*** This post was written by Jennifer Mattern, our new staff writer. Jennifer has been one of the driving forces in the success that RedFly LTD has had in the past year. ***
How do you build more natural referrals to your business, build more Web credibility and repeat traffic to your website, and get more media mentions all at the same time? You become a recognized expert or authority source in your niche or industry.
When you become an authority source, people think of you first (or close to first) when they’re looking for information in your niche. They become type-in traffic and repeat visitors to your website or blog. They trust you. They rely on you. They spread the word about you via word-of-mouth.
Follow these ten tips for building an authority status in your niche or industry, and you can become one of those “expert” sources, reaping the benefits trust and exposure can bring:
1. Present yourself professionally. If you don’t present yourself in a professional manner, you won’t be treated that way. You’ve heard the saying “dress for the job you want; not the job you have.” The same applies here. If you present yourself in an authoritative way, always offering some kind of thoughtful or unique viewpoint in your industry, you’ll have an easier time building your actual authority. If you act new, clueless, or as a follower rather than a thought leader, you’ll have an extremely difficult time changing the initial perception people have of you.
2. Always be honest. Being honest isn’t always easy, because it doesn’t always involve being sweet and spewing out fluff niceties. You may catch more flies with honey, but you won’t necessarily build trust that way. If you love a new product, company, individual, or idea in your industry, by all means support it publicly. But if you see major faults with something, share that publicly as well. Lying to be nice is never going to demonstrate your expertise. Ignoring issues that you’re afraid to criticize just makes you look like you don’t know what’s going on in your industry. The key is simply stating the supporting facts behind your opinions, good or bad. Back up how you view something, and answer any questions posed, and before long people will turn to you first to find out your thoughts on new developments in the niche.
3. Don’t shy away from criticism. Everyone can’t like what you have to say all of the time. If someone criticizes you, it can be easy to fly off the handle. Instead, focus on keeping your cool, answering their arguments, and moving onto something else. How you handle criticism can be a major factor in your trust levels. Always aim to be the bigger person, but at the same time don’t back down from your views unless you’re completely convinced that you made a mistake.
4. Launch an industry blog. Blogs are relatively easy and inexpensive to set up, and they give you an instant publishing platform to discuss hot issues in your niche. They’re an excellent way to become a go-to source for current information, news, and opinions, no matter what industry you’re in. You can further increase your exposure as a thought leader through tactics like conducting original research and publishing your results there.
5. Leave comments on other industry blogs. Don’t spam them with blurbs about your company or site. Instead, leave a thoughtful contribution as a supplement to the original post. When trying to build authority status, it’s always best to post comments using your full name and not an alias or handle. Remember that it’s about building name recognition by associating your name with what you have to say. Commenting on the posts of other bloggers is also a great way to build recognition directly within your professional community as a networking technique with other bloggers.
6. Use article marketing effectively. Mass-submitting articles to article directories may be a way to build quick incoming links, but it’s not a smart way to build your expert status or work towards becoming an authority source. Mass submissions “cheapen” what you have to say. Remember, you want your opinions to be in demand so people turn to you for media interviews, come to your site for this information, etc. Instead of using article directories, write unique pieces and submit them for consideration with respected and high-subscriber e-zines or newsletters, niche blogs that already enjoy authority status, or higher profile websites in your industry.
7. Have a portfolio publicly available. Showcase some of your better work on your website in some way. If you’re a consultant, that might mean case studies of client projects. If you’re a writer or designer, that might mean posting links to published samples or screenshots of design projects. If you’re trying to build authority for a company or site instead of a person, you can do something similar by having a press room or newsroom available on your site where you showcase past news, past coverage, executive and owner bios, or anything else that may make your site convey its authority more effectively.
8. Respond to people. Precious little will drive people away from your company or site more than if they feel ignored. If people comment on your blog, respond to their comments when possible and appropriate. If people email you, try to respond to them (if that’s not possible, at least have an automatic response set up letting people know what kinds of things you do and don’t respond to and in what general timeframe). If you receive customer complaints or suggestions, honestly consider them. Even if you don’t make changes, acknowledge that you’ve heard the concerns, and when appropriate explain your position in not making the changes.
9. Publish a book. It may sound like it’s easier said than done, but it’s not. Obviously a book picked up by a major publishing house can carry the most authority. But plenty of professionals across all niches are building their expert status and exposure by publishing e-books or self-published books as well.
10. Contact the media. If you want journalists and bloggers to not only know that you exist but come to you for background and quotes on their stories in your niche, you need to make them aware of you. While it’s possible they’ll come across your blog, portfolio, book, or something else, you can speed up the process. Write an op-ed or a letter to the editor to try to have an opinion piece on an industry issue published to get your name and credentials in front of an editor. Or, if you’d prefer, simply contact the journalist or editor most relevant to your niche directly, introducing yourself, sharing some references to your work or writing, and offering to chat with them if they ever need information about your line of work.
Building an authority status for yourself, your business, or your website can take time. However, following the ten tips above can point you in the right direction towards increasing your exposure and building the kind of trust and other rewards that recognized experts enjoy.