Even if you are an expert in your field, establishing that reputation online can be a long and uncertain journey. However, if you are persistent and use content to channel your efforts in the right way, you can quickly build your authority in your given area of expertise.
The following is not a prescriptive set of steps; rather, it is a general guideline for using content to establish credibility online for yourself or others at your company.
Although we’ve seen an explosion of image and video content, the most common way to spread your ideas is through the written word. Writing is crucial for lending weight to your opinions.
Luckily, it’s easier than ever to get written content out there, whether you’re writing for a blog or sharing content on social media. There are numerous specialized publications with varying degrees of editorial scrutiny, making it relatively easy to get your work published somewhere within your industry. This allows you to develop a portfolio that you can ultimately publish as front-facing content for you or your business. Consider posting your content to Linkedin or tweeting a link to your personal blog. Strategies like this will help you to build your portfolio and gain visibility—for free.
As a general rule, the more you can manage to write, the better. Since the end goal is to establish expertise, write about topics you know well and that impact your industry, and encourage your employees or company leadership to do the same.
In much the same way that you should carefully choose which topic to write about, it’s also important to have the right audience in mind. After all, building credibility online is not only about making sure people view you favorably, it’s also about making sure the right people within your industry view you favorably.
If you’re attempting to establish subject matter expertise in the IT community, it doesn’t make sense to write to anyone else but the IT community. Your content will ideally appeal to both industry insiders and the layman, but you should still put your core audience first.
This means understanding what the members of your community, i.e. your potential customers, are interested in reading about. What conversations are they having? Where are these discussions taking place? What interests them the most?
Start answering these questions by writing consistently about subjects directly relevant to the group in which you’d like to establish yourself as an expert. Storytelling on behalf of your business should always relate back in some capacity to your offerings, as well as your audience’s interests. Finding a balance of both is the key to being successful with your content and further establishing your authority.
Now that you’ve started writing and identified the your audience, you’ve likely noticed key trends being discussed within your industry. The more specialized and focused the group, the more pronounced these trends tend to be.
With a little luck and enough attention, you might be able to get in on the ground floor of one of these trends. Seizing opportunities like this can rapidly accelerate your path to the title of subject matter expert. Once a trend picks up, the ensuing spike in interest can carry your reputation far.
For example, look at the history of searches for content marketing over time. If you were lucky enough to start writing about content marketing in 2011, giving yourself a head start in that niche, you could have ridden that wave quite a long way.
Hindsight is twenty-twenty, which makes it easy to dismiss an example like this. However, if you are actively participating in a community and writing with consistency, these types of trends become easier to spot earlier on. It’s simply about taking the initiative to commit your energies where you think they will be most effective.
A blog can be a great place to start establishing your expertise, and writing for publications is a logical next step; however, these are just the tip of the content distribution iceberg. One great thing about spreading your ideas online is that there are so many touch points where people can interact with you and your opinions.
This can make establishing your subject matter expertise online a daunting task. To truly brand yourself a subject matter expert, your ideas need to appear wherever your potential audience is looking for authoritative information.
Without a dedicated team to publish your work on every network, true Internet omnipresence is virtually impossible. Start by familiarizing yourself with the channels your audience uses most and focus on building a presence there. People tend to explore topics along multi-channel trajectories. For instance, someone might Google an article, then click a related link. After that, they might follow some influencers on Twitter or LinkedIn or download an eBook on the subject. If they notice your name on all these channels, it’s more likely they’ll begin to think of you as an expert on the topic.
It’s nearly impossible to get that kind of presence without help from others in the community. Chances are, as you start writing and participating in any online community, you will begin to recognize a few names. These are most likely the influencers in the industry; befriending them is of the utmost importance in establishing your credibility online as an expert.
And influencers are looking to continually establish their credibility as well. Luckily, online expertise is not a zero-sum game, and there are many ways to partner with community thought leaders in a mutually beneficial way,.
The first step to such a partnership is to reach out and start building a relationship based on an exchange of value. Before networking with other experts, think of ways you’ll be able to help the other person better achieve their goals. As an example, you could offer to quote a fellow subject matter expert in your article or invite her to write guest blogs on your own site.
There are many ways to make such a partnership work, so there’s little excuse not to actively build and pursue these kinds of relationships as you go through the process of establishing your expertise with content.
So, you’ve done your due diligence and your online credibility is light-years ahead of where it was when you started. Now what? Do you just keep on doing the same thing? Of course not. Now that you wield influence in your industry, it’s time to use it—especially offline.
How you leverage your credibility will likely depend on the industry, but no matter what field you are in, it is important to remember that content is merely a means to an end. Once you’ve built yourself up, parlay that newfound reputation into pursuing exciting opportunities and actually putting some of your expertise to work. There are groups to join, networking events to attend, partnerships to be had, speaking opportunities, and more to further establish your expertise and reach your goals—both personally and professionally.
Once you are doing great work, your reputation will build and manage itself. Your Twitter bio’s claims will finally become legitimate ones (unlike most).
Which techniques for establishing yourself as an expert are you looking to implement? Are there any experts in your industry that you admire? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Register for the Content Standard Newsletter for more content marketing news and insights.