by Ryan O’Connell
Thought Leader. Industry Expert. Go-to Person. These are all popular phrases in today’s online marketplace that get thrown around very loosely. Of course everyone wants to be considered an expert or a thought leader. What most professionals don’t realize is that in the same way that they build a company from an idea to the point of earning an actual profit, to be considered a thought leader, it must be earned. Furthermore, it must be established online.
But what does it really take to be considered an expert? Common consistencies that I see from true online experts include:
1. Clear-cut mission
From their website to their purpose, an online expert doesn’t just say he’s an expert, he shows it by having a clean, simple and informative website. It tells exactly what the professional does, how they do it and why they are the go-to person for the product/service.
2. Engaging and relevant content
Whether it’s content on their blog or content from articles/books that they have had published, an online expert understands the need to consistently be pushing their expertise and knowledge out to those who can learn from it. It’s about offering value, not about offering a little upfront so you can charge for the rest.
3. Credibility stamps
When I go to an expert’s site, I look for credibility stamps such as awards, endorsements, testimonials, published articles, books and recommendations. If the person is truly an expert in the industry, she should have something to show for it.
When it comes down to it, consumers, partners and peers are smarter than ever and have more tools at their discretion to be able to vet the person they will be doing business with.
If a consumer is looking for the best and the brightest, he’ll likely seek out someone who’s won a few awards. Awards won’t break you, but they can make you. When a consumer comes across a company or personal website and sees an award, it creates credibility and trust with the person even before the first interaction. It also takes down the prospective client’s sales guard. This is especially true when it is an award that someone is aware of (i.e. nationally recognized award), or if it specifically pertains to the industry that the business is in. Instead of being the best small business in Weldon Spring County, the company is considered a top up-and-coming search marketing firm.
While social media may not be an important aspect of your current business model, you should make an effort to stay active and relevant. Many people vet potential partners and experts via social media.
Image courtesy of Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot | FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Social Media Do’s
LinkedIn – Build up your network to have more than 500 connections. Sure, there are experts out there that missed the boat on LinkedIn being a useful professional connection platform, but in order to be viewed as an expert and an influencer, you need to show that you have a large and useful network. It’s just one example of being seen as an actual influencer and not just a hack with a personal website and consulting business
Twitter – Offer value to those who follow you. Keep it professional but make sure not to lose your voice. Understand that your next clients could, and probably will, check your Twitter profile and conversations. Don’t just promote what you’re selling and where your next speaking engagement is. Utilize this platform to inform, educate and engage by pushing out industry relevant content, asking pertinent questions and interacting with other professionals regularly.
Social Media Don’ts
LinkedIn – Don’t confuse LinkedIn with Facebook and update your status with funny titles or random photos to get a laugh. Keep your profile up-to-date with company information, awards, published articles, books and anything you want your customers to know about you. This could be your one and only chance to gain trust and prove your credibility to your audience.
Twitter – I keep in mind that that a potential client could read every tweet I publish. Don’t use it as a personal platform to express opinions about politics, religion or other topics that might offend. Sign up for a personal and protected Twitter account if you want to spout off about various topics. The last thing you want to do is offend a potential customer or partner based on a late night rant or meaningless ramble.
As a company or professional brand, you need to have advocates speak about you as an expert in your field as well. There is nothing more credible than adding third-party recommendations and endorsements. Simply saying, “my clients are happy,” or “I’ve had numerous people endorse me,” doesn’t cut it. Whether it’s getting people to recommend your work via LinkedIn or having clients and previous colleagues endorse your work through testimonials that you can include on your website, personal stories about great work will take your reputation as an expert to the next level.
Ryan O’Connell is the Vice President of Business Development for Digital Talent Agents, a company that helps experts build their businesses through thought-leadership and content marketing by producing high-quality content for reputable publications. Ryan is actively involved in the entrepreneurship community and is passionate about helping businesses grow. You can reach out to Ryan on Twitter @Oconnellryan.