Influence and Thought Leadership: What’s The Difference? And Where Do You Fall?

by mmb_dev Leave a Comment

This article was peer reviewed and approved by:

Ana Lee Hjelm

Co-founder, Bold Empowerment

Ana Lee is the co-founder of Bold Empowerment, a lifestyle movement that encompasses a natural approach to everyday living with essential oils but also invests in creating a whole life optimization. She is a wife, mom of three children, loyal friend, volunteer, and entrepreneur. Ana Lee loves connecting with others on a similar journey.

Discover how essential oils and a supportive community can help you achieve your top health goals. Schedule a free Wellness Consultation by sending a message to Ana Lee through her social channels.

review photo

Influence and Thought Leadership: What’s The Difference? And which one are you?

By now you’ve heard a colossal amount of buzzwords in personal branding – personas, goals, strategies, content, and so on – and you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed. Don’t sweat it – we will cover how you can use influence and thought leadership to grow your brand.

Let’s make it simple and break these terms down:

Influencer: [in-floo-uh n-ser] noun. a person who has the power to influence many people, as through social media or traditional media

Thought Leader: [thawt lee-der] noun. one whose views on a subject are taken to be authoritative and influential

Okay, now that we’ve covered the literal dictionary definitions, let’s dig a little deeper.


Influencers have the ability to tip the scales of society and sway public opinion towards the brands they prefer – driving brand awareness, traction, and sales their way. Influence is powered by relevance, reach and resonance and is used more often than you may notice to drive a brand’s success.

Influencers can range from Kendall Jenner, who has nearly 100 million followers and represents high fashion brands, to your favorite local foodie, who’s quaint but loyal following awaits their next restaurant review.

How to Become an Influencer

The key to having influence is creating significant content that reaches the right audience and encourages high engagement. Becoming an influencer doesn’t happen overnight – you have to build trust with your audience to develop a tribe of people who are genuinely interested in you and love the content that you produce. The audience that you are trying to reach is unique to your brand, so pinpoint your target audience and build your content around what they are looking for.

But you can’t stop there.

Building your brand requires A LOT of attention to your tribe. For anyone willing to take the time out of their day to message you or comment on your content, you need to repay them with a response. This is how you can feed your tribe by giving them useful advice or allowing them to get to know you a little better!

Track your growth to no end. Make sure you that you have a benchmark to base your future growth on, so note your current audience including your followers and engagements. To find your engagement rate, just divide the number of likes and comments on a single post by the number of followers your account has. If you’re more of a numbers person, here is the formula:

(Likes + Comments) ÷ Followers = Engagement Rate

The most important part of building influence is being consistent. Every week, you remember that your favorite show is every Thursday night on NBC right? Take that logic and apply it to your personal brand. Make sure that your tribe knows what to expect from you and when; whether that’s Monday morning inspiration or Friday night freebies.

Grow your tribe by reaching out to other influencers in your field. Doing this will help both of you grow your following and reach more members of your tribe. Consider promoting each other by offering great content from the both of you. From shoutouts to live video collaborations, there are many ways to work with other influencers depending on the social media medium you are using.

Thought Leadership

Thought leadership is your character, integrity, and reputation as a credible voice in your community. Your natural ability to lead a dedicated community, combined with your unique skills and life experiences enable you to reach out to your tribe and grow as a thought-leader. Overall, thought leaders use their reputation to lead their community to new and insightful ideas and gain admiration for their contribution to the community.

Where thought-leaders and influencers differ is in their expertise and audience. Thought-leaders possess the knowledge, character, and integrity that members of society look to for superior and up-to-date information through blogs, newsletters, and articles. Whereas influencers are more focused on gaining an audience in the form of Instagram followers, Facebook likes, Twitter followers, and so on, to exert their influence on an ever-growing audience.

What you need to know is thought leaders have the experience, intelligence, and reputable authority to inform and lead their industry while influencers possess a highly attentive audience – whether wide-reaching or micro-targeted – that can be utilized to sway public interest towards a particular brand.

So where does that leave you?

What are you thinking? Where does your personal brand fall? Are you more of an Influencer – looking to grow a following and influence them? Or do you align more with thought leadership – you want to be an authority in your field with a trusted opinion?

Are you stuck in the middle? That’s okay!

Don’t feel like you have to stick to one of these paths to be successful – you are more than capable of doing both. If you feel that your strength is with your expertise, you should focus on your knowledge and skills to build up your thought leadership, as you have already prepared for in your career. If you’re more comfortable reaching out and gaining influence on social media, you should focus more on becoming an influencer, as your ambitions match this path well.

Developing a good mix of the two is a great way to get the best of both worlds. As you grow your personal brand, odds are that you’ll end up dabbling in both of these to show your knowledge and value while reaching out to more people on social media.

Wherever you find yourself in this buzzword battle, MyModernBrand is here to help you figure it out. Give us a shout out on social media if you have any questions, we’d love to hear from you!

Spread the love
mmb_devInfluence and Thought Leadership: What’s The Difference? And Where Do You Fall?
Subscribe to Veronica's weekly letter "From V to You" so you can grow your business and personal brand as she shares what's working for her behind-the-scenes.