Using Social Media to Build Authority

by Jeff Quipp March 5th, 2008 

OK, so we all agree that social media traffic converts extremely poorly. However, can it be used help to build authority?

This is the 6th post in the series about Authority Building. The previous 5 are:

In this post, I'll delve into the use of Social Media as a tool in our authority building toolkit.

I have to admit, I was intrigued at one SMX West session when one of the best known authorities in our space (Rand Fishkin) began a session by saying that SEOmoz owes much of its success to social media. There you have it ... social media can play a tremendous role in building authority.

The Question:
So, how can social media be used to help build authority? For our purposes, lets define social media as social bookmarking (eg. Delicious), social networking (eg. Linkedin), social tagging (Stumbleupon) and social news (eg. Digg) type sites.

2 Components to Authority:
As I define it, authority consists of two components:

    1. knowledge (being an expert on a given subject ... or a Maven)
    2. knowledge promotion (promoting that expert knowledge/perception ... the Salesmen and or Connectors according to Gladwell's Tipping Point theory of epidemiology)

Maven vs Connector Cartoon - The Tipping Point
Image courtesy:

2 Ways Social Media Can Help Build Authority:
Here's how social media can help with each of these aspects:

    1. knowledge:
    Its understood that two minds are better than one ... I've heard this referred to as the "third mind" principle. In essence, two people get together, share ideas, and each builds on the thoughts of the other. Ideas ultimately blossum that neither individual alone would have developed. In essence, a third collective mind is now at work.

    If so much good can come from the sharing of two minds, imagine the possibilities created by collaboration from thousands of minds via social media. Social media in essence permits us to stay atop all of the latest industry news, developments, ideas, and flights of fancy, and even gain insights into what information friends, colleagues, and competitors are seeing. It also permits the sharing of ideas and concepts, and collaborative construction.

Social Media and Brainstorming

    The result:
    a. more expertise in understanding and making sense of all the occurences within an industry, and being far ahead of the curve in terms of being able to connect all related dots. In essence, an intelligent information junkie within a space, can get up to speed relatively quickly with an industry, and can become a thought leader by being "plugged in". Obviously the base intellect must be present, but being an Einstein isn't necessary. At the end of the day, this increased knowledge can and will lead to

      a. being amongst the best at practicing within a particular niche (lead by example)
      b. better abilities to simplify and explain complex concepts (communications leader)
      c. breaking new ground with respect to a subject ie. new research or concepts (thought leader)

    which are the three techniques for becoming an expert that I specified in the post What is Authority, and How Do You Build It?, albeit the communications leader point was Rands.

    2. Knowledge promotion:
    Knowledge promotion means making others aware of your unique knowledge, expertise, and abilities. As I alluded to in the last post; "Is an industry expert really an authority, if no one knows about his/her expertise?"

    4 Ways Social Media Can Promote Expert Knowledge:

    Social media is a terrific means to help increase awareness of:

      a. an individual - some people seem to be on top of all the latest happenings in the industry. Everywhere you see a breaking story or blog post, you see their friendly smiling avatar associated with it in some way, either as the writer, the person who found and submitted it, or as one of the first to 'socialize it' and/or comment on it. If they've written the content, others begin to respect and appreciate their knowledge. If they haven't written the content, others are impressed with their commitment to understanding the industry. In many cases, this person becomes an authority by association ... every time you see great industry content, you see a certain individual.

      b. specific content/sites - great pieces of content will typically perform very well in social media, and will expose the writer and source site to many new potential readers, friends, and fans. If these 'new' readers appreciate the content, they are likely to become fans and/or friends. Ultimately, its having fans and friends that makes someone an authority. Being an authority amongst authorities means having friends and fans that are other respected authorities.

    Social media can help increase awareness by:

      a. generating links to content, and typically the more links, and the more links from authority sites, the more people view the linked to author's content as authoritative. At the same time, increased links lead to increased positioning in Google, Yahoo, and MSN, and many people take high rankings in search engines to mean that the omnipotent Google itself has decided that the site is an authority. Don't underestimate this 'omnipotence power'! Search has higher conversion rates than most other media, which means it is viewed less as advertising and more as trusted referrals.

      b. helping forge more online friends through outright networking, than necessarily via content. Once again, the more friends/fans someone has, the more they are viewed as an authority, and the more likely they are to have others view their work and musings as authoritative.

    In the end, social media is a fantastic tool for helping to build authority. Not only does it give a person advantages in terms of developing an expertise, but it also provides the necessary forum to promote this expertise. This is very definitely a win-win scenario!

    It is a commitment though. So, get plugged in to it, allow social media to help develop your authority (it won't make you an authority, only enable you on your quest to become one). Start producing exceptional content, and promoting that content through networks of friends and fans.

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20 Responses to “Using Social Media to Build Authority”

  1. spostareduro says:

    You have such a professional way of summing things up Jeff. This had flow and I enjoyed it a lot.

    I love the way you concluded "it won’t make you an authority, only enable you on your quest to become one."

    Social Media has certainly been a tool for me as well. Mostly in learning how to interact with others and still be myself as there are so many that have similar tastes online or are looking for new perspectives and mindsets. I always end the night with a new friend or two with similar interests.

    It's funny how people begin to view you as an authority once you have shown a 'following' of others. In turn, if not abused, they pass you on to their friends and those friends think you are some kind of guru, when in actuality, you are still a student that is learning from THEM..

    This was a precise post Jeff. Thanks again.

  2. Nick James says:

    Well said, Jeff. I've always been wary of the successful conversion factor from social media sites. But as a way of building links, authority, and brand awareness, it's second to none.

    Thanks for this series on authority building, Jeff. Its been an eye opener.

  3. First time to the Blog Jeff and this was a great article thanks so much. Although I am somewhat new at SEO Social Media is an area I have a lot of interest in. I think if we look at Social Media as a way to build authority rather than to "advertise" our wares we will be more successful in that arena. I for one have been guilty of the latter and need to make some changes in my approach.

  4. Tad Chef says:

    We already put your advice into practice on Mixx within our own elitist SEO 2.0 group of 60 members:
    I hope this self-promotion is not too shameless.

  5. Matt Ridout says:

    Think you're spot on Jeff. I am currently starting a social media campaign for a client which means taking all necessary info in!

    I have heard about the low conversions but I will see for myself hopefully and post the results :)

  6. Social Media seems to have a buzz about in every aspect of the web. It is the latest big thing in SEO now too.

  7. Very well said Jeff..oh I mean very well written..^^

    Now I'm into Social Sites and I really find this post very helpful and handy..^^..just what I needed.

  8. Hmmm …

    Advertising agencies place their top performing billboard ads in the highest traffic locations …

    Why is that

  9. Jeff Quipp says:

    @ spostareduro – thanks Kim for the kind words. Your opinion means alot to me. You are so right … friends lead to more friends and more opportunities. Its all a very positive cycle.

    @ Nick – thank you Nick. Funny enough, your friendship amongst others (Kim, Tad, Matt, etc.) forged the basis for this series.

    @ Chris – precisely! Doing so makes you look at things differently, and provides some great guidance.

    @ Tad – ha … think I joined that group. Mixx is a great place to make online friends.

    @ Matt – conversions will be low, so find other ways to make that traffic valuable. Get the to sign up for RSS feeds, newsletters, download whitepapers, etc.

    @ Money Making Blogging – Social media is a fantastic tool for SEO … just keep in mind its still about quality content.

    @ InternetMarketingJoy – thank you! I know I really enjoy writing these posts.

    @ Edward – not sure where you're going with this so I'm a little confused. Can you please clarify? I welcome a healthy debate though … ultimately this is what I meant when I said collaboration.

    Does this mean equate to having your best ocntent pieces appear on the front page of the buggest social media?

  10. Jeff

    ultimately this is what I meant when I said collaboration

    I am simply stating that social media traffic is consumer traffic. It's just not targeted or qualified.

  11. […] Jeff comes up with yet another article on social media. In this article he discusses about Using Social Media to Build Authority. A simple yet very important guide that makes you learn the tips to build yourself as an […]

  12. […] Jeff comes up with yet another article on social media. In this article he discusses about Using Social Media to Build Authority. A simple yet very important guide that makes you learn the tips to build yourself as an […]

  13. Love the topic Jeff, just want to chime off and throw in my 2 cents. When dealing with the perception of authority and what the exchange is as a conclusion from social media, what I can say is the benefits for SEO are tremendous (not that that is the objective, rather a side benefit).

    If conversion is your objective, then it may not at present be your cup of tea, but at the end of the day, the spikes in traffic are calculated as pure link popularity and search engines respond in kind by sending more relevant traffic to your site. If you combine this with other types of link building. We have seen revolutionary leaps and bounds in our rankings ( from the hundreds to the top 20 for competitive phrases) just a result of blogging and social media engagement.

    This is the kind of traffic that is priceless, as the old saying goes, if a tree falls in the woods, you know the rest. The same applies online, it boils down to exposure and traffic which are the goal and the benefit of authority.

  14. Jeff Quipp says:

    @ Edward … brilliant! I agree completely, but would like to add that going forward it will become more and more important for businesses themselves to take an active role (ie. build an authoritative presence). Social media is a great way to stay atop all the happenings in an industry and remain ahead of the curve.

  15. Jeff

    Social media is a great way to stay atop all the happenings in an industry and remain ahead of the curve.

    I agree completely … yet for businesses and professionals that depend on their reputations, social media marketing is not something to be taken lightly.

    Take for instance a case where someone follows the advice of an article that they read on-line, such as the case with Shari Thurow's article … "You'd Be Wise To "NoFollow" This Dubious SEO Advice".

    In my opinion, she was completely off there … I don’t want to highjack the thread so I’ll just leave my two cents. For many reasons, that article could very well be, A Career Killer.

    What if SEO’s takes Shari’s advice and their competition starts to pass them up in the SERPS?

    The losses could be catastrophic.

    Who would they have to thank for the loss? It’s almost hard not to chuckle …

    Any one that knows even a little bit about SEO, knows that it’s a fairly bad idea to title an article with a negative connotation to your name, in your profession. This is common sense 101, much less reputation management.

    Hence, a Google search for “Dubious SEO Advice”…comes up to her article, with her name …

    She might fare well from a consultation Jeff … and BTW … great read


  16. Jeff Quipp says:

    @ Edward … ah yes, I've read that article with some disbelief too. In fact I sat in on a session with Google engineers at SMX West where they answer questions from the audience relating to that specific question. Internal link crafting (we used to call it channeling) has always been important … nofollow just gives us another option.

    I couldn't agree more that businesses have to take social media seriously and not lightly. This supports my contention perfectly. It should be utilized to help establish the knowledge of a person/company. Agreed it could go wrong, but without risk there is no reward. This is the company itself must be involved … only they have the industry knowledge.

    Thank you again Edward … continued dialogue helps us all!

  17. […] Jeff comes up with yet another article on social media. In this article he discusses about Using Social Media to Build Authority. A simple yet very important guide that makes you learn the tips to build yourself as an […]

  18. Very good topic! Social bookmarking is beneficial to your online home business because the traffic that is generated is viral.I use this marketing strategy a lot nowadays.

  19. You have summed up the power of social media in a very nice way. However, many business has not realized the potential of social media and this is our job to educate them on this part.

  20. […] Using Social Media to Build Authority Jeff Quipp, Search Engine People | 3/5/08 […]