Online authority is something that thousands strive for, but relatively few achieve. Becoming a ‘thought leader’ in your field can transform your business – but it is an elusive goal that relies on hard work and dedication.
Building trust online is an ongoing process. Here are our top ten tips to help you become an online authority.
1. Don't spam
This is the first and potentially most important rule of online engagement. Spamming will kill your online reputation stone dead, and should be avoided at all costs. Social media users can spot spam a mile off. Instead of using channels like Twitter to just plug your business, make sure that you contribute to the community. Readers will soon find out what you are selling of their own accord.
2. Be honest
While a little self-promotion never hurt anyone, the online community is very good at sniffing out dishonesty. Don’t lie about your credentials – people will find out. At the same time, though, don't be shy about your achievements. Things like awards, professional qualifications or trade body memberships all help to boost your authority.
3. Engage with your competitors
In the online field, it often helps to begin thinking of your competitors simply as participants in the same game. It is very likely that you can learn something from each other, so consider engaging with these individuals. By swapping information and entering into discussion you can help to build potentially useful relationships – and increase awareness within your industry.
4. Don't avoid criticism
As soon as you start to become more visible online, you will open yourself up to criticism. No matter how hard you try, you will not be able to get everything right all the time. So, make sure that you remain open and receptive to criticism. Building authority online is almost as much about learning as it is teaching – so think of criticism as a chance to improve your knowledge.
5. Read everything...
If you are to become the go-to person in your chosen field, you need to make sure that your finger is well and truly on the pulse. You should devour everything that is written about your industry, and be ready to comment if you want to stay at the top of the pile.
6. ...but don't presume you know everything
But, while it is important to keep ahead of the curve, you must recognise that you may not be able to be an expert in every specialist field. There may well be someone who knows more than you. Instead of ignoring them, engage with them – their knowledge is valuable to you.
7. Engage offline
Online authority is most effective when it spreads into the offline world too. It is easy to forget the importance of offline networking, but you should try to make use of opportunities like trade fairs and informal meet-ups to help build contacts. Meeting the people you converse with online can be hugely beneficial – not least because web users often place more trust in a ‘real person’ than they do in a Twitter avatar or a faceless blog author.
8. Position yourself with the press
Your authority can be further increased by positioning yourself as a spokesman for your industry. The press often requires quotes from trusted or respected professionals, and by making yourself available to the media you can help to build your personal brand.
9. Be generous
Building online authority is all about giving – giving information, giving advice. Don’t hold back. Instead, share what you have with those who are interested, by publishing online and actively engaging through social media. The more approachable you are, the more you are likely to be trusted.
10. Be different
Finally, remember that there is little point in rehashing existing blog posts or slavishly retweeting other people. You need to put your own stamp on your content, either by approaching topics from a new angle or simply by being the first to cover new developments. Develop a tone of voice that helps you to stand out from the crowd, while ensuring that you sound professional and trustworthy.
Online authority is an elusive commodity, and one that can really only be achieved through hard work. Remember that you will have to take the time to develop relationships and cultivate readers if you want to rise to the top. Above all, don’t copycat. Remain individual, and your online stock will soon rise.