Who do professionals listen to online? What influences them to act and buy the products or services that they do? It’s really no secret—it’s thought leaders, the power influencers of any given industry. But there is no ribbon or knighthood ceremony that grants a thought leader their position of power. Here’s the real secret: thought leader status is mostly self-branded.
If your online presence is one of humility and collectivism, being a thought leader ain’t the gig for you. It takes a forceful personality and, yes, more than a little bit of ego to become the go-to guy of your industry. You want to brand yourself as an expert so that people will want to listen to you, share your opinions, and engage with you online and a large part of doing that is leading the horses to water and making them drink.
The Steps to Online Attention
One of the fastest ways to become an expert in your field? Stop talking so much. As potentially toxic as it is, I think it will help to look at thought leadership in these terms: alpha and beta.
A beta will never stop talking, for two reasons. First, they feel threatened by the lack of their own insight and need to make you feel like they’re the expert. Second, they figure that if they can B.S. for long enough and overload you with information, you won’t realize they’re using a lot of words to say very little.
The alpha knows they’re the expert and doesn’t feel an overwhelming need to convince everybody. They’re content laying their knowledge on the table and if you don’t use it, that’s your loss.
Who would you rather listen to?
Nothing seems more pathetic than some inexperienced web designer, writer, or online marketer who is self-branded as #1 in every marketing piece and on every web page. Achievements are proudly displayed with adjective-filled descriptions and sometimes even proof about achieving vast wealth. I certainly don’t believe it. Would you?
Instead of running around and telling everyone that you are fabulous, you need to pinpoint your expertise in terms of what you have to offer your target audience that engages them with your brand and message. True experts understand their subject deeply, and it’s likely they know how to work it better than anyone else.
There are people all over social media sites who have effectively branded themselves as experts or a specialist in their fields. Let’s take me, for example. Personally, I don’t like the word “expert” used in my profession, as there is no such thing. The social media world is evolving at such a fast pace that no one can have all of the information. I prefer the term “specialist”, as I specialize in social media marketing.
With that said, I researched online marketing to see what people were discussing, what they needed, and how I could help them. Then I developed a myriad of interesting, engaging content that was centered around my target audience’s needs and concerns. I did this by pinpointing topics that I knew would create engagement, discussion, and comments.
Since I am a specialist, I share my insider knowledge, and I help others by answering questions whenever I am asked. I try to focus on creating content that is original and helps people grow and expand their business. I anticipate needs and create engaging content that fills those needs.
By generating innovative ideas, helping peers, and engaging with your community members, you can achieve one or more of these goals:
- Lead the market conversation
- Build loyalty
- Stimulate passion
- Build and maintain a buzz
- Create excitement
So calling yourself an expert is an ineffective way to become an expert, but repeating someone else’s claim of your expert status is a phenomenal way to become an expert. Why?
Expert status doesn’t stem from what you think of yourself; it stems from what others think of you. When others deem you an expert, suddenly your reputation grows, your credibility increases, and your reach is enhanced. In other words, your fans are your very best source for branding yourself as an expert. This is beyond invaluable in the social media realm.
For example, in the copywriting industry, perhaps the most well-known expert is Bob Bly. Decades ago, publisher McGraw-Hill allegedly crowned Bob “America’s top copywriter.” The title stuck, and today it is difficult to read about Bob Bly without reading this accompanying fact. Whether he truly is America’s top copywriter or not has become of little importance. It is now considered an accepted fact, much like a royal title.
If you’re serious about building a strong business, let people notice your greatness, and they will tell others. This is why so many of us count referrals as such a valuable source of income.
When you are considered an expert by others, you become sought after for many reasons:
- Experts offer distinctive services that others cannot.
- Experts provide valuable sound bites.
- Corporations seek out experts to certify risky business enterprises.
- Followers are attracted to expert knowledge. (As humans, we all want the assurance we’re doing the right thing and following the right advice.)
- Experts sell more products because people are more apt to buy from an expert who is credible and legitimate.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start developing your own expert status!