Establishing Thought Leadership: #Vanlife

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When we talk about influencers at My Networks, we’re not just talking about the latest Kim Kardashian! We’re talking about Thought Leadership…the process of innovative thinking, bringing a new perspective to the world (a challenge in today’s Dragons’ Den climate), and inspiring large-scale ideas or movements.

Let’s take a look at Van Life as an example…a new generational trend taking the digital world by a very aesthetically-pleasing 60s-resurrecting storm… (wasn’t that a mouthful!).

Foster Huntington quit his job as a designer at Ralph Lauren at the age of 23. After moving out of his apartment, he took up residence in his van where it wasn’t long before he created the hashtag #vanlife in 2011. Right there…in the early years of Instagram… he documented his wanderlust and quite literally started one of the largest lifestyle movements known today. 

Together with his 1987 Volkswagen Vanagon, Huntington seduced his fellow free-spirits with photos of waking up by the ocean or beneath the great redwoods of California. Initially a joking reference to Tupac’s Thug Life, Van Life has come to represent more than living in a van…but road trips, freedom from a traditional 9-5 job (#digitalnomads), connection to nature, and minimalistic living (yet another trend in the world of Thought Leadership). It is the perfect example of how Thought Leadership can inspire community, offer guidance and support, and challenge the status quo. 

Here’s a few ways your business can establish Thought Leadership:

1/ Does it have value?

Have you ever posted (or said!) something mediocre just because you felt like you should? 

“I haven’t posted in two days…let’s get something out quickly.”

“Maybe I should say something right now because I need to get his attention before he leaves.”

When establishing Thought Leadership, it’s important to consider your speech and values. Share thoughts that matter. Share thoughts that make the right impact. Share thoughts about topics you are knowledgeable about. And don’t speak just because “maybe I should add a comment right now”.

2/ Are they saying JINX padlock?

We’ve said it before and you definitely already know this one…but here at My Networks it’s one of our top priorities and a chance to separate ourselves from the crowd.  

Say. Something. Different. (Please). 

In areas like Marketing, for example, it’s so easy to see the same content regurgitated. This blog post is our own attempt at establishing some Thought Leadership (how are we doing?).   

We blog to show our expertise and our own take on certain topics. It takes longer to come up with a concept to write about than a social post, however hopefully offers some food for thought. The same applies to Huntington and the reason Van Life was a hit (with over 8 million posts and counting), because it was new, it was fresh, it was inspiring, and it created a feeling.

3/ Did you know…?

It’s no secret you have to have an in-depth understanding of something to become a Thought Leader. Like the saying goes about writing fiction… 

“An author writes what they know. They write about their own experiences through their characters.” 

This very same theory can be applied to Thought Leaders. They speak about their passions, their knowledge, and their insight. For example, a chocolate connoisseur (probably) is not create a movement on the Hamburger. Nor is a leading scientist going to inspire a new perspective on Search Engine Optimization (SEO)! That’s not to say an individual can’t possess multiple interests. We love hearing about the actor who plays piano (Anthony Hopkins) and the child who wants to be an engineer but also loves to cook. Needless to say, Thought Leadership requires dedicated expertise to create large-scale awareness.

4/ You probably think this song is about you

Purpose…It’s at the center of everything we do. But what is the purpose of Thought Leadership?  

Rather than a method to achieve more clients or more revenue, it should be something personal, something that moves beyond its relation to yourself, and something into which you have invested time to pursue at a deeper connection. Although we are certainly not promoting you quit your day job like Huntington…we would like to raise the question: would people have taken him seriously if he was only a part-time Van Lifer?

“The job of leadership today is not just to make money. It is to make meaning.” – John Hagel

“Leaders become great not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others.” – John Maxwell

5/ Did Humans Come From Monkeys? 

Even long after you have become an expert and Thought Leader, the evolution never stops.

Make sure you stay up-to-date with new approaches, keep updating your own theories, connect continuously with your community (in-person and online) and share, share, share. 

How will you inspire Thought Leadership today?

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