In his seminal book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert Cialdini lays down six principles that make people tick and get them to say “Yes.”
- Commitment and Consistency
- Social Proof
Marketers have forever used these principles to make sales.
All of them work great, but I can safely say that building an authority is the hardest of them.
Dr. Robert Cialdini says that,
“People feel obliged to obey authorities”
Imagine how nice it would be if you could get your readers to feel obliged to you, feel bound to believe you, or feel inspired to act upon every suggestion you give?
It would feel great, wouldn’t it?
But authority is a big deal.
And building an authority doesn’t equal to getting a significant Twitter following, or creating a large email list, or even getting a ton of backlinks.
Building an authority goes beyond that.
And I mean way beyond that.
More than ingredients of authorities, these are signs of authority or the benefits of being an authority.
So what’s authority?
Today we’re going to take a closer look.
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The 6th Principle Of Persuasion: Authority
Lots of blogs use authority and expertise almost interchangeably.
But they’re different. Let’s look at their meanings.
Authority: the power to influence others, especially because of one’s compelling manner or one’s recognized knowledge about something.
Expertise: expert skill or knowledge in a particular field.
The primary differentiator is “the ability to influence”.
So you may be an expert but not an authority.
Besides, an expert won’t be expected or excused for making $50,000 mistake, right?
Yet, Groove (the upcoming customer support software) made it and is still considered an authority.
Here’s the point: you don’t have to be an expert or a know-it-all person to become an authority.
If you’re an expert, great!
But even if you aren’t, you still stand a chance of being an authority if you’re learning, experimenting, and wanting to help your target audience using your newly discovered knowledge.
So think authority and not expertise.
3 Ways Authority Maps To More Traffic, Leads & Sales
1. Massive Exposure
Authority blogs get linked to a lot as they are perceived to be the ultimate resource on a topic (and they are).
It’s also common for blogs to pull quotes from authorities to add to their content.
If fact, when you pull a quote from an authority, you too, earn a little credibility yourself – that’s the power of authority.
And that’s why you see this happening all the time — bloggers repeatedly referring to or quoting the same authority sites.
Look at the number of backlinks for a single post on QuickSprout.
Image Source: Neil Patel
2. Ardent following
Authority sites provide invaluable content.
Did you hear that last bit?
Not every now and again (which I was guilty of)….
But time and time again.
They create content that addresses their prospects’ deepest desires and fears, making it irresistible to ignore.
Once people realize someone to know a lot about a domain that they want to explore, they keep coming back and become loyal followers.
“In social media, think what happens as you earn more fans and followers.
Essentially your social influence and authority go up, and now as someone looks at you, you’re more likely to get suggested on the sidebar of Twitter.
More people are likely finding your pages.
More people are resharing your content and liking your content, which means you appear in front of more people.
Now if you do things like Facebook advertising, you can appear to a broader audience because you already have so many people who are your fans and who like your page.”
Maybe followers is a mild word.
Over time, authorities create evangelists.
Michael Hyatt, an authority in the online marketing and publishing niche, has a large and highly engaged Twitter following.
3. New business opportunities
As you and your work get noticed, you start making lots of connections.
These connections and exposure often result in new business opportunities.
If you position yourself as an authority in the time management domain, who knows when a publisher might sign a book deal with you.
It could also be that a premium time management product might want to tie up with you to cash in on your credibility.
The benefits of being an authority are undeniable.
But it requires work to build one.
A lot of work.
Usually without any immediate financial gain.
Although authorities set new trends all the time, there are some that are almost evergreen.
All of them offer great stuff for free, practice transparency, admit mistakes, and so on.
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The 7 Top Modern Trends Of Authority
To take your first step toward becoming an authority in your niche, understand the values that authorities share.
You need to make them a part of your work culture for becoming an authority yourself.
1. Positioning Consciously
I once read a post by Derek Halpern, founder of Social Triggers.
It was really intriguing.
He mentions in the post how he was surprised when all his colleagues used the same phrase to describe their new boss – everyone happened to echo the opinion.
Derek was amazed, but soon he reached the conclusion that the new guy marketed (or positioned) himself like that.
That’s the power of conscious market positioning.
Essentially, by positioning yourself consciously, you can get everyone to think about you in a certain way.
Even in the online world.
It’s just that some things stay with you if you only tell them enough number of times.
If you’ve read the copy for Apple products, you’ll see how they create a certain image about the product in people’s heads.
All the press, media, and even ordinary people start picking the same phrase and terms to describe their products.
Now here’s the kicker: these titbits (sound bites) that the press or audiences choose about Apple products aren’t picked randomly.
In fact, they are consciously added and repeated several times during the product copy.
This is the crux of conscious positioning.
It applies evenly to products, brands, and authorities.
How Authorities Adapt Conscious Positioning:
Authorities always specialize in a field.
And when the field is too big like online marketing or health and dieting, often they choose a subset.
Here’s what I mean: If I were to try to target being the number one blog for online marketing content, it would be very tough if not entirely impossible.
That’s because perhaps Neil Patel’s name comes to your mind when you think about online marketing.
(Yeah – this is called authority in action)
But if I want to be your go-to guy for building profitable online lead generating funnels, I know the target is well worth chasing, despite some very incredible resources out there.
So now you know what positioning is.
That brings us to know why it’s important to promote consciously.
And I have the best explanation for you.
It comes from the marketing legend, David Ogilvy,
“The simple truth is, if you aren’t deliberately, systematically, methodically — or rapidly and dramatically — establishing yourself as a celebrity, at least to your clientele and target market, you’re asleep at the wheel, ignoring what is fueling the entire economy around you, neglecting development of a measurably valuable asset.”
If you look at my blog, you’ll see how I market my specialization of creating sales funnels.
While of course I discuss a lot of online marketing ideas here on the blog, eventually, I want people to come to me for all things sales funnels.
And if you look at how Neil Patel markets himself, you’ll see how he’s constantly telling people how he helps businesses make more money and generate revenue.
On his personal blog, you can read about him where he re-emphasizes what he does.
2. Embarking On A Mission
Content marketing guru, Joe Pulizzi highlights the importance of having a mission in content marketing.
While his advice is for content marketing, you can easily apply it across the entire marketing domain.
And it’s indispensable when it comes to building authority.
I’d love to rehash Inc’s mission statement. It goes like,
“…Everything you need to know to start and grow your business now.”
Sounds neat, right?
And even Joe’s Content Marketing Institute says exactly what it does:
“Advancing the practice of content marketing.”
Online authorities always have a mission.
It could be to improve the lives of their audiences; it could be to help them get more business, or it could simply be about improving their skills to make them reach their goals faster.
Having a clearly defined mission helps in lots of ways:
- It helps you position yourself. We’ve already seen the importance of positioning oneself consciously to become an authority in a niche (or sub-niche).
- It keeps you from losing direction of your content.
- It helps you in determining your inbound marketing strategy as identifying your target audience is an essential part of defining your mission. (read more below)
3. Practicing Modesty
Let’s admit: Mistakes are embarrassing, and all of us want to avoid them.
And we definitely don’t want to make public declarations about them.
But authorities think differently about failures.
They accept them and acknowledge them publicly.
They share their mistakes with their following.
But when they do so, they never try to justify their decisions.
They just admit mistakes. And perhaps admission is the key.
Honest admissions can work like magic.
When authorities discuss their failures, they don’t discount themselves.
Instead, they look even more personable to their readers.
After all, who doesn’t err once in a while, right?
When I think about gracefully accepting failures, a business that instantly comes to my mind is Groove which I mentioned earlier.
Whenever something doesn’t work out for them, they tell their readers about it.
As their startup blog is focused on wannabe entrepreneurs, their content that includes honest admissions appeals to their readers.
Why does sharing mistake/failure experiences works?
Because everyone likes to learn from other people’s mistakes.
There’s always a lesson or teaching which you can pickup which means rather than going through the motion that caused the mistake for the authority figure, you can avoid it completely.
So such content picks up.
Online authorities never claim to get everything right.
In fact, by sharing their failure experiences, they convince the readers that they have learnt their lessons and are continuing to do so.
Perhaps that’s what stays with the reader.
Remember: your readers won’t judge you.
They’ll just listen to you and respect you for your modesty.
It’s like your readers are following your journeys the same way they follow your movie.
Russell Brunson calls this your “attractive character”.
In his book DotComSecrets, he talks about how to build your attractive character and what makes a strong attractive character.
Reporting on your shortcomings and hurdles makes you look vulnerable and therefore more relatable.
4. Embracing Transparency
If you’ve tried to look for specific advice online, you may have faced this problem of coming across a lot of generic information before.
One that only tells you what needs to be done without really underlining how things impact the bottom line and how that particular resource is doing it themselves.
What roadblocks they faced, what channels worked best for them, and what decided the winning strategies, and so on.
Authorities are gaming up content marketing by taking their readers behind the scenes, and telling them (and showing them) how they do it.
Here’s a great example of Richard Patey sharing his failed funnel over at Funnel Engine.
They don’t just tell you what to do and how to do it, they also tell you how they did it and what worked (or didn’t work) for them.
Suppose you had to try Facebook ads for your business.
Now like everyone else, you start looking for content online to help you get started and come across several how-to posts.
You go through all of them and now have the know-how to do it.
However, you’re still on the fence about doing it.
Now at this point, how refreshing it would be for you to read how someone like you who struggled with/or was on the fence about Facebook ads, started using them and then discovered a ninja trick that drastically improved the results.
Sounds awesome, doesn’t it?
This is exactly how online authorities wow their followings – by hand holding them through their processes and showing them how something worked out for them.
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Buffer’s Transparent Culture
Buffer takes transparency seriously.
The team regularly updates their blog with all that’s happening behind the scenes.
They share everything from traffic numbers to their team size and structure.
Needless to say, their transparency culture earns them a lot of eyeballs.
Neil Patel’s 100k Monthly Case Study
Neil too shares his monthly traffic stats with his readers
Why it works: It’s one thing to say that a blog’s traffic grew by x% in a month, and it’s an entirely different thing to say where a blog is on its journey to reach an individual target (and discuss all the things that worked out or didn’t).
EOFire’s Income Reports
Each month, EOFire takes you behind the scenes of its finances and tells what sources of revenue worked great, the ones that didn’t, and how the month looked like.
Neil Patel has written an epic post about using transparency to become an authority.
“Do you know one simple way you can generate more traffic and sales?
It’s actually by being transparent.
Being open about your business is an excellent way to gain people’s trust and loyalty.
By sharing problems you are facing, or by sharing your financial numbers (whether they are good or bad) will help you build a larger following.
And with that following, you’ll be able to convert more of your visitors into customers.”
5. Creating Definitive Resources and Giving Away Content for Free
Everyone loves free stuff.
And when it’s as good as something you’d gladly pay for, it’s, even more, irresistible.
Chris Garrett from Rainmaker Digital says,
“The reason you are putting together all these free articles, podcasts, videos, and presentations, is that you want to attract an audience that grows your business.”
And Copyblogger takes free content very seriously.
If you look at their library of free resources, you’ll be stunned with how much they’re giving away for free.
Rand Fishkin’s Whiteboard series and SEOMoz’s free SEO guide for beginners are other shining examples of invaluable free resources.
Online authorities are always generous about giving free resources.
It doesn’t matter if you give a free ebook, a free course, or a free webinar, just make sure it’s of premium quality.
6. Listening Carefully
Online authorities care about responses.
They’re always listening and trying to get their readers to talk.
Be it responses to autoresponder emails or even just blog comments, authorities care about what their audience has to say to them.
If you’re a regular on Seth Godin’s blog, you’ll see that a lot of his stories are inspired by what he hears from people.
This user-generated content serves as a great ingredient in creating some of his super viral posts.
You also have Backlinko’s Brian Dean here.
When he heard his target audience complain about “Google hating their sites,” he actually used that phrase to write an amazing post that ranks on top for that phrase.
This post becomes an instant hit with readers who’re afraid Google doesn’t like their site.
Listening to your audience enables you to create content that resonates with them.
7. Staying Agile
Authority sites understand that the needs of their audience change.
To stay relevant to their audience, no matter where they are in the journey, authority sites always update their offering.
As mobiles picked up, Copy Hackers was among the first blogs to offer tips about copywriting for the mobile.
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Authority Hackers’ founder, Gael Breton also touched the base on this point (in my recent podcast about authority website building) about updating their offering based on the changing needs of their customers.
“I’d rather people buy… Authority Hacker Pro, if I keep going at it for like a few years, there’s going to be so much churning in that. I don’t think people will need to buy anything else actually.
Like I produce something like 20 videos per month or something..”
Now that you know the modern day online authority trends, it’s time to look at some action items that you could start to become an authority in your niche.
9 Authority Activities You Should Do Today
1. Explain Why Your Blog/Business/Service Exists (Or define your mission statement)
Entrepreneur defines a mission statement as:
“A sentence describing a company’s function, markets, and competitive advantages; a short written statement of your business goals and philosophies…
A mission statement defines what an organization is, why it exists, its reason for being.
At a minimum, your mission statement should define who your primary customers are, identify the products and services you produce, and describe the geographical location in which you operate.”
Essentially, Entrepreneur’s definition of a mission asks you to identify two key pieces of your business:
- Your primary customers or your target audience: Before you prepare to be an authority, identify your target audience.Unless you identify them, you can’t talk to them in a way that appeals to them or in a way that they talk with each other.To get your message understood, it’s important to know whom you’re talking to and their preferred language and vocabulary (think keywords).
A big part of the puzzle is solved when you identify your target audience.
Because now you know whom you are talking to.
You also have a fair idea about their challenges, pains, fears, and desires.
Now your next step is to explain to them how your product or service or content will improve their lives, eliminate their fears, help them realize their dreams, and more.
Once you’ve identified your target audience, choose one of them and know that person well.
Marketers often use personas for understanding their ideal customer.
(Here’s my favorite tool for creating personas.)
The following persona posters represent MailChimp’s target audience:
Unless you make a connection with your ideal reader or customer — unless you explain to him/her how your product meets their needs, you’ll never make a real impact.
- Your product/service/brand: Now this might sound like marketing 101 but understanding your product or your service is indeed the first step to marketing it.You will be amazed at the number of people who don’t spend time in clearly defining what their product does for their audience. And this often leads to confused marketing.You might have come across this thought that if you can’t explain what your product does in a sentence, perhaps it’s too complex. But: complex or not, start by identifying what your product does for your target audience.
Clarification: Often people confuse a mission statement with a USP (Unique Selling Point) and use them interchangeably, but that’s not the case.
A mission statement is more like a wholesome piece of information that is essential for positioning your product or service in the market, while a USP is mostly just its differentiator or that “cool” thing about your product that no competitor has.
MarketingProfs establishes the perfect distinction between a vision or a marketing statement and a USP.
If you don’t have a mission statement yet, get one. Market positioning statement generator is a great tool that can give you a head start.
Just fill in your details and it will generate an impressive mission statement for you. Of course, it’s just a tool, so you’ll have to use your discretion. But even if you aren’t able to use the result as is, you’ll have a fairly decent starting point.
Once you have your mission, you are ready to start drawing in people who need your product or services.
When you start building your authority, you’re almost converting yourself into a lead generating machine.
It’s a powerful form of inbound marketing.
If you need a little more inspiration for writing your mission statement, here’s another resource: Proven Templates for Writing Value Propositions That Work
2. Go Mobile (seriously)
No, I’m not talking about just building a responsive website.
I’m talking about going deeper than that.
I’m asking you to experience your site on your mobile.
In its guide about micro-moments, Google identifies four types of micro-moments:
The underlying intent of the searcher is clear in all the four cases.
Identify the need that your business or blog or service meets.
Once you’ve zeroed in on that, see if your site is easily accessible when users try to find what you have to offer on their smartphones.
3. Pick a Social Platform Carefully and Integrate Social Sharing and Community Elements In All That You Do
Social Media Examiner states that 83% of marketers indicate that social media is important for their business.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re targeting females with a passion for DIY craft or if your target audience is fresh graduates; there’s some social media platform that they are passionately interacting on.
In the former case, it could be that Pinterest works great for you.
While in the second one, perhaps LinkedIn could offer high returns to you, maybe your potential readers / customers are looking for internship and job opportunities.
Here’s the thing: There’s, at least, one social platform that your target audience is hanging out on.
And that’s where you want to be.
But pick your social media platforms wisely. It’s not important to be on all of them. Just be where your target audience is expected to be. And when you do get on the right social media platform, you’ll not only reach your target customer but will also get exposure before several like-minded individuals via social network features like “groups”.
Now about integration social and community elements:
Again, I’m not talking about just leaving social media icons on your site.
There are so many ways you can generate social momentum.
Think beyond shares — think about: exclusive LinkedIn groups, Twitter polls, Skype open house events.
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4. Plan Communication – Ask People To Ask Questions (And then give them the answers)
When people google things, they’re looking for answers.
When they’re posting questions on Quora or the Yahoo Q&A, again they’re looking for answers.
Each day, your target audience might be asking several such questions.
Just how many of these questions reach you?
Since it’s settled that your target audience has questions, it’s safe to assume that people will value you if you answer them.
They’ll even trust you if your answers are backed by experience, research, or both.
But to answer questions of your readers, you need to know them.
After all, it’s not always possible to troll the question forums to identify questions that you can contribute answers to.
But there is a handy way to go about this.
You can start featuring AMA (ask me anything) sessions and webinars (just remember to ignore the trolls).
Basically, you want to interact with your target audience in real time.
These activities won’t just make you their go-to resource in your niche, but we also help add credibility to your brand.
If you look at the Ask Me Anything sessions from Inbound, you’ll see lots of authorities volunteering.
Look at the number of comments, the upvotes, and the general buzz around them.
5. Create Definitive Free Content
If you’ve been in online marketing for some time, you’ll know that you’re just as strong as the number of subscribers to your email list.
(Well if you’ve been in the industry long enough, you know that every subscriber of yours should generate you roughly $1 per month, but that’s another conversation for another day).
As more and more blogs are aggressively asking users to share their emails, collecting emails is becoming increasingly challenging.
But there’s no way you can succeed without continuously building your email list.
To make collecting emails a little easier, you can create a great freebie.
Freebies are also known as lead magnets. After all, just how many of us can resist a good freebie?
And a high-value freebie is a sure sign of authority (or an upcoming one).
6. Build an Insider’s Circle
Even if you produce the best content in your niche, it will just sit on your site.
Unfortunately, readers, social mentions and shares and backlinks don’t come by themselves.
You need to pull them in.
This hack of building an insider’s circle comes directly from Groove.
To leverage its content, Groove networked with a lot of online authorities most of whom happily promoted Groove’s content.
To take this a step forward, Alex Turnbull, Groove CEO, approached them with the idea of their inner circle.
Here’s the template he sent to their influencer list requesting them to join their inner circle.
The people who agreed to be a part of the insiders circle are the first ones to receive the freshest content from the Groove blog (even before it’s published).
See if it’s possible for you to build an inner circle of some sort.
Every time that a person from your insider circle will share your work, you’ll get exposure before an audience that you don’t have a direct access to.
It might look slightly different but the value and premise can be the same.
7. Write a (e)Book
Now writing a book may not be easy.
In fact, it’s a lot of work but can play an indispensable role in marking you as the ultimate authority in the niche.
Look at the top content marketing gurus out there, almost all of them have released books.
Read these books, read their reviews, and you’ll see how these books have earned ardent followers and authority for the authors.
You too can do the same.
Quick Tip: Since you will use this ebook to position yourself as an authority, give just as much as you need to, but don’t give it your all.
Let your ebook be a preview of what your product or service or even your free blog offers.
I’m not suggesting you to create fluff or impractical content in the name of an ebook, offer your best tips and advice, but make sure that your ebook prompts its readers to be interested in learning more about you.
Its quality, whether good or bad, will reflect on your product or services.
Make sure that you create interest and desire about your product or service in the minds of the readers.
Plan your ebook well. Ideally, it should handhold its readers to your blog or site and be a key stage in your inbound funnel.
And of course, give it away for free in return for a subscription or tweet. Launch it for free on Amazon as well.
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8. Start A Podcast
This post from Forbes completely hooked it.
It paints a very convincing picture of how the future hotspot for marketing is going to be the “Top 100 [iTunes]”.
Copyblogger’s Brian Clark too has ventured in podcasting with the show “Unemployable with Brian Clark” where he discusses strategies for empowering freelancers and entrepreneurs.
If you start podcasting right away, you’ll have the advantage of an early start.
However, consider your target audience before diving in.
Starting a podcast may not be the best choice for all of you.
Just like the option to write a book is also not universal.
Before you choose either of these, you need to identify the preferred channel of learning of your readers.
If they prefer written content, go for a book.
Alternatively, if you think they’re hooked to iTunes, start a podcast.
If you just focus on the first to do on this list, the one about defining a mission with a full understanding of your audience, you’ll know what will click with your target audience.
Just spend some time on the first exercise, and you will be able to make informed decisions about promoting your services and building an authority.
You may have realized, I run my podcast “Marketing On The Move” which I use to bring on professionals and share insights with my audience and following.
This is a great authority building tool for me, but also allows me to be transparent too.
9. Work On Solid Cornerstone Content
Did you know that Copyblogger was created on two cornerstone content pieces?
You got it right, just two cornerstone content pieces.
Even I was amazed when I read Derek Halpern’s case study on Copyblogger.
Now you might find it hard to imagine how the ultimate online copywriting authority started off with so little.
But the real question is: is quantity really that important when it comes to building an authority?
Turns out that it’s just quality that counts.
And the Copyblogger team offers unmatched quality even when it’s about creating free content.
Cornerstone content doesn’t just help you get more readers but also helps you get maximum social shares and backlinks.
Cornerstone content also helps you rank your site for your target keywords.
SEO authority, Joost de Valk tells how sites don’t rank for keywords, but pages rank for them.
Therefore, he recommends everyone to create a cornerstone page or a “hub” page that links to a site’s most relevant and in-depth content.
Why you need cornerstone content:
To become an authority in your niche, you’re going to need a lot of traffic.
In fact, you’re going to need a lot of new consistent traffic.
But all the new visitors who land on your blog don’t know their way around your site.
Chances exist that these people might feel lost on your site.
Even if they don’t feel lost, they might not find out exactly what you do and how you can help them.
But with a little help from you, new visitors can stay with you, subscribe to your blog, and return to you from time to time.
And creating a cornerstone content page is the BIG help that you can offer to your new audience.
It almost acts as an anchorage.
Authority Is Never Built Overnight: Think Years
The Internet is full of online marketing hacks that can get you a spike in traffic or get you more shares.
Quite a few of them work really well.
But there’s no shortcut to becoming an authority. It takes a lot of work.
It takes a lot of CONSISTENT work. You can’t just have a single post or a couple of posts that go viral and expect to be an authority.
Another thing that I’d add here is that there’s no autopilot mode on authority. Once you become one, you have to maintain it.
And since it takes long, you should start early.
Starting by determining how you want to position yourself will give you a kickstart (even if you’re are targeting a crowded or highly competitive niche).
E. g. If you’d like to build an authority in the dieting niche, start by choosing what kind of a diet you’d like to become the ultimate resource for.
By thinking a little deeper, you will find yourself coming up with ideas like the paleo diet, detox, and other such options. Once you’ve had zeroed in on your special offering, it will become a lot easier for you to position yourself as an authority.
The journey to build your authority can be demanding, but the increased exposure, a loyal follower base, and potential business opportunities are definitely worth the effort.
Are you looking to build an authority website? How’s your progress been going so far? Let me know in the comments below.
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