Demonstrating your expertise and authority is not as simple as you would believe, especially if you are an expert. A lot of people who are great experts in their respective fields, often find that its a different cup of tea when it comes to being able to display and demonstrate their expertise via a blog. To be able to own domain expertise is about mastery of your niche. To be able to showcase your expertise via a blog is about mastery of marketing and writing skills.
“Too much authority, at the wrong time, can also be a disaster” according to Yael Grauer, “In some circumstances, strongly demonstrating authority is not a good idea. Rather than helping you build trust, showing off your authority can actually erode trust.”
Yael suggests that there are four instances, for example when pushing your authority can backfire: when the person approaching you is self-conscious about their skills, when you want to teach or empower others, when you’d like to learn from another expert, or when you are in the midst of a debate. The fine difference here is that you should definitely aim to build your authority and reinforce it in many ways. But you just have to be careful in how you choose the ways to display your authority, without seeming to hit people on the head with it.
Step #1: Be up-to-date on your industry homework
There are no prizes for guessing that if you want to dominate your industry and stand apart as an authority, the least you have to do is to keep apace with everything going on in your industry. Your homework needs to be thorough and ongoing. Staying with the times in an industry, especially if you industry is constantly shifting, isn’t easy. If you stay aware of changes as they’re happening in your field, you can keep ahead of the curve. There are specifically ten things you can – and should do – regularly, to stay on the ball with your industry’s challenges, trends, opportunities and happenings:
Enlist a industry mentor or go-to buddy
Scheduling periodic catch-ups with an approachable mentor or friend who is experienced in your industry will help you gather new information quite rapidly. To use this source of information well, you have to be able to ask questions without judgement, and invite opinions and not just factual information. Also, don’t always imagine a mentor to be someone older or wiser than you. There are CEOs of organizations who have learnt a lot by having on their side the smallest but sharpest marketing people – especially those with their ears to the ground.
Build your skills with courses
Courses abound online, both for full-time or part-time study. Whether you aim for certifications to give credence to your knowledge depth, or are merely looking for courses that can keep you at the cutting edge, it’s a good idea to make self-upgradation a fixed and calendarized part of your life. When you are working for yourself, especially, it’s easily to slip up on learning. But this re-investment of time and money on yourself is critical to staying ahead in your industry.
Subscribe to trade magazines and journals
Trade journals are not only reservoirs of industry-related information, they are also excellent sources for contacts, for statistics and surveys in your field, and for new happenings you may like to stay in touch with. The good part is that virtually every trade journals is online now – and if your mobile or tablet is equipped with text-to-speech apps, you can have your journals read to you during travel time.
Keep up with consumer trends in your industry
What’s happening to your industry is one thing. What’s happening with the consumers of your industry is quite another thing. Consumers’ psychology evolves faster than industries can keep up with them, so to stay ahead of your industry, one of the cleverest ways is to “follow the customer”. See which sources of information deal in the latest perspectives of your industry’s consumers and stay regularly in touch with these sources.
Scan and engage in industry forums and boards
Forums and discussion boards are useful sources of opinion on the happenings in your industry. They will help you get a better understanding and feel, not only for the topics of current interest, but also for the way people are reacting to the goings-on in your industry. Are trends being welcomed or hated? Are some people spotting opportunities in the evolving situation faster than others? What can you do to cash in on the directions of public sentiment on the developments in your industry?
Read industry websites and blogs
The beauty of websites and blogs in your industry, are again, about the plentiful availability of opinion. People who run blogs and websites are those who want to be vocal and articulate and voluble on topics of interest. They have a lot to say, they write compulsively and often, and they tend to take off from one another’s points of view. See if you can shortlist a good cross-section of blogs in your industry that cover writers of many shades and hues of opinion. Check in on them often.
Read economic newspapers and news sites
Popularly known as the “pink papers”, the economic newspapers (and their online versions) are a must-read for people who want to be in any field of play as an authority. The overall economic situation is the context in which your industry operates. When you gauge the overall economic scenario, you can get a speedy glimpse of the many external factors that are affecting your industry currently – or are likely to affect it in the near future. No industry is an island, and all industries are interwoven into a larger economic climate. So make sure you know where the larger universe of action is headed and how your industry is finding its place in the race towards tomorrow.
Stay attentive to podcasts and videos
There are many industry experts who are now preferring to podcast rather than blog. Or perhaps they prefer “vlogging”, which is the video version of blogging. Why is this trend catching on? Many web watchers say that this may be because it’s easier to talk into a mobile or recorder and broadcast as a podcast or video, than it is to type. Others say it’s partially because many experts in every industry have already done a fair amount of textual blogging and are now looking for audiences who prefer other formats of information acquisition. Either way, it pays to listen and watch as much as you read. Soon you will also get to know what the preferred mode of information purveyance in your industry is.
Follow prominent people on social media
I know many people, who earlier pooh-poohed the social media as a serious source of industry news, who are now making Twitter their prime news feed! The sheer ease of digesting 140-character updates on any topic seems to make a lot of sense when information overload is the number one enthusiasm and learning killer. Never before have so many people with knowledge, fame, domain depth and power been so personally accessible to the public. If you regularly “follow” well-known experts and industry people on social spaces like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, you’ll keep getting the latest news 24 x 7 on your timeline.
Network at industry events
You can network with your industry peers both online and offline. Follow up chances to meet and greet the movers and shakers of your industry at trade events, webinars, Twitter chats, physical expositions or in social group chats. The good part of any industry gathering is that you will mostly find early-adopters there, the people who jump onto trends faster than others. It pays to stay with the pioneering pack if you want to make your place in the sun quickly.
- Why And How Should You Keep Yourself Up-To-Date In Your Industry by Pauline Cabrera (@Twelveskip)
- 5 Simmple Ways To Keep Up With Current Trends In Your Industry? by Andrea Karapas (@AndreaKarapas)
- 7 ways to stay up to date in your industry by Seek Learning (@seeklearning)
Step #2: Break through and get beyond your comfort zones
What is your comfort zone? Explained simply, your comfort zone is a behavioral process. You comfort zone is a set of habits that shape your predictable behavior in various situations. You will find yourself in your comfort zone, when your mind quakes against any form of stress and risk. Your mind shrugs off any attempt to get out of a state of mental security. You benefit by not going beyond your zone. How do you benefit? You have a kind of regular happiness, low anxiety, and reduced stress.
Back in 1908, this concept of the “comfort zone” was arrived at by two psychologists Robert M. Yerkes and John D. Dodson after an experiment. They explained that in almost everybody, there is a certain predictable steady level of performance that produces a certain dependable set of results. If, however, we want to change the results, we need to change the direction of our actions. This necessarily means that we have to let go of the comfort level we are at and accept a slight “anxiety-level”. At this new level, we may go through new learnings, trials, experiences and personal growth. All of these are progressive levels of higher and higher anxiety, though the results we get are also commensurate for the anxiety price we pay.
There is however, a particular “Optimal Anxiety,” and anything beyond that actually causes the suffering that makes us feel that the reward was not worth it. This Optimal Anxiety Level is just outside our current comfort zone but not so far from it that we’re too stressed to be productive, and our performance drops off sharply.
The idea of optimal anxiety may not be anything new to you. If you have ever pushed yourself to do something “against the grain”, to get to the next level or accomplish some goal, you may know that when you really challenge yourself, you can turn up amazing results. You may also know, instinctively, that pushing yourself too hard can actually be counter-productive.
Some people find it tough even to imagine thinking of ideas outside their comfort zone. To these people we often say “Think outside the box!”. To other people, it’s easy to think of new ideas that stir their comfort zone, but when it comes to action, their minds and insides balk and they never implement their ideas.
The comfort zone is not a bad place to be: it feels restful, relaxed and full of peace and is free of stress. But it is not productive of bigger goals than we are able to achieve at the moment. If you have goals to improve your current situation, you can’t keep repeatedly doing things the current way, can you? Many of us feign actions of “busyness” to try and kid ourselves that we are working towards our goals, but in reality we may be doing irrelevant actions, even as our insides know we are procrastinating and distressed about leaving our comfort zones.
To grow from being an ordinary plodder-blogger to becoming an authority-blogger, you have to up your game 10x … and that does mean getting out of your comfort zone. The good news is that once you start stepping out of your comfort zone, it gets easier over time. In fact, you’ll even become accustomed to that state of optimal anxiety. What the experts call “productive discomfort” will start feeling normal to you, and you’ll grow more and more willing to push farther than before. Everyday your boundaries of yesterday will seem to have been replaced by new wider boundaries.
There are four ways that you as an authority-power-blogger, can learn to enjoy the slight daily discomfort of stretching beyond your comfort zone:
Set small daily goals that go beyond the actions of the previous day and see that you achieve them against the resistance
Your resistance is the sign of your new growth. So instead of complaining or whining about the inner resistance, welcome it as a sure sign of progress.
Try and put yourself in someone else’s shoes for a particular decision
If you’ve always thought in a particular way or acted in a particular way, it would help to “break the box” if you imagined yourself to be someone else for a change.
Just as you force yourself to do something different, also force yourself to not do the same thing you usually do
Read that sentence again. There’s a big difference between creating new habits and breaking old habits. Sometimes its the “non-doing” of something you usually do that triggers the most resistance. See if that’s the case and don’t let actions done by rote stunt your growth.
Try regrouping activities that you don’t usually do together
Unknown to us, many of us may have a slight touch of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Not much, just a touch. There may be a lurking perfectionist and idealist inside us that believes in a “comfortable order” that we stick to as if life depended on it. When we suddenly have to break the regular order of things, it feels chaotic, like everything has fallen apart. If you’ve ever felt this way when a slight bit of crisis shattered all your composure and creativity, make sure you realize that the perfectionist in you loves its comfort zone. You may even be very proud of yourself as a real stickler for “quality” (if that’s how your sense of perfection seems to you), but in fact any perfectionism is about order – and true creativity is about chaos, the breaking of order. For real big success, you need real big creativity, so that’s the challenge.
- 7 Steps For Breaking Through Your Comfort Zone by Steve Scott (@stevescott1)
- 6 Ways Pushing Past Your Comfort Zone Is Critical To Success by Kathy Caprino (@kathycaprino)
- Why You Need to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone by Lisa Evans (@WriteLisaEvans)
Step #3: Display which type of expert you are
When you are power-blogging to establish authority, it’s often common to assume that there is just one kind of expert or specialist and you have to aim to be in that mold. But in truth, there are many different kinds of experts with different kinds of strengths. Not only must your “type of expertise” match your own personality, but it also has to appeal to your target audience – and manage to differentiate you from other experts in your niche, as well.
There are at least 4 major types of experts, separated by their attitudes and orientation. See which description below best fits your own psychology and see if this is the kind of expertise that excites your target audience. Look for examples of experts to role-model yourself on, not just from within your niche, but from other niches. See how the different kinds of expertise come through in the blogs and articles of different experts.
The Academic Expert
The Academic Expert is a knowledge-rich specialist in his field. You could be that kind of person if you’ve always been research-oriented and have a tendency to read up a lot and gather information. Your value to your target audiences comes from the fact that if they read your power-blog, they have to read less of other blogs, because your blog may tend to give them a good cover of all the knowledge in your field of expertise. You shorten people’s time in information gathering and you’re the kind of person people will think of as the “walking encyclopedia”!
The Practical Expert
The Practical Expert is one who has put in hard years in business, and favors practical knowledge over bookish knowledge. People will gravitate towards your blog, because you are action and implementation oriented, and always talk of things like “solutions” and “common sense” and “can be done in easy steps in 10 minutes”. People who are short of time to learn something from the ground up, and would just like to get a 1-2-3 on what actions to take on their challenges, will love experts who have this kind of practical experiential advantage.
The Strategic Expert
In the times when customers are grappling with competition or CRM challenges, or are trying to outwit the market and stand above it, they need an expert with a military general’s mindset. You would, if you were such a blogger without a proper roadmap, run to the expert who can give you a “game-plan”. The Strategic Expert is in a class of his own. He has both knowledge and implementation skills, but his specialization is that he harnesses both sides of his expertise by condensing it all into a war game. He sets out goals and helps his customers achieve them through “tactics”.
The Communication Expert
You can be all kinds of expert, but if don’t have the communication ability to impart your expertise to others, and to motivate them to role-model themselves on the best in the business, you would fail to grab eyeballs in the power-blogging-for-authority game. Two absolute imperatives that a terrific authority or expert needs are communication skills and counselling/motivational skills. people run to a motivational mentor when they are short of mental clarity and determination in the face of challenges. If you can make complex things sound easy and clear and can help your readers/clients feel less overwhelmed, you are a Communication Expert with the potential for high demand.
It’s important to see that one type of expert is not superior to another. In fact, at different times of challenge, we all need one type of expert or another. This begs the question: Would it be better to be the All-Rounder Expert – with a bit of Academic, Practical, Strategy, Communication skills – so you can stay relevant to your audiences through various types of challenges they face. The problem is that in trying to be jack-of-all-trades, you could end up being master-of-none, which is not what an “expert” should be. An expert needs to be a “master” of something, and his mastery needs to be of a definite type.
It would depend on your niche, which type of expertise sells best to people in that field. Let’s take two examples. Let’s say you are an Internet Marketing expert and have a bent towards Strategy and Innovation. You’d be the go-to-person for startups toying with how to brand themselves and cut into a difficult market. On the other hand, let’s say you are a Mobile Technologies expert and have a bent towards research and trend studies. Your value to your readers would be in reaching the latest happenings to them with your own analysis based on your research and readings of that research.
The moral of the story is not to spread your expertise thin by being “all-kinds-of-an-expert”, but to focus on the target audiences that need your style of expertise the most. Among them, your expertise-angle will resonate tremendously.
Review your target audiences periodically and see which kinds of experts most pull their attention and which types of blogs get more traffic, readers and low bounce rates. They are the blogs that are most read with avid attention and should tell you a thing or two about what kind of expertise your target audience gravitates towards. If your expertise matches, think how best to display your advantage overtly and subliminally to your readers.
- Two Types of Experts by Simon Sinek (@simonsinek)
- The Making of an Expert by Harvard Business Review (@HarvardBiz)
- Beyond the Specialist: 4 Types of Experts by Alia McKee (@aliamc)
Step #4: Tell the deep story of your business authority
A lot of bloggers and content marketers will find advice online to market themselves via storytelling. While this seems to be widely prevalent advice, I’ve also had a lot of clients ask me what exactly that means, and what blogging has to do with storytelling – and indeed, what stories do you have to tell? This doubt arises because the role of stories as an age-old medium of engaging people and gaining their trust has not been examined as a self-projection option.
To understand what “stories” are about, recount all the tales that most gripped you from childhood, through adolescence to adulthood. Notice how all stories – especially mythologically powerful ones – have a recurrent 8-step theme. It goes something like this diagram shows below …
Let’s see how this eight-step works. The most gripping stories invariably start with a hero or heroine with a wish (Step 1: Context). But there is also a challenge on what route to take to get to the wish (Step 2: Comparison), especially if one were starting with rags and wanted riches. Then comes the stage of hard work against all odds (Step 3: Conflict), and soon enough things begin to look like they’re going at a good clip (Step 4: Compulsion) … but alas, along comes the villain of the piece or a crisis that tests the hero or heroine (Step 5: Climax). The protagonist of the story then has to have a baptism by fire before he is “reborn stronger” (Step 6: Courage), overcomes the villain or crisis (Step 7: Closure), and earns the just rewards of his/her journey of highs and lows (Step 8: Conclusion). And then of course, it is assumed that he or she lives happily ever after.
Right from the epics of days gone by to the most modern fiction or pulp-romantic stories, this is the recurrent human theme that beckons everybody to read with rapt attention. It is the unfailing piece of content for getting and holding readership – so how can bloggers with big dreams hope to manage enticing their audiences without a bit of storytelling?
In all this, did you notice how easy it is to want to role-model yourself on the protagonist of the story? How you start trusting and believing that someone who has been through a test of fire has to be credible? A story builds trust through deep empathy, and that’s something every blogger needs to remember.
Since stories have eternally held readers enthralled, content marketers advocate that power-bloggers should find ways to incorporate stories into their blogs – you could tell your own story of how you made it big in your profession, or you could make stories out of your best case-histories, or you could explore topics of interest in your niche from the perspective of a storyteller looking for ways to beat a problem by finding a solution.
Jon Morrow, the great blogger, has what he calls the “Morrow opening” formula in all his blog posts. He turns the story around and makes it about his audience. His opening paragraph usually twangs the heartstrings of his readers like this: “So you’ve had a bad day yesterday trying to find a great headline for your blog, right? You’ve written twenty lines, but none of them sound like winners … what are you to do now? etc etc”. Then the whole blog post is about the journey to the solution!
The whole idea is that your stories are a great way for people to remember you by and talk about you. How you choose to project stories into your blog is up to you, but remember, stories have got to be there because stories are absorbing and sound authentic. They should not sound “fabricated” because everyone can tell a fake story instantly.
Bronwyn Fryer, in the Harvard Business Review, has written an article titled “Storytelling That Moves People” where she emphasizes that a big part of storytelling is to motivate people to reach certain goals.
“To do that, he or she must engage their emotions, and the key to their hearts is story. There are two ways to persuade people. The first is by using conventional rhetoric, which is what most executives are trained in. It’s an intellectual process, and in the business world it usually consists of a PowerPoint slide presentation … the other way to persuade people – and ultimately a much more powerful way – is by uniting an idea with an emotion. The best way to do that is by telling a compelling story. In a story, you not only weave a lot of information into the telling but you also arouse your listener’s emotions and energy.
Persuading with a story is hard. Any intelligent person can sit down and make lists. It takes rationality but little creativity to design an argument using conventional rhetoric. But it demands vivid insight and storytelling skill to present an idea that packs enough emotional power to be memorable. If you can harness imagination and the principles of a well-told story, then you get people rising to their feet amid thunderous applause instead of yawning and ignoring you.
- Master the Art of Storytelling in Content Marketing by Digital Marketing Philippines (@DigitalMktgPH)
- The Viral Power of Storytelling in Content Marketing by William Sarto (@SartoWilliam)
- Content Marketing Is Moving Toward a Zen State of Storytelling by Greg Hadden (@thinkmotive)
Step #5: Sharpen your analytical and mind-mapping skills
To be seen and noted as an authority, it’s critical to be able to showcase good analytical skills. The difference between a merely knowledgeable person and an authority lies in the ability go deep into knowledge – to break ideas down, to dissect facts and to arrive at conclusions that seal insights. Mining through facts and arriving at underlying patterns enables you to lead the opinions of others by displaying your mind’s superior thinking methodology.
Some people tend to believe that analytical thinking and critical thinking are the same thing. That is not actually true.
When you find yourself thinking critically, you’ll see that you are making decisions on whether or not a situation appears to be right or wrong. Once you are given information, you find yourself evaluating the data and determining how it should be best interpreted – as a positive to the situation or a negative. You then make conclusions based on your unique perception of the information. Critical thinking takes facts and uses them to form an opinion or a belief, for or against an idea.
In analytical thinking, however, you do not allow your value-judgments to operate. You explore the topic or situation from all angles, to see how the idea branches out and how many threads of thought build up an idea – and whether these threads can be differently arranged to produce a conclusion that challenges originally held opinions. Analytical thinking is a very important skill for someone who wants to blog for authority because it shows that you are not fixated with your own ideas, and you are willing to see emerging threads of a situation to alter your perceptions and the perceptions of others.
So if you want to increase you analytical skills, where do you start? The best tools for analytical thinking are mind-maps. Given below is a snapshot of what a mind-map looks like (courtesy Matchware) … you take the subject under your consideration and split it up into its component branches and sub-branches, so that a layout of the whole topic landscape emerges, and you begin to see which are the causes and which are the effects in any situation.
Mind maps can be used for pretty much any thinking challenge. The Asian Efficiency blog offers a few interesting ways to use mind maps you might not have thought of: create a knowledge bank, solve problems, build on a keyword list for SEO, create book summaries, or set business or blogging goals.
The four big reasons why mind-maps are so critical to analysis are:
Mind-maps are quasi-visual.
They are part information and part image, and so the ease of understanding and memorability factors are high.
Mind maps group concepts together through natural associations.
This helps lay out cause-effect associations, helps in presenting ideas and shows up idea-gaps where innovation is needed to fill the gaps.
Mind-maps give you both macro and micro details.
A mind map can at once give you an overview of a large subject while also holding large amounts of micro-detail.
Mind-maps are intuitive since they flow as your brain flows.
It’s both easy to draw them in the same fashion as you think along, and it’s easy to put clarity, cogency and coherence into your thinking.
With all these advantages, it’s a great idea to use analytical mind-mapping when you are writing long posts with a number of topics and sub topics, and you’d like your content to flow easily in a way that seems utterly logical and readable to your target audiences. Many elaborate blog posts now also include the expert’s mind-maps of a topic as an illustration of the thinking that went behind the post – thus building upon the authoritative expert’s brand.
- 5 Surprisingly Simple Ways to Improve Your Analytical Thinking Skills by Zulfa Abrahams (@zulfah871)
- Developing your analytical skills by Tony Obregon (@tonyobregon)
- What is a Mind Map? by Tony Buzan (@Tony_Buzan)
Step #6: Join and lead your professional organizations
One of the smartest shortcuts to getting professional authority and visibility very fast is to join your industry’s apex associations or organizations, where professionals like you abound. Merely being a member of such associations gives you a lot of benefits, such as state-of-the-art knowledge and extremely valuable peer-contacts. But that should not be the sum and substance of your game.
You have to aim to rise in the hierarchy of professionals in such bodies by volunteering to stand for the position of a key office-bearer, preferably at the leadership level – or at least at the level where you have to deal with the PR agencies that work for the organizations.
Professional associations pack a lot of punch: their job is to constantly provide events and seminars and learning opportunities to members to share what they know, discuss the latest and network amongst themselves. Beyond this, professional associations drive industry special initiatives, get associated with professional causes, and often lobby with governments for policy reforms. All this gets reported extensively by the Press … so if it’s visibility as a leading professional and an authority that you want, stand for election at these associations.
There are two special ways in which you can drive the best possible authority for yourself from professional associations:
Promotion, branding and visibility can be yours
Any association is the face and voice of its industry, and usually spends a great deal of effort in promoting the benefits, strengths and values of its industry. It generates truckloads of promotional materials and periodically gives high visibility to its membership offers. Most such organizations connect with the media and have websites and other promotional tools. Marketing and communication are key components for organizations and provide significant value to members. It’s also pretty easy to serve as board member or office-bearer of repute and responsibility in a professional association because generally, no one wants to do it. Most people don’t realize that if they value and volunteer their active participation in such organizations as a marketing investment, it can do wonders for their personal businesses. If you’re willing to put in the time, having such office-bearer credentials and opportunities to be seen and heard in the media and at industry events can enhance your authority no end.
You can write for professional publications
In addition to blogging in your own professional capacity, writing articles on the initiatives of the organizations, that you are at the helm of, has a direct rub-off on your own blogging. You can cross-link your articles to make people realize the many hats you wear. The same approach applies to speaking to industry groups. All this can be both online and offline. The whole idea is to use your leverage as a spokesman of your larger industry to embellish your own personal credentials as an authority blogger. Belonging to and actively driving industry initiatives enhances credibility and trust, not just in the slow way that blogging does, but in spikes and spurts of high-visibility.
- 10 tips for increasing your professional visibility and exposure by Calvin Sun (@calvin_t_sun)
- Top Reasons Members Join Industry or Trade Associations by Carrie Kolar (@webbright)
- How to Lead Your Association Through Difficult Times by Christina Green (@SociousSuccess)
Step #7: Be unafraid to voice your contra-opinions
There’s always a raging debate in the blogging world about whether it’s better to voice your opinion (even if it’s controversial) or whether in the long run, controversy-creation actually damages your reputation. Those who are all for voicing your opinion strongly, may either be genuinely for “expressing the truth fearlessly” – or often they may be on the side of using “controversy” to fuel reader engagement. If it’s the former, being authentic (even if that means courting controversy) may be a good thing. If it’s the latter, however, using “controversial positions” as a way to keep the readers hooked is not a long-term ploy you can use. After all, how many controversial things can you keep finding to say, to stay perennially in the news?
Despite the “controversy” about whether “controversy” is a good content marketing tool or not, voicing an honest opinion need not necessarily mean stirring the hornet’s nest. You can take a forceful stand on the side of a debate without being controversial and you can come through as honest, fearless and always supportive of your positions with facts. These are all hallmarks of great writers and bloggers and definitely signs of authority – because when those in authority hold a stand on topics of general excitement, debate and concern, it helps other people examine their own opinions to see where they themselves would like to stand on any topic.
Incidentally, there are levels of stating an opinion strongly, and you have to decide what your own style of declaring your opinions should be. One of the smart ways to see what kinds of “strong voice” you could adopt, go to a site like CreateDebate.com, where there are always subjects of hot debate being argued from all sides by experts and lay people. Notice in the image below (taken from CreateDebate.com) how there can be so many shades of strong opinion – you could be, for instance, persuasive, provocative, outspoken or creative, or a combination! You can decide which category of strong opinion makes you sound authoritative and also feel comfortable with your tone of voice!
If building authority via the route of strong opinions appeals to you, there are three important points to think further about:
Strong opinions reinforce your image of self-confidence. But don’t use it as way of trying to look confident artificially.
While opining strongly on subjects, it’s also important not to say something strong just to look and sound confident. Any form of dubious confidence has an ugly way of revealing itself. Let your opinions naturally create a aura of your confidence, but don’t use strong opinions as a ploy or tactic to create an artificial self-confident image. Worse than having no strength in your opinions is an inauthentic forced confidence of opinion. Online, where people cannot see your body language, your words will reveal more nuances about you than you suspect. So be careful not to make any confidence, or strength of thought, forced or synthetic.
Strong opinions encourage engagement if done correctly. People naturally like to share if they are genuinely asked for their ideas.
When you state a point of view with authority, it often works beautifully if you invite others to say whether they agree or disagree with you. This is a great way, for instance to end a blog post, asking for reader comments. Don’t sound inflexible, but make your point with the air of one reasonably certain about your point of view, while also being open to all manner of contra-opinions. Sound like an eager learner rather than a know-it-all. People love to share their views if they feel valued, and if they feel the other person will genuinely absorb and respect what they say.
When you have a strong view, take a moment to see what a strong opposite view sounds like to you. You will learn a lot about yourself.
Every now and again, all bloggers see the truth in this statement. Hardly do you complete writing down a strong point of view, when the “devil’s advocate” inside of yourself will get activated and start asking you if that’s really what you feel, or whether you feel the exact opposite. When you have these moments during your writing, learn to listen to your inner voice deeply. Do not try to brush off your “inconvenient” opposite voice, just because it forces you to rewrite that whole paragraph from another point of view. There’s a good reason why your own internal contrasting opinion always surfaces just when you think you have deciphered a topic. This is because, very often, it is human tendency to hold very tight to a belief that you suspect may not be entirely right. If you really believed in something, fully and unshakeably, you would not need to hold such a hard opinion on it. You’d be more relaxed with your idea of it. The stronger the force with which you hold your opinion, the more the likelihood that your forceful mental hold may be because of a slippery foothold on the topic. So your inner voice is doing you a favor by asking you to reconsider. Thank that inner voice. It will show you when your hold on something is too tight and therefore needs examining with all honesty.
- 7 Reasons to Never Hold Back Your Opinion by Jayson DeMers (@jaysondemers)
- Be Bold, Be Opinionated, Or Don’t Bother by Mindy Gibbins-Klein (@bookmidwife)
- Opinions Versus Opinionated by William B. Bradshaw (@BradshawBud)
Step #8: Show social proof of your achievements
What is social proof and why is it so important for displaying your domain authority as a power-blogger? Social proof is any visible or tangible proof that reinforces what you say you you are good at.
A very simple example would be a blog post you are reading. If you find that several hundreds of people have commented on the post, you would get the feeling that this post is by a much-read and much-appreciated author, wouldn’t you? No matter even if another author claimed to have a lot of readership, but you saw the “poor engagement” on his site, evidenced by the lack of comments on his blog, you might be tempted to deduce that the second author may not be a genuinely famous expert.
Your assumptions may not be correct, though, because it could be that you have been looking myopically at “comments” as a measure of blog traffic and engagement. Maybe the second author’s posts get more shared on social media than the first one’s … but so long as you don’t know that, you have only the number of comments by which to judge, right?
Now let’s say the second author decides to put up a fast-moving tweet counter on his site that shows how much his post has been tweeted – and how much it continues to be retweeted per every second. Would that “dynamic proof of popularity” not change your mind about the second author?
The moral of the story is that, in the blogosphere, where you cannot physically see someone to get a measure of him, and you have no reliable evidence of his “popularity”, it’s tough to tell if a person is a real expert or a self-appointed one. That’s why power-bloggers wishing to display and stamp their authority status need to able to show some social proof that is commonly acknowledged by readers as real evidence of expert status.
This brings us to the question of what kinds of evidence can be shown as social proof. What do people believe in – and what forms of social proof do not really impress? Among “authority bloggers”, some of the most popular ways of showing popularity are case studies, testimonials, before-after images, citations from top magazines and blogs, photos with powerful influencers, awards, badges, credentials, reviews and ratings, media logos, certifications, comments from influencers, books you have published, social media popularity numbers, the sheer size of your list of email subscribers … and so on.
Here is a good example of social proof from the Kissmetrics blog …
You must try to include social proof of your authority status where appropriate, but even in doing so, you have to beware of looking tacky, dubious or self-congratulatory. You also have to beware of “following the fad” when showing social proof.
For example, some years ago, it used to be a great fad of internet marketing consultants to show how well they have succeeded in life, using their own proprietary “systems of success”, by showing photos of themselves on exotic beaches or standing beside swanky cars – with the photo-caption reading “I don’t want to brag, but this is me now with a six-figure income – you can have it all too if you enrol for my course etc etc”. Then, when such photos started getting splashed across too many marketing consultant’s blogs and websites, readers, who were always silently skeptical, started openly devaluing “Photoshopped-proof”.
The same thing happened again a few years later when bloggers started displaying their Google Analytics charts of spectacular traffic growth, or their financial checks from clients, or their income statements – invariably with humongous numbers on them. Even now, some bloggers, in the bid to sound authentic, display their income statements, month after month. I know many of them personally and would not hesitate to believe that they are being truthful. But the question is not whether I believe them, but whether target audiences are getting so bombarded with blog after blog showing income statements that the very credibility of income statements begins to be questioned as authentic, non-manipulated social proof.
Social proof thus has a good side and a bad side. The good part is that adds gloss to your credibility, but the bad part of it is that even the most innovative ideas of showing social proof soon become so overused that their credibility starts sounding doubtful.
When you think of showing “social proof” think of it less as “proof-display” and more as “trust-creation”. You will then naturally check yourself to see if the social proof you want to include will really add to trust. It’s a dicey decision, because in a bid to add trust, the kind of social proof you choose to show on your blog should not end up eroding trust.
One smart blogger I remember always used to show his failed-experiments in marketing, which was an ingenious kind of social proof that worked remarkably well. As a reader, you got the impression that he was always working upon his methodologies to perfect them, and he was relentless in the pursuit of success, and he would be really valuable as an expert because he has repeatedly seen what failure is – and has risen from the ashes with a bunch of winning ideas. Failures, everybody accepts, are the real stepping stones of success. This was a really innovative way, I thought, to underscore the idea that this “expert” was always “sharpening his saw”.
If you want to succeed at showing social proof, you too have to think out of the box. Be very careful that your choice of social proof matches your personal brand, your niche and your readership. Try to be innovative, but when people try and copy your methods, realize it’s time to move on to newer methods of showing credible social proof. It pays to stay ahead of the pack to prevent your social proof from getting devalued by the fad-driven market.
- What is Social Proof & Why Is It Crucial For Your Blog’s Success? by Kishensreehari (@kishensreeharii)
- 7 Things You MUST Understand When Leveraging Social Proof in Your Marketing Efforts by Gregory Ciotti (@gregoryciotti)
- Social Proof: Your Key to More Magnetic Marketing by Barry Feldman (@FeldmanCreative)
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