How To Become An Expert Online

Let’s face it – this is what we’re all striving for, right? We want to be acknowledged as an expert in our field. We want customers to recognize our expertise so they’ll trust us with their dollars. We want bloggers and reporters to see us as an expert so they’ll use as a source and send traffic our way. And, of course, we want Google to think we’re an expert so it’ll deliver new eyes and more conversions. We’re all fighting the expert game. But how do we really become one?

I’m often asked how small business owners should go about building their expertise online. Below is an expanded version of the answer I often give.

1. Be different

The first step of being known as an expert is being known at all. And to do that, you need to stand out. Identify what is different or a little bit kooky about your business, and then bleed it from everything pore available. Now, before you go crazy, simply being weird isn’t enough. You have to be weird in a way that serves your audience. What is weird about you that helps them achieve their goals? How does your uniqueness make you better suited to serve their needs? That’s your point of difference.

If you don’t know what your POD is, ask your audience. Why do they do business with you? What keeps them coming back? You may be surprised at what they tell you.

2. Tell stories

Consistently tell stories about your brand and your industry. This is how people will connect with you and how you’ll become memorable. Share yourself, get personal, and tie it back to your customers’ goals.

From a brand perspective – create content that shows your POD in action. Tell stories that demonstrate how you do business, post photos of your consumers interacting with your products. Make sure these items are easy to find and to share. Craft stories about your industry by creating characters out of the biggest players, highlighting issues, and setting your brand up as the solution. If you’re not looking at how to incorporate storytelling into your marketing, you’re making it harder for people to remember your name and what you’re about.

3. Build relationships

Become an expert networker.  If you know someone who should know someone else, connect them. If there’s a blogger whose radar you want to get on, connect with them.  Comment on their blog and offer a helpful tip, help them solve a problem they’re dealing with, connect them to a person in your network you think they should know. Little by little these “acts of goodwill” will help you to create powerful relationships that you’ll be able to leverage in the future.  Be nice and helpful to everyone you meet. Partly because there will comes a time when your generosity will pay off and, also, because it’s just a good way to be.

4. Talk about your industry, not yourself

Write more about your industry and the world around you than you do about your own products or services. If someone is interested in learning about your product offerings, they can find that information on their own. Instead, pique their interest by talking smartly about the things they’re concerned about. If you sell green-related technology, focus on the issues your audience is passionate about and share your stance. Set yourself up as a thought leader and become part of the conversations that are happening around. The more you’re seen talking about the key issues related to your industry, the more you’ll be perceived as an expert by those around you.

5. Be seen

Once you identify what it is you want to be known for, be seen talking about it. Don’t be a wallflower. Guest blog on other sites, participate in online conversations, attend conferences, and get your voice and your opinion out wherever you can. You’d be surprise how much of “becoming an expert” is really about “being seen talking about stuff”. It’s somewhat sad to point out but the more you’re seen, the more apt people will be to put you on the pedestal.

6. Show results

Of course, you’ll have to be able to do more than just talk. You’ll also need to prove your salt by showing your results. Post case studies showing how you helped Client X increase their revenue by 200 percent in the year they worked with you. Post client testimonials that explain how your product made their life easier. Document your success and share it in the form of helpful tips and tactics that others can learn from. Collect information and share it with your entire industry so everyone can benefit from it.

7. Keep learning

Once you achieve a certain level of success it becomes pretty easy to keep talking about what you’ve done instead of doing new stuff. The trouble with that is eventually you’ll run out of things to talk about or the topics you want to talk (ie the same old things) about won’t be as valuable anymore. In your efforts to be seen as expert, don’t forget to keep learning what you’re trying to become an expert in. That’s how you’ll expand upon your thought leadership, it’s how you’ll keep getting invited back to the table, and it’s how you’ll, ultimately, be able to better serve your customers. You can be seen as an expert all you want – if you can’t back it up, eventually you’ll customers will realize and leave you.

8. Be humble

Resist the urge to drink your own Kool-aid by focusing on giving back to others. Instead of patting yourself on the back, lift others up instead. Not only will it make you a more attractive person to be around, you’ll also be building valuable connections that you’ll be able to use in the future. Because no one becomes an expert on their own. They do it with the help of everyone around them.

Above are tips I would give to anyone trying to increase their expertise online. What’d I miss?

Businessman Photo via Shutterstock

Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.