Connecting through thought leadership: nurturing and keeping your audience

Thought leadership requires generosity – it requires sharing your findings, expertise, and ideas in a way that allows other people to find insights and learn from them.

But how do you create and keep an audience who actually want to hear those ideas?

You might’ve read our previous blog sharing how thought leaders can build their audience and community – but nurturing your audience once you’ve connected with them is just as important a step.

An audience that continues to engage with your ideas and thinking will keep your thought leadership moving and developing. They’ll challenge your thinking, recommend other ideas you might not have considered, and help spread the word about you with others they think should get on board. It involves having a lot of conversations and giving a lot of value – but it’s so worth it.

Sharing and conversing

To keep your audience engaged, you have to say something – plus you have to listen.

Building a community is about conversations, not content. You often need content to spark those conversations, but the focus should always be on building connections and taking the conversation further. A lot of people think you need to be the loudest foghorn, constantly blasting out content about your own business – but when you learn to engage in meaningful conversations (and create content that starts those conversations), that’s when you really get an engaged audience.

What kind of content works best will vary for everyone, so it’s about experimenting to see what people like. It’s not about what might be getting the best reach; instead you could look at what people are commenting on and reading proactively. Which blog posts are people visiting the most, or which videos are getting shared? Which of your content pieces inspire others to create their own? Which ones make someone pick up the phone and call you?

Figuring out the content that sparks conversation with your audience takes time. Take the opportunity to experiment with different forms of content, the channels you post on, and the times and days you publish content. Then remember to always respond to comments, and ask questions that will encourage people to think.

Adding value

Great thought leaders always give back to their community and the people they’re here to serve. They share their expertise freely, adding value to people’s work or lives that helps make things that little bit better. Providing your audience with value is one of the most important things you can do to ensure they stay engaged with you – but how do you go about it?

Firstly, engage with your community’s content. If you’re using LinkedIn, comment on their content too and always respond to any comments on your own. As your audience grows, you may not be able to do this with everyone – but if you can do it with enough people at the beginning, you’ll build real connections and create promoters.

Secondly, think about how you can add value to conversations that are already being had – what hot topics are in the news or are all over social media? What social justice issues are you passionate about?

If you’re simply saying the same thing as everyone else, you’re probably just adding to the noise. But if you can add your own unique commentary to it, give people something different to ponder, or have a tool that can help them deal with that issue, then you’ll be providing huge value ­– and you’ll be seen as a leader.

Most importantly though, keep evolving your thinking. You never stop learning. You are constantly absorbing new information, ideas, and inspiration – so why wouldn’t you put all of that goodness into your content and offerings? A great thought leader is open to new thinking because it’ll sharpen their positioning and elevate their impact.

If you’re consistently evolving your own thinking, and sharing that in a way that allows your audience to do the same, they’ll evolve with you and come on the journey too.

Create your ecosystem

When nurturing your audience and ensuring they stay engaged with your ideas, remember to make sure there’s a way for them to consistently see you again and again.

In an ideal world, they will be on your database – so make sure your socials or website show a clear way for people to sign up. At the very least, make sure you’re connected to them in some way (i.e. LinkedIn) but remember that social media can change at any point!

Then, once they’ve engaged with you, consider what opportunities you’re giving them to work with you. Have you got a course that they can jump on to learn more from you? Are you making it clear how they can work with you as a consultant or a coach? Do you communicate how you can further add value for them?

It’s not about constantly selling yourself – but it is about making it easy for them to engage with you further. People will reach out if they see an opportunity, so be sure you are giving people the space to do so.

Creating a relationship with your audience

Building an audience is one thing ­– but keeping them is an act that requires just as much work. It takes a sustained effort to ensure you’re having helpful conversation, creating an ecosystem for your audience, and always giving value.

The great thing is that it’s like the snowball effect. As you go, it’ll get easier and easier. Keeping these three basic principles in everything you do will continue to grow your engaged, connected and intelligent community – who give just as much to you as you give to them.