Social media communities and forums provide some of the best platforms for building thought leadership in the digital space. Strategically targeted, interaction within these platforms can complement an organization’s in-person engagement efforts.

Businesses with an official website blog that they update on a regular basis to share knowledge, sets them up to attract new visitors, since an official website is one of the first places people go to research a business. Blogging can help a website’s traffic and exposure, as well as it’s visibility in searches. It has the added benefit of  keeping visitors engaged for longer periods of time on a site.

For businesses building their brand name, an excellent strategy is to have  guest bloggers. These can be employees, partners or brand ambassadors.  Businesses can also submit blog posts that are not already on their corporate blog to niche blog aggregators like Mashable (with an estimated 2.1 M monthly unique U.S. visitors as of October 2013) and Moz (with an estimated 37.1 M visits over September 2013).

The reputation of these sites is already well established, and they receive a high level of traffic. Posts on aggregators like Mashable and Moz can link back to a website or landing page, adding SEO and lead gen value in addition to the enhanced thought leadership strategy for the company.

As part of efforts to expand reach of blog readership, blog posts can be shared across various social networks where a target audience is most active. Interacting directly on these networks can provide additional opportunities to enhance thought leadership for a company.

Take Google Plus Communities for example. With an estimated 343 M users (June 2013). the Google Plus network currently has close to 140 K communities.  The Google Plus digital platform provides companies with  target audiences that are  easy-to-find, organized, active and engaged. A business can segment their audience further by adding users to circle lists helping to target potential customers even further. By utilizing already formed communities companies time in the initial search phase and can more easily define their target markets within this ever expanding social platform.

LinkedIn, a business to business network that allows one to connect and build relationships with others in their industry, also provides a rich arena for targeting a key audience. While establishing trust within a brand and its representatives, being connected to key influencers who already have some credibility can be helpful. By then turning these industry leaders into brand ambassadors, one can both expand their reach and build credibility with users.

Thought leadership content that is informative and engaging is only a first step. For social networks like Google Plus and LinkedIn being a credible source for imparted words of wisdom is fundamental.

Digital Thought Leadership Fishies

Participation in forums  can also be very influential in creating a reputation for thought leadership.  A focus on Q&A within a forum strategy can be very helpful to enhancing your reputation as a thought leader and helpful advisor.  This strategy follows the sage approach that  people want to first understand what you can do for them. Q&A forums provide a space for web users to ask questions about topics that interest them. When choosing which forums to participate in, thought leaders should consider topics they have experience and expertise in as well as where their target audience is most likely to be found.

Forums can be broken down into two categories: general and niche. General forums can be useful if the business goal is to bring in more client/customer leads. If a user doesn’t have an initial need or interest in certain topics, one can tactfully introduce the user to the topic(s) and build that need or interest.

Quora and Klout Experts are two of the top general forums. As of September 30th, 2013, Quora gets an average of 1 M unique visitors a month. This means potentially the same number of visitors may be exposed to a member’s comments and posts. Industry professionals were initially using Klout scores as one measurement of community influence, but Klout Experts gives them a way to show why they are influential.

Niche forums are most used by those who are interested in building relationships with other industry professionals within the digital community.  Warrior Forum and Digital Point are a good place to start if this is the goal.

Top 10 Thought Leadership Resources

1.   Official Company Blog
2.   Guest Blog Aggregators
3.   Google Plus Communities
4.   LinkedIn Network 
5.   Quora
6.   Klout Experts
7.   Yahoo! Answers
8.   Answers.com
9.   Warrior Forum
10. Digital Point

For further reading on the thought leadership, check out these articles:

1. What is Thought Leadership and Why Do You Need It?
2. Three Steps to Becoming a Thought Leader in Your Industry
3. How to Become a Thought Leader