Honey Copy

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Riffs on marketing, writing, creativity and life ––

How to become a thought leader on LinkedIn (without looking like an asshat).

Becoming a thought leader on LinkedIn isn’t unlike becoming a top dog in the world of Goodfellas. There are a lot of dogs in the game (many of whom like the sound of their bark), but only a select few who can actually get out and hunt.

With that said, I’ve recently come to the conclusion that there are three types of thought leaders on LinkedIn…

One… the reincarnation of Seth Godin.

The most common thought leader you will find on LinkedIn is the one who doesn’t share any sort of original thought, but instead regurgitates everything he reads on Seth Godin’s blog.

I say he because this particular type of thought leader seems to be primarily male.

He is generally white, very skinny, bald as a bat and for whatever reason thinks he is the reincarnation of arguably the greatest marketer of all time, Seth Godin.

Unfortunately, there will only ever be one Godin. I know this. You know this. The world knows this.

So, when we stumble upon these reincarnations of Seth Godin, we feel cheated, swindled… like we bit into a plastic burger.

It leaves a taste in our mouths not dissimilar to how a bad fart smells.

I, once upon a time, was a reincarnation of Seth Godin. I love Seth Godin. But, I eventually followed the advice of the late great Oscar Wilde…

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

Two… the village idiot.

The village idiot is a challenging one. It’s challenging because most idiots don’t know they’re idiots.

The village idiot is the thought leader who attempts to be a thought leader but unfortunately doesn’t have the chops to be a thought leader, so instead comes across sounding like a pretentious asshat.

An unfortunate reality of thought leadership is that not everyone can be a thought leaders. Why? Because of the fucking word “leader”. If everyone was a thought leader, there would be no thought leader, there would simply be thought followers.

My only advice here is the following… receiving 400 likes on a LinkedIn post doesn’t make you rich, it doesn’t make you intelligent, it doesn’t get you into heaven (if there is a heaven) and it certainly doesn’t make you a great employee.

In fact, I’m surprised it doesn’t get more people fired.

I am astonished by the number of full-time employee - thought leaders on LinkedIn who seem to constantly be active.

I’ve expressed in numerous articles that I will never hire an employee because I’m not a good leader… but if I did have an employee I was paying $70k+ a year to write copy… I’d tell them to get their fucking asses off LinkedIn while they’re on the clock.

Three… The actual thought leader.

Every once in a great while, you will find a unicorn… the rare exception that is actually a thought leader.

These are wildly difficult to find because the vast majority of thought leaders aren’t spending their time looking for hand-jobs on LinkedIn, they’re instead out making actual change in the world happen.

Ironically, three thought leaders, I know personally (who are actually thought leaders) are white and bald but much stockier than Godin…

Eddie Shleyner at Very Good Copy and Christopher Lochhead who heads the Follow Your Different podcast and Andrew Holliday over at Special Sauce.

(I can pick on their baldness because I’m not too far behind them).

Now, with all that said, I think it should be illegal to moan and complain about something if you don’t have any solutions to the shit you’re moaning and complaining about.

So, I would like to give some very candid advice on how to become a thought leader on LinkedIn (without looking like an asshat)…

How to become a thought leader on LinkedIn from someone who isn’t a thought leader on LinkedIn.

I would begin by saying… get the fuck off LinkedIn.

I used to play the social media game. I read all the poorly written articles about how you can “make a fortune” building a following on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

But, I eventually called bullshit.

My site, Honey Copy gets between 30,000 - 40,000 visits a month due to the absurd amount of SEO powered articles I’ve written the past couple years and it sports an email list that is approaching 6,000 subscribers.

Likes and comments on LinkedIn are very much vanity metrics. It feels good. It’s a nice fat line of cocaine for our egos. But, to use a business buzzword… it doesn’t do much to move the needle.

I’m not spouting out bullshit here. I’ve got proof.

To date, I’ve sold $23,000 worth of my copywriting guide ––$22,903 of that moolah has come through my email list and organic traffic to my blog.

Guess how many sales LinkedIn has gotten me? One.

So, if you are using LinkedIn because you think it drives sales, you’re wasting your time.

You’re much better off cold emailing, figuring out ways to drive traffic to your own site or spending time actually killing it in your career (versus talking about killing it on LinkedIn).

Additionally, while LinkedIn might give you the ego caressing you’re after, I don’t think it is ever a good idea to build your business on someone else’s property. Instead, build a spaceship.

Just ask the Vine influencers back in 2016. They had a good run, probably made some nice money for a while, but eventually, the platform went kaboom and so did their careers.

Instagram influencers are currently experiencing the same thing. Pretty sun-kissed people who once got paid crazy bucks to travel the world are finding themselves back at their shitty jobs because they never took the time to consider life after Instagram.

Lastly, and this will be my final few points… the vast majority of thought leaders I know don’t think of themselves as thought leaders nor did they ever aspire to be thought leaders.

Instead, they did the following…

  • They made really cool shit over and over again and shared it with the world… (a clever LinkedIn post doesn’t count as making cool shit)… we’re talking blogs, podcasts, courses, products, newsletters, etc.

  • They marched to the beat of their own drum… while they certainly had sources of inspiration, I have found the vast majority of thought leaders I know are extraordinarily unique, there is no one else like them.

  • They became really fucking good at one thing… Eddie Shleyner will go down as one of the greatest copywriters to ever live because of the relentless dedication he has shown (and will continue to show) his craft. He will also go down as a thought leader. But, only because he was after something deeper, something more specific.

Yes. That’s what I would say all this boils down to. Don’t aspire to be a thought leader but instead a craftsman. Seek to make great work and art, again and again and again.

But, I digress.

By Cole Schafer.


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Cole Schafer