“Thought leadership” may sound like something out of sci-fi movie but, for those dedicated to digital marketing, it represents a new and proven form of forging ahead in business. Becoming a thought leader is more than just paying attention to one’s presence in the field; it involves a constant attention to detail and knowledge creation. To become an authority in your chosen industry, however, is not a fast or easy process. Instead, with time, trust, an effective approach, thought leadership may come to you.

Author and consultant Simon Sinek argues for a philosophy of business that begins with “why.” To “Start With Why,” Sinek says, we must recognize that people aren’t convinced by what we do as much as why we do it. People will always be drawn to those with clearly articulated thoughts, ideas, and motivations that they can understand and get on board with. The following three tips are a good place to start with thought leadership.

1. Have an active, consistent, professional, and engaging social media presence that works for your company and your audience

An active social media profile across all platforms that may reach your target audience is essential. While adding to your accessibility and discoverability on the internet, regularly publishing quality content will also boost your credibility by showing how dedicated you are to the field. It is important to display a consistent image across media but, at the same time, you should feel free to experiment with various types of content, from video to infographics.

A professional standard to your written online content is a must. This means your social media profiles, as well as your website, must be written so that someone may read them and think “thought leader.” This doesn’t mean people will instantly start to recognize your thought leadership, but it does mean your engagements with them will start to put yourself in the position of a thought leader. These engagements, then, must be frequent. It is not enough to set up this social media presence; one must maintain it and practice it by engaging and putting your audience first.

2. Build authority in your field through creating and sharing knowledge and research

Authority in thought leadership comes from a position of teaching. By conducting original research that produces specific data, people will come to respect your place as one of knowledge. This research may be as simple as questionnaires or surveys or as complex as case studies or special reports.

Sharing knowledge with your target audience – while adding your own opinion or spin – helps to cement your place as someone who can teach, and helps your audience to feel more intelligent while reading your content. The experience of being taught something useful and interesting will cause you to appear as someone who uses credible information and verifies sources before sharing it.

3. Develop trust for yourself so that you may be respected as a thought leader

The final and most important aspect of thought leadership has been hinted at in the steps described above. What does an audience need to recognize your credibility, create a community around you, and understand and accept the knowledge you share with them? The answer is simple: trust.

Don’t oversell yourself; don’t build yourself up unnecessarily – remember to let your “why” speak for you. Being visible and active is all for nothing if you are not trusted. Thought leadership begins with “why” but can end with an established, sustainable position in your field that lets you share your expertise with a wide audience in a relationship built on trust.