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Rise of Authority: Why Being An Expert Isn’t Enough

Authority is Hot.

You get a sense of the word’s strong, unambiguous, and provocative personality. The only words that get’s close is chutzpah. Now I see why Copyblogger has adopted Authority and placed it’s considerable marketing muscle behind positioning it smack dab in the middle of the content conversation.

Authority does matter and unlike expertise, you can’t just say you’re an Authority – you have to prove it.

What is Authority?

Although I’ve seen this word float around for a few years, I can’t find a commonly accepted definition. For those who have championed the term, Authority is a collection of tactics that focus on persuasion through education. Authority isn’t marketing or advertising. It’s simply what you get when no one can question your contribution or passion.

Like I said, Authority is Hot.

We also have to recognize that the focus on Authority was helped along by Google’s relentless search for Authority on the Internet. Google’s Page Rank is a quantitative indicator of Authority that laid the foundation for Larry Page’s and Sergey Brin’s empire.

I won’t try to explain the Google algorithm, after all its more closely guarded than the Col. Sanders recipe, however it’s fair to say that Google considers Authority to be a reflection of your website’s ability to earn the demonstrated trust of other websites. One sign of this demonstrated trust is a simple link from a 3rd party site to yours. In the fast-moving , activity stream governed world, a simple link from a well-regarded site cuts through the noise and carries incredible weight.

Google’s vision of Authority syncs with Copyblogger and Chris Garrett‘s view. You have authority when the audience says you do. You earn that praise by “bringing the thunder” every day.

So I’ve changed camps…

Being an Expert isn’t Enough

It hurts to write those words.

I’ve been a champion of the Expert label for a while now. I still believe in expertise. The problem is that you don’t. I’ve been stumping for Expert Status for so long that I forgot to listen to your objections. But, know you have my attention.

Here’s the problem:

These days, being an expert is too easy. Just say you’ve been doing something for 10+ years and BAM! You’re an expert.

It wasn’t always that way. It used to be that you wouldn’t dream of saying you’re an expert unless you had been mentioned (or featured) in a major magazine or newspaper. It was also required that you have a published book and spend time on the speaking circuit. However right about….2006… that changed.

I blame social media.

When Social Media picked up steam buoyed along by Twitter and Facebook, marketers seeing another industry-changing wave, grabbed their surfboard and paddled out to ride this wave to shore. However the space got crowded and when elbows started to fly, you began to hear the word “Expert” used more often than it should.

So… Now the recent college graduate without a shred of business experience was telling CEO’s how to run their marketing strategy. Things got out of hand. You got cynical. I get it.

That’s why Authority is so refreshing.

What Authority Looks Like…

How do you spot an Authority in a crowd?

First, they aren’t trying to be an expert. ** They are trying to matter.** They want their skills, perspective, and tools to be useful. They are in it for the long-term. This is why they seem to stay relevant, even when the latest fad cools and disappears.

I also see:

Confidence They are willing to take a stand, point out error, and go it alone. Their confidence doesn’t come from a slick website or a clever book title. It comes from years refining their craft.

Openness An Authority welcomes inspection. They hate black boxes. They believe they grow when everyone can collaborate on a point of view. For this reason, Authorities often frustrate their followers because they are willing to change their mind. They don’t confuse decisiveness with stubbornness.

Curiosity An Authority is obsessed with “what if”. They quickly tire of the same line of conversation. They are looking for new connections and they are intensely focused on the unconventional strategies that the expert’s dismiss.

Productivity An Authority embraces “the grind”. They know that Authority is perishable. Authority stays fresh when it publishes. They are more afraid of being inconsequential than being perfect. Publishing is their way to force the world to push back and make them better.

The good news is that you’re an Authority. You have to decide how you’ll grow and cultivate your skills and experience.

What Now?

I’m arriving about a year or so late to the party. The folks at Copyblogger have been quietly nursing this line of thinking for a year or so. Go over there, do a search on the word Authority and start absorbing what you find.

Over here, we’ll be talking about the skill sets that every Authority has to have and refine. It’ll be fun

Avatar Of Paul Austin

Paul Austin

Paul is a writer living in the Great Lakes Region. He dabbles in research of historical events, places, and people on his website at Michigan4You. When he isn't under a deadline, you can find him on the beach with a good book and a cold beer.

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