Build Thought Leadership During An Internet Break

By: Christina Hager

This article originally appeared on Forbes on November 27, 2019.

I know, I know: The title of this article might sound contradictory. Why would you want to build your brand while taking time off?

The idea came to me while on my recent maternity leave. As a social media and digital strategist, I build my own personal thought leadership with articles like this one, designed to help individuals, businesses and organizations. I update and publish to my various channels strategically, creating content and using distribution methods that make sense for my audience, and I teach my clients how to do this for themselves.

But that all changed during my maternity leave. Preparing for my leave, I was extremely busy setting up clients for success during my time away. However, with my baby arriving two weeks early, I hadn’t yet put into place a strategy for my own social media during my time off.

I considered all of the business and organizational leaders in a similar position — not just those going on maternity leave, but those needing surgery, those who must take care of a sick loved one or those planning a long sabbatical or vacation.

It would be terrible to work months or years to increase
your thought leadership and establish your brand across
social media channels only to let everything lapse
while you are away. What are some top techniques
you can use while offline?

1. Curate Content Before You Leave

Share articles about your niche field without writing them yourself. Whether you’re an attorney, neurosurgeon or public speaker, find articles from reputable media outlets, and share them with your network. Not sure where to find those articles? Make a list of the top 5 or 10 topics you cover. If you are a business consultant, it may be the future of work, employee engagement, automation, etc. Set up a Google alert for these topics for a month before you go on your break. Pro tip: Set parameters for how many times a week or day you want to receive alerts — otherwise, you will flood your inbox!

Next, start a document or spreadsheet with the URLs for these articles, as well as a line or two of commentary with your position or opinion on them. Don’t forget to list some hashtags to go with each of them. If you do this, you will quickly have a week or month’s worth of curated content to share in no time.

When it comes to your own content, take a look at your blog or LinkedIn articles, and determine the ones that got the most attention in the previous year. Take those top performers, and change them a bit — it might be updating them with current data, changing the title, or adding an anecdote or something learned in the last year. Now you are in a position to redistribute them, and Google will recrawl them as new content! This is excellent news for you, your search engine optimization (SEO) and your thought leadership efforts.

2. Make A Plan For Distribution

After gathering all the articles, blogs and videos, decide how you will execute on the distribution. The best solution I can offer is to use a scheduling tool such as Hootsuite, Buffer, SocialPilot or Sendible. There are many tools that you can use to schedule LinkedIn posts, as well as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc., but the aforementioned are my favorites.

My top tip for scheduling is to spread out your content so it hits your channels when your followers or viewers are active on each one. Don’t post to LinkedIn at 2 a.m., or to Facebook at 6 a.m. Instead, schedule for when your particular demographic is online on each channel. Not sure? Check your audience insights on each channel. Still don’t know? Choose the most popular times for those channels, such as posting to LinkedIn during the lunch hour.

3. Get Outside Support

You can build brand awareness and identity by scheduling content to go up during your time off, but the missing piece is engagement. You can’t encourage engagement when you won’t be able to engage with your audience. If you’re on a vacation overseas, recovering from surgery or on maternity leave, hire someone to help you.

For scheduling content, anyone who is familiar with social media can follow your spreadsheet of links and content. You might hire a virtual assistant, young social media marketer or college student wanting to try their hand at marketing. Be sure to clearly outline the piece of content, the channel it should go on, the time and date to post, and any necessary hashtags or tagging.

When it comes to the engagement piece and someone truly managing your account, this means someone will be writing and commenting on your behalf. They must be extremely familiar with your work, your brand and your voice, in addition to being completely trustworthy. This is not an easy relationship to hire for or develop. As someone who has managed and taken over several accounts over the last few years, I know the level of trust required.

If you are going to trust someone in your channels to “be you” for a while, this is a relationship you need to start exploring long before it’s time to leave. Set up a policy for them on what they can and can’t share. Make sure they know your voice really well and the type of language you use. Do you use humor and puns? Do you want everything to read casually or more formally? Prepare a list of hashtags, and have them start before you go on leave so you can give feedback on what they are scheduling and posting on your behalf.

Time away is important for recharging, but it doesn’t have
mean a pause in your thought leadership efforts.
With great strategy and preplanning, your brand should
be right on track when you return to the office.

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