These days, building an empire from your online reputation is no longer novel. In most ways this is a good thing. The barriers have been lowered, and anyone with the knowledge and dedication can market themselves as an expert in their field. But with lower barriers comes more competition – and the competition is steeper than ever.
You may be a much better expert than the self-proclaimed guru with 20,000 followers – but that hardly matters when he or she has a bigger audience. As we all know, the benefits of being a recognized expert in your field are plenty – but in a sea of myriad voices, how do you make yours heard?
Before you embark on your thought leadership crusade, first thing’s first. Most likely you are not the first or only expert in your field, so you’ll need to find what differentiates you from the crowd. That doesn’t mean creating a catchy slogan or finding ways to generate hype. It just means honing in on what makes your perspective unique. Everyone has a history of personal experience that makes their viewpoint unique, and it can be anything from family background to a particular individual’s career journey. It helps to focus on what your core value is as an expert, and the experiences that have informed your point of view. What’s your story and why should people listen to your opinion or advice? This is an important first step that will shape the way you go on to present and market your expertise. Remember, if you don’t distinguish yourself, it’s unlikely anyone else will either.
Develop and Demonstrate Your Credentials
Let’s face it. Anyone can call themselves an expert, but few self-proclaimed experts are truly as remarkable as they claim. Most people understand that which is why they want proof in the form of credentials. Education and professional credentials carry the most weight in validating a person’s expertise; for some fields even, these credentials are obligatory (no one wants to find out that their health adviser is not accredited!). Perhaps your expertise comes from avenues other than your education or work experience. That’s fine, but you’ll need to demonstrate how that experience is a comparable (or better) substitute for professional and academic qualifications. Your story and the knowledge you share can go a long way in that respect, as well as publications or case studies you’ve authored, events you’ve spoken at, or any accolades you’ve received.
In the end, a lack of credentials can hurt your credibility or worse, suggest misrepresentation – so it’s important to back up your expertise, up front. Finally, even if you already have some credentials under your belt, that’s no reason to stop acquiring them. Truly respected experts stay at the forefront of their field, and continual learning is the hallmark of a thought leader.
Share Your Knowledge
Knowledge sharing is not only expected of experts in the digital economy, it’s one of the best ways to establish your authority. If you want to be seen as an expert online, you need to be sharing your expertise. In the marketing world, this is simply called content marketing and there are many ways in which to do it – but whether you blog, podcast or simply tweet on the regular, there are a few things to keep in mind. One, it’s important to be strategic about it. Keep it focused to your subject of expertise and only share quality content that will reinforce your brand. Don’t attempt to use every tool in the book; instead, find the channel/s that best reach your target audience, and focus on doing those well. Second, understand this is a long game that requires dedication, patience and a significant time investment. Producing and/or curating quality content is a time consuming endeavor, and if you truly want to maximize your impact you’ll need to be persistent. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was Buzzfeed’s pageviews.
Audiences take time to build, and their regard is contingent on the quality, proportion, and frequency of what you share. Finally, the best content producers continually monitor the performance of their content, and then optimize it to better serve their audience. If you have a solid understanding of what your audience wants, you’re more likely to keep them interested, as well as gain new followers. Don’t forget you can boost your digital efforts by sharing your knowledge offline as well, such as teaching a course or speaking at industry events.
The most popular online experts are often popular because of their accessibility. These experts have an uncanny ability to make their information easy to read and understand, without devaluing it. Keep in mind that people don’t gravitate toward boring and complicated, but they don’t like to be treated like two-year-olds either. Your content should be engaging and accessible without being so dumbed down that it compromises the value of what you’re sharing. Plus, the last thing you want to do is come off as disrespecting your audience’s intelligence. Some pointers on making information more accessible:
Just as important as making your expertise accessible is being accessible yourself. Make a point to stay connected with your audience and community. Engage in conversations with other experts in your field, respond to your audience’s comments or questions, give appreciation, and make yourself available for advice. You will find that your accessibility opens up more opportunities to build relationships and share your expertise.
This is an authority building tactic that packs a punch. Getting mentioned or quoted in the media lends you the type of credibility that self-promotion and advertising cannot. Plus, the more press you get, the more credibility you have, and the easier it will be to get more media attention. If you’re starting from scratch, this can seem like a daunting task – but it’s not as challenging as it seems, provided you’re willing to take the time.
Start out by following and connecting with the media outlets and people that are relevant to your expertise. Understand what kinds of stories they’re publishing and how you can provide value to their audience, and learn how to write a good pitch. Once you have a handle on all of those things, you can start pitching the media story ideas or guest articles/posts. Consider using one of several free or paid services that alert you to media requests, or save time by using a service that monitors requests and does the pitching for you. Once you start to get some media mentions, don’t forget to make them visible on your website’s press page!
Interested in more tips or have a question? Feel free to reach out to us @bitesizepr!