Is an industry expert really an authority, if no one knows about his/her expertise?

This post is the fifth in the series on Authority Building. This post will look specifically at 8 techniques used the increase the visibility of a person's profile and their knowledge. The previous four posts in the series are:

As I mentioned in the last post, there is a difference between celebrity and authority. That said, a little of both is needed to make authority truly work for online purposes. Keep in mind, an authority (no matter what level of genius) is not an authority unless recognized by others. Authority is afterall just a label assigned by others, and is therefore entirely a perception. Its definitely a case where "perception is reality".

Expert Authority Building Cartoon
Image courtesy: Marty Fahncke

The amount of authority/celebrity status needed is a function of goals set out from the beginning; as some people will say ... too much notoriety can be a bad thing, when its not consistent with your goals and objectives.

Being viewed as an expert by large numbers of people requires both specialized knowledge (authority) and some notoriety (celebrity). Knowledge is the crucial starting point though ... so lets assume the knowledge already exists; how do you convey to others that you are very knowledgeable about a given topic, as this celebrity component is crucial to authority status?

Here are some of the tools of the trade.

Tools of the Trade:

    1. Blogs:
    Blogs are a great way to:

      a. build a loyal base of followers/friends
      b. to generate awareness of an individual's knowledge
      c. to continually build out pages that will rank for long tail terms (keep in mind, if people see a site high in the search results for terms related to their searches, they interpret that to mean that Google itself thinks that site is an authority, and is recommending it).

    Make no mistake, this approach takes time, patience, and a commitment to adding new posts routinely. However, while the search and social media blogosphere are already ultra competitive, the blogospheres of many other industries are not yet firmly established, and those industry's are ripe with opportunities for great blogs and bloggers. Typically, blog success is gauged by evaluating the growth of RSS subscribers.

    2. Guest Posts:
    Guest posts expose up-and-comer authorities to new potential friends and contacts via established channels. Guest posts are a great way to build and attract attention to a person's ideas, blog, social media profiles, and writing style. The key to building authority via guest posts is obviously to post good quality content, but also in the selection of sites to guest post at. Why guest post on sites that have the same user base as your site?

    In this situation, guest posting can be used to:

      a. expand an individual's friend base and following.
      b. bestow instant credibility on the guest blogger, merely because the source blog has enough faith and trust in the individual to let him/her post ... authority by association.

    3. Networking:
    Networking is an excellent way to accomplish many things, not the least of which is sharing with others in the industry your unique perspective on the business. Ultimately, networking is often the path that leads to guest post opportunities, interviews, and speaking engagements. Many of the initial friends made through networking will view the networker as an authority in certain industry topics if they are so deserving, and will promote them and their knowledge to others. These initial friends are a crucial spring board to a person's authority being recognized and promoted.

    4. Write a Column:
    Those who routinely contribute columns or articles for highly respected industry sites are often viewed as authorities merely by association, though granted most are indeed authorities. If a client hasn't yet been established as an online authority, columns are a tremendous opportunity. Care must be taken however in selecting appropriate niches (not too narrow that there is insufficient content to contribute, and not too broad that other niche authorities erode the foundation of your topic), and certainly the early bird gets the proverbial worm.

    5. Interviews:
    Interviews are a tremendous way to expose a person and his/her knowledge to new channels. The amazing aspect about interviews is once again, the opportunity to convey specialized knowledge and perspectives, but also to do so where some minimum level of trust has already been established.

    6. Speaking Engagements:
    Securing a speaking engagement at an industry event is equivalent to the authorities in a space saying "this person is one of the definitive authorities in this space/niche". In essence, an expert among experts. Personal preferences aside, often such speaking engagements bestow instant credibility, and perceptions of authority. These perceptions of authority (and everything is about perception), can lead to direct sales and so many other opportunities.

    7. Commenting:
    Sometimes it is very difficult to begin to establish a client as an authority, when starting from obsolute obscurity. Often in these cases, the person has no existing friends in the industry to leverage. This type of situation lends itself well to commenting strategy. Caroline Middlebrook has talked extensively about the use of this tactic. I will also address the use of this tactic in a coming posts, as it specifically relates to aiding in the Authority building process.

    8. Social Media
    Social media offers numerous opportunities for authority building.

      a. participation in industry social media verticals (eg. to become well known amongst this community ... build out a network of industry friends
      b. mentions and concepts attributed to individuals in popular social media stories can help increase awareness or improve perceptions of an an individual's knowledge and ideas.
      c. associating with popular industry people, often leads to associations with other popular industry people.

    While social media is a tremendous tool, its use in authority building is a post in and of itself, and accordingly will be the subject of a future Wednesday post.

Its About The Network Of Friends:
Ultimately, all of the above tactics are impacted in some way by the development of a network of trusted individuals. The larger the network, the easier it is to achieve stated goals using any of the above tactics, as it means more people to promote and aid the individual in question. Beyond the question of knowledge, it really all boils down to 'who ya know'. Want to speak at such and such an event? Ahhh friend JJ knows someone there. Want to do a guest post on an industry site? KK knows someone there. As Neil Patel alluded to in this post, its not who you know, its who they know. Trust is virtually transferrable. If a person's friends believe in them, and see where their particular strengths are, they'll generate opportunities for them.

Different Tools at Different Stages:
If a person were to start from absolute obscurity, would they immediately be able to employ all tactics above? Not really. Virtually nobody would let an unknown entity guest blog on their site, or speak at a conference. Why would anyone want to publish an interview of a relative unknown. Accordingly, some of the above tactics/tools are better at certain stages of the authority building process. Accordingly, as one progresses though the authority ranks, he/she attracts progressively more influential friends, who can influence yet more people, and open more doors and opportunities.

Here's a very high level rundown:

    Obscurity Stage:
    This is the stage where the person in question is a relative unknown with few if any industry contacts.
    - blog commenting is useful, to begin to build some awareness, friends, support, and notoriety
    - participation in industry social media to start to build out industry friends
    - blogging to convey to others some of the unique perspective the individual in question offers
    - networking

    Intermediate Stages:
    In the intermediate stages, more friends, and more powerful friends open doors and opportunities previously unavailable. Some of these opportunities include:
    - guest blogs posts
    - interviews
    - writing a column
    - conference speaking
    None are assured, though the opportunities start to avail themselves.

    Advanced Stages:
    At Advanced stages, most individuals can pick and choose what they would like to do when.
    - they can speak at conferences almost at will
    - guest blog on the sites of other A-Listers, almost at will
    - likely are writing columns/posts for industry publications

As a whole, these are some of the key tools of the trade in authority building. Obviously, there are subtleties to using each, and I'll discuss each (only where I feel I can add to the existing body of knowledge) in coming Authority Building Wednesday posts. Stay tuned next Wednesday where I'll start by looking in much more depth as how social media can best be utilized to help build one's authority.

If you can think of any tools that should appear on this list and do not, please let me know in the comments, and I'll be sure to add them with due credit.