Why Building Authority is the Secret to Online Success

Who are you and why should anybody care what you think?

If you can’t answer that question in a compelling manner, then you’re probably not an authority figure in your niche.

Maybe you’re just starting out. Or, maybe you’ve been in the game a while, but you’re having a hard time getting people to pay attention to you.

Either way, the solution is to make yourself into an authority.

Here’s the secret that a lot of entrepreneurs don’t know:

Authority is not something other people bestow on you. It’s something you can build.

That might surprise you. It shouldn’t. The people you view as authorities created their authority by their actions. And you can too.

Why Authority Matters

Why is authority important? It’s very simple. When you have authority, people listen to what you say. They value your opinion – and when you tell them to buy something, they’ll do it.

That’s why authority is one of Robert Cialdini’s principles of influence.  Psychologically speaking, people are inclined to do what an authority figure tells them to do – even if they wouldn’t do it on their own.

A simple example of this principle in action comes from television advertising. Maybe you remember those commercials featuring well-known actors. They always started with something like this:

I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV.

You might think of that as a disclaimer, but it’s a statement of authority. People were accustomed to thinking of those actors as doctors. So, when they recommended a cough syrup or headache medication, people trusted those recommendations.

Another way of looking at it is that authority is based on trust. If you do a good job building authority, people will trust you and your products.

Branding and Authority

You’ll build authority more quickly if you define your brand and present it in a consistent way in all your online marketing.

Why? Because authority is easier to build if you have a narrowly defined area of expertise. Nobody is equally knowledgeable about everything, right?

Of course, there are exceptions. Someone like Oprah is so well known that people might take her word for just about anything. She can present herself as an authority on self-help, alternative medicine, clothing, and books because she has achieved a level of authority that allows it.

Most of us can’t do that. We need to define our niches and stick to them.

Here are some ways you can create a consistent and authoritative brand:

  1. Understand how you want people to think of you and your brand and create your brand personality and voice around those things.
  2. Create a customer persona and use it to create your online content that will appeal to your target audience.
  3. Use the same colours, language, and voice everywhere your brand is represented online. That includes your website, social media accounts, email marketing, and in your comments on review sites and forums.
  4. Don’t let yourself get distracted by things that aren’t related to your brand. You shouldn’t be sharing the latest viral video on your Facebook page unless it’s relevant to your followers. Save those things for your personal page.

Think of your brand as the cornerstone of your authority.

Authoritative Content

Every piece of content you create for your brand must be authoritative. That means that everything on your website, online profiles, social media accounts, ads, and marketing videos must be conceptualized and executed with authority in mind.

It all starts with your website. You need a professional site that uses clear and authoritative language designed to appeal directly to your target audience. It should be easy to use and provide immediate value to the people who visit it.

The same is true of your social media content. Every status update, Tweet, or photo you post must be relevant to your brand and presented with authority.

You may also want to consider creating long-form authoritative content to build authority. Examples include:

  • Exclusive content
  • Whitepapers
  • Case studies
  • How-to guides

Any of these can help you demonstrate your authority.

Authoritative Opinions

If you watch cable news, you know that one of the ways they fill the 24-hour news cycle is by booking authority figures to offer opinions about current events.

Think about it. Every political consultant, pollster, or retired general is there for one reason. They have experience and knowledge that is applicable to a story, and because of that, they are viewed as authorities whose opinion is worth hearing.

You can build the same kind of authority online by being opinionated. That doesn’t mean you should spout about politics (unless that’s related to your brand, of course.) What it does mean is that you shouldn’t be afraid to say what you think.

One very effective way to do that is to curate content for your social media pages. Curated content is content that somebody else created. You can find it by following:

  • General news outlets and publications
  • Industry-specific publications
  • Popular bloggers in your niche
  • Popular brands in your niche

It’s not enough to share curated content without commenting on it. That won’t help you build authority. Instead, read or watch everything you share and then offer an opinion about it.

For example, say you find an article that lists ten essential things about your industry. You might feel that the writer left out something important. You should point that out when you post the article.

Taking a controversial stance can be a good thing, too. When you contradict or rebut something that an established authority says, you’re putting yourself on their level.

The key here is to sound confident when you offer an opinion. If you seem uncertain, people will dismiss your opinion.

There’s one more thing…

The final step to building authority is to put these things together and use them to create marketing campaigns that convert. If you do it right, you’ll set yourself apart from other brands in your niche.

In other words, you won’t just be one option for people seeking products or services in your niche. You’ll be the only option – and all because they view you as an authority figure.

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