How do you measure thought leadership?

measure thought leadership

For many years, this blog has emphasized earning an audience through thought leadership (authority) rather than rolling the dice, hoping for SEO for traffic. I never thought “hope” was much of a strategy!

100 percent human contentWith the profound disruption from AI, the view of earning authority independent of algorithms seems more relevant than ever. Build your audience, build your own mailing list, and control your destiny. The main engine for this is content. You need to show up in the world to have authority, which means consistently publishing helpful, meaningful content.

One persistent question is, how do you know if it’s working? How do you measure thought leadership? I teach this topic in my personal branding master class, so I thought bringing it to you today would be useful.

There are four major buckets of success:

1. Awareness

If you are building a personal brand, you want to be known and that means people have to be aware of us. Luckily for us living in this digital age, we have plenty of easily available metrics to show progress

  • Website Traffic—If we’re creating authoritative content well, we should see a lift in website traffic as people discover and share our work.
  • SubscriptionsI recently wrote that this was really my only metric at this point in my career. There are lot of issues that can affect web traffic, but when people subscribe to my blog, podcast, or videos, it is a reflection of the quality of what I’m doing. These subscribers are “opting in” to me. They are my future customers.
  • EngagementI’m not a fan of engagement as a corporate success metric but it can be a sign that you’re interesting. And “interesting” is a leading indicator of new subscribers.

2. Qualitative measures

Sometimes success is hard to “count.” It can be a sign from the world that people see your authority building. Things like:

  • Questions — Are people asking you questions after seeing your content? That’s a sign of a high level of interest in what you’re publishing
  • Emails — Most of the interaction with my blog and podcast comes in the form of emails these days. Don’t ignore email messages as a powerful sign that people care.
  • Interviews—Are you being asked to appear on a podcast, contribute to a blog post, or participate in research? One of the highest signs of progress for me was being asked to participate in a Pew Research Study on media trends. I was seen as an authority!
  • Reviews and testimonies — This could come through LinkedIn, a Google review, or an industry site.

3. Paydays

The dream is to be so well respected as a thought leader that people will pay us for what we do. It shows you are hitting the big time when people want to pay you for:

  • Public speaking
  • Coaching and consulting
  • Advocating a business or product as an influencer
  • Hosting a paid event, workshop, or seminar

4. Intrinsic personal reward

Do you have a sense of personal satisfaction about your progress?

  • In the past year, every speaking event has provided personal limousine service for my ground transportation. Sitting in the back of a big Cadillac SUV, I thought, “Well, this wouldn’t have happened 10 years ago!” I felt proud.
  • Another symbol of progress is receiving a note from someone who said I helped them, or even changed their life, through the Uprising retreat or a class. You can’t put that on a spreadsheet or a Pareto diagram. It doesn’t pay the bills. But how lucky am I to have an impact on lives?
  • There’s nothing nicer than seeing a social media post from somebody claiming that I’m “their favorite.” It’s important for a thought leader to be “top of mind.” But it’s even more important to be “top of heart.” What a wonderful personal reward. Better than money.

There’s no stopping

One of the things I teach in my classes is that building a personal brand and thought leadership is not a program or campaign. It becomes part of your lifestyle. If you want to go for it, you have to commit to it, just as an athlete grinds to make the pros, or a musician pays their dues to have a career.

But I can also tell you that it’s worth it.

A few years ago, I was invited to Oxford, England to give a speech to MBA classes. On the train back to London that night, I marveled at this experience. I grew up in such modest circumstances and now I was speaking in Oxford. I wanted to bottle up that feeling and hold onto to it forever.

What an amazing time we live in. It doesn’t matter where you’ve been or who you are. Influence has been democratized. You can make a dent in this world.

Need a keynote speaker? Mark Schaefer is the most trusted voice in marketing. Your conference guests will buzz about his insights long after your event! Mark is the author of some of the world’s bestselling marketing books, a college educator, and an advisor to many of the world’s largest brands. Contact Mark to have him bring a fun, meaningful, and memorable presentation to your company event or conference.

Follow Mark on TwitterLinkedInYouTube, and Instagram

Illustration courtesy MidJourney

All posts

The Marketing Companion Podcast

Why not tune into the world’s most entertaining marketing podcast!

View details

Let's plot a strategy together

Want to solve big marketing problems for a little bit of money? Sign up for an hour of Mark’s time and put your business on the fast-track.

View details

Share via