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: DataArt.com

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.