3 Tips to Build Your Platform as a Thought Leader

The concept of building a platform may be unfamiliar to many so let me start by defining my terms. Think of every effort you take to build your credibility and visibility as a thought leader as one more building block of trust that you are standing on.

Trust starts when we have the expertise and/or the credentials (degrees, years of experience, certificates, awards) that give social proof that our ideas are valid and believable. On top of these initial building blocks, we add more and more elements to our platform over time when we share our expertise widely. Our platform enlarges as the size of our audience and the number of our followers grows and ultimately we become the valued thought leader in our niche.


So what are some key efforts you can undertake to build your platform as a thought leader? Below, I’ll share three ideas to get you started.

Tip #1: Lifelong Learning


As a thought leader, people look to you to be up-to-date and in-the-know. That is why continually deepening your expertise with lifelong learning is so important. It gives others more and more ‘reasons to believe’ that you are the right person to trust. Whether you gain new learning through a continuing education class, online seminar, reading or attending conferences doesn’t matter. Find the learning mode that works best for you.

Learning can happen on a day-to-day basis when you sign up to follow other experts in your niche or read a regular column or well-respected newsletter. Other times you need to step away from your day-to-day work and truly immerse yourself in your chosen learning environment such as a week-long class or an industry conference. In between, you can check out YouTube for a how-to video, sign up for a webinar, or join an in-person training at your organization or in your community.

Don’t limit yourself to topics close to your area of expertise. Learn widely – you never know whether the ideas from other disciplines will spark a fresh idea or a new insight. Serendipity strikes more often when we are outside of our comfort zone. One place I love to find unique, high quality content is Masterclass which features well-known experts from Malcolm Gladwell to Wolfgang Puck to Annie Leibowitz teaching what they know best. You can even learn more about building a platform from Michael Hyatt who has a book, magazine and website with lots of resources.

Tip #2: Explore New Mediums


It seems that every few months a new communication medium appears – animated videos, podcasts, Facebook Live, etc.. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and just stick to what you know, ignoring these options as just a fad. Yet, our audiences expect us to master some of these mediums so we can make our content available. So what’s a thought leader to do?

I advise the practice of “strategic ubiquity,” which means we don’t need to be everywhere but we do need to be everywhere our key target audiences expect us to be. For example, if you’re targeting CEO’s of Fortune 50 companies you would be wise to ignore Facebook Live as your medium of choice. On the other hand, if you’re speaking to educators, you may find that podcasts are worth exploring.

Ask your audiences where they spend their time and what mediums they prefer receiving information similar to what you are sharing. Then test to be sure that what they say matches what they actually do. It doesn’t pay to invest in a video studio in your basement before you know that your initial videos are getting a positive response. Don’t know how to get started? See #1 above. There are always books, videos and online classes on any new medium to get you started.

Tip #3: Become More Shareable


Here is a short quote from my book, Ready to Be a Thought Leader?. “Ideas light up the world if they resonate with your audience. Ideas resonate if people find the message relevant and the messenger credible. They resonate if the message is clear and easy to understand and if it is received in the appropriate milieu (platform, context, timing). Once someone hears a message that excites them, they are likely to tell others. This extends your reach.”

Thus, to increase your audience and your number of followers, you have to make your ideas shareable. They have to be packaged in such a way that they are memorable and repeatable and even re-tweetable. Avoid jargon, simplify your sentences, take the time to clarify and distill complicated ideas into their building blocks. The goal is not to ‘dumb down’ what you’re saying but instead to ‘uncomplexify’ your ideas so that even your mother can understand you.