard writes from experience and weaves stories into his articles which makes them funny, readable and definitely sharable.”

When it comes to writing for LinkedIn there are some tips to make sure your content stands out from the crowd.

·      Use subheadings and bullets- nobody wants to read 1500 words of text without taking a break. In fact, many busy execs like to skim read and subheadings and bullets make it much easier to do this. Break your article into multiple sections and focus on keywords that are relevant to your personal brand. A study by OkDork, which analysed over 3,000 LinkedIn posts, found that “how-to” and list posts performed best. Additionally, the study revealed that posts with five headings had the most views. 

  • Add photos- Adding photos to your article, especially actual photos of you or the story you’re telling, will make your article pop. They also add to the authenticity of your messaging. If your article is more factual or technical then add an infographic, pie chart or diagram to illustrate your points.

  • Length of post- The optimum Linkedin article length is 1000 – 1500 words. Most people using LinkedIn are busy professionals who want to read an article in 10 minutes during a coffee break.

  • Frequency of publishing content – It’s important to get the balance right. Too often and you will turn off your readers who may unfollow or mute you. Too little and you disappear into oblivion. Ideally, publishing an article once per week will hit the sweet spot.

  • Don’t sell- thought leaders don’t write salesy articles. They don’t need to, because sales will come naturally if users like you and your brand. Instead focus on sharing knowledge, ideas and experiences.

  • Share It - publishing your article then sitting back waiting for it to go viral won’t yield good results. Share your article out across your networks. Ask your trusted connections to do the same. Share it in relevant groups and add an intriguing feed post to encourage your connections to read it. You can also share the article more than once to increase traction over time.

  • Connect with other thought leaders – If you’re not yet established as a Linkedin thought leader, then send your article to people who are. You can find influencers by searching for your sector’s hashtags or watching out for Linkedin’s recommendations based on your interests.

thought leaders on linkedIn

#2 Utilise Linkedin Video

Linkedin video has come a long way in the past 18 months and is now a favoured tool used by Linkedin thought leaders. And Linkedin users enjoy viewing video content too with 59% of executives saying they would prefer to receive information via video. In terms of thought leadership, video offers users the chance to show they are authentic by sharing interviews, behind the scenes or Q&A style videos. You can also sponsor brand videos, targeting users based on job title, location, and company size. Sponsored video content on Linkedin gets three times more hits than static content and 20 times more shares.

Sallie Krawcheck, CEO and CoFounder of Ellevest is a thought leader rocking Linkedin videos so what is her secret? Firstly, Sallie is directly answering questions from her target audience. Focusing on smart investments for women, her videos answer questions like “How to demand equal pay” and “how to invest as a single parent.”

Sallie Krawcheck linkedIn

Secondly, Sallie always keeps her videos around the one-minute mark which is ideal for Linkedin. Lastly, Sallie’s videos are annotated with onscreen text. That means that execs working in a busy office will still receive the message even with the sound down. In fact, up to 85% of social media videos are watched without sound!

Marie-Helene says “Sallie is so inspirational in the Linkedin thought leadership space. Of course, her video format is perfect, but she also conveys her humour and authenticity so well. Her “money in 60” video series is perfect for busy professionals looking for quick answers and insights.”

Sallie Krawcheck video linkedIn

#3 Nail your post format

Post format is a contentious issue on Linkedin right now. With those long read more clickbait posts becoming increasingly popular, it seems that it’s not just what you write but also, how you write it that matters.

These long posts known as broems, can reach more than a million views and garner thousands of reactions. LinkedIn’s power users are gaming the system and seem to be winning likes and shares this way. Here’s an example of broetry from Josh Fechter, a 26-year-old digital marketing entrepreneur.

Josh Fechter broetry

Another who favours this approach is Oleg Vishnepolsky from controversial media outlet The Daily Mail.

broetry LinkedIn

Then there’s the “humblebrag” posts. These are often based around charitable giving or a moral life story and can garner a vast amount of likes. Their truth is often highly questionable, or they are adaptations of other stories or trending topics. Marie-Helene says “We shouldn’t confuse popularity with thought leadership. Humblebragging is not thought leadership, it is a modern form of click bait. Aim to provide real value, authenticity and sincerity in your updates and not simply aim for likes and clicks.”

humblebragging on linkedIn

And lastly, don’t write Question Posts—LinkedIn posts where the headline poses a question perform poorly. In fact, the most engaging posts appear to be those making statements. For example, "Business Schools Breed Arrogance” will perform better as a post than "Do Business Schools Breed Arrogance?”

Whether you opt for a long or short form post, you should aim to provide real value and insight as a thought leader. Check out thought leader Adam Grant, whose feed combines short videos, insights and serious knowledge.

Adam Grant LinkedIn

The Wharton professor has an innovative, humourous and inspirational feed with no clickbait in sight! Adam also tags other influencers and sheds light on important issues surrounding mental health and psychology.

Adam Grant LinkedIn education

5. Care About A Cause

One thing that the world’s top thought leaders have in common is their care for something other than themselves. In fact, Linkedin’s top thought leaders are not egotistical at all and will use their influence for the greater good. They also know that 44.4% of LinkedIn members are likely to donate to charity on a weekly basis, compared to 12.1% on Twitter and even less on other platforms.

Bill Gates is an excellent example of a thought leader caring about the wider community. Despite being a billionaire and the founder of Microsoft, he’s also a philanthropist and regularly posts about the Bill & Melina Gates Foundation plus issues close to his heart like climate change.

Bill Gates LinkedIn

Bill is also keen to share the limelight with others such as the video interview below with his favourite author.

bill gates author interviews

If you want to be a Linkedin thought leader then consider your contributions to the community. Of course, you don’t need to become a charity ambassador like Bill. However, you should be open to helping with community events, mentoring newbies in your sector or supporting charitable initiatives.  You will note an increase in tags and mentions as you start circulating and appearing at events and seminars. Check out author, columnist and educational thought leader Jeff Selingo below:

Jeff Selingo  LinkedIn

With power comes great responsibility, so if you want to be a respected thought leader, think about your contribution to others.


Linkedin thought leadership is the holy grail of influencer marketing due to the value it can provide to you and your brand. It also requires strategy, great content and a community focused character. Done right, thought leadership has a tangible business impact. If you would like to discuss your thought leadership strategy as a brand or an individual, speak to the experienced team at Moondust.