Image

Building a community of authority.

In marketing today, we toss around words like “influencer,” “advocate,” “guru,” and “thought leader” a lot. Lessons are offered for earning these distinctions and for creating marketing programs to leverage those that have. All good. Without a doubt, you become more known, liked and trusted as your “community of authority” expands.

“Community of authority?” Oy, do we have another lofty term here to add to our new media marketing vocabulary? We might. (Remember where you heard it first.)

Here’s why I couldn’t resist creating the term:

(1) A community can accomplish what an individual cannot.
(2) You can accelerate your influence by leveraging the authority of other authorities.

Consider the plugs you read in the first pages of a book, on the back cover or sleeve. It’s rare they come from unknowns. The author asks other respected authors and leaders to read the book and provide testimonials. If you recognize the person behind the plug it means far more than if you don’t. 

But who knows whom you have or haven’t heard of—or what persons you deem experts?

With that in mind, as an author (or speaker, blogger, product evangelist, etc.) you don’t bet the farm on one testimonial. You rally up trusted and influential people to create a community of authority and in doing so, you garner far more authority.

“Influence” starts with “a.”

The “a” in influence is amplification—amplification that comes from having influential friends.

A week ago, I created a blog post on my company’s blog, The Point, titled “26 Helpful Emails I Get, Open and Read (and You Should Too).” The article is a hit beyond my expectations.

I really didn’t do much to promote the piece. I didn’t have to. You know why. The content marketers I wrote about and recommended to my readers—all influencers—promoted it. Truth be told, I got far fewer comments on the blog than I hoped I would (just one), but the tweets and shares across social media blew me away. 

My community of authority went to work for me.

In some cases, I’m very well acquainted and am now friends with the content creators I plugged. In other cases, we know of each other ever so slightly. And in a few cases, I began making new friends, such as Greg Linnemanstons, the president of Weidert Group, an authoritative inbound marketing agency (HubSpot Gold-Certified.)

Greg reached out to thank me for including his agency. He promoted the post, of course, and we’re pen pals now. I suspect, he’ll have his eyes open for more content from me and plug my content in the future. It’s called reciprocity, a powerful principle of persuasion. 

I like what TopRank’s Ashley Zeckman has to say on “giving and getting” in her post “4 Tips for Becoming a Better Influencer.” 

#CMMinds
Let's hash this stuff out together. Use #CMMinds anytime to make comments or counterpoints, add your ideas and ask questions. I'm listening. 

Ideas for creating your community of authority.

Want to create a community of authority? Here are some ideas for making it happen.

  • Roundups—A somewhat easy way to connect with and associate yourself with an influential group is to feature their resources and insights in a piece of content you create. Relationships tend to result.

    A little over a year ago, when I had begun getting active on SlideShare, I created a roundup style presentation called “Content Marketing Hall of Shame.” I simply asked experts I admired to answer one question, “What is the most common mistake content marketers make?” The seven answers that best jived with my vision for the piece were featured. The presentation garnered a lot of views and shares and I believe it was the start of me gaining traction as a voice of authority in the field—that is, authority by association.

    I put a great deal of TLC into the presentation and it paid off many times over. I’ve reused it in many instances and made new connections as a result. In fact, “Hall of Shame” was the topic of the first conversation I ever had with leading author and consultant Jay Baer, who is now a friend, mentor and advocate of my work. (I contribute often to his informative website and blog, Convince and Convert.)
  • Events—Nothing I can think of is more meaningful to making important connections that lead to the expansion of your community of authority than attending industry events. However, it’s not enough to attend. You have to engage. Give out some swag. Introduce yourself. Devise a cool icebreaker. (This bird-brained idea of mine was a seriously effective tactic for me making friends at my first New Media Expo.)

    Don’t be shy at industry events. For instance, if you see an author you admire because you appreciate their book or blog, walk up to him or her and say so. There’s nothing an author likes more than learning his or her writing helped you. Be sincere and you’ll make a friend for life.
  • Crowd source—The “Hall of Shame” presentation I mentioned is an example of crowd sourcing content, but just one. Your content need not be a slide deck and your method of gathering content need not be email.

    Crowd source ideas by asking topical questions in LinkedIn Groups, other forums such as American Express Open, on Quora or Yahoo! Answers, via your email newsletter, surveys, research or blog. Even a comment stream on a blog post, if it’s interesting enough, can be fodder for a valuable crowd sourced piece of content capable of having a team-building effect.

    When you attend an event, have a mini-camcorder or voice recorder in hand (your smart phone will suffice) and ask the experts you meet to answer one quick question. Do it 5-10 times and presto, you have the makings of a piece that will position you as an expert by association and is likely to get shared by each interviewee.
  • Create your own community—LinkedIn makes it easy to create a community with a LinkedIn Group. Google+ does as well. How about creating and maintaining a Twitter chat or hashtag? I’ve begun creating a community with this column using the #CMMinds hashtag on Twitter. You can do the same.

  • Actual partnerships and teams—Perhaps you’re not up for handshaking with strangers or taking some of the advice I’ve given thus far. Okay, build a team of people in your field you already know. Extend an invitation for the players to extend invitations to their associates and friends. Like-minded professionals with common goals can easily forge a team and put their heads together to create influential content.

    A simple partnership, even a one-off effort, works too. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve followed/friended/engaged an expert based on something we have in common in our professional lives and asked if they’d do an interview. The answer tends to be yes. The results tend to be powerful. And your promotion team doubles instantly. Should that person have a large following, you’re likely to capitalize on it too. 

    I’m seeing some wonderful executions of this approach today. This eBook interview series by Everyone Social is A+ awesome. I’ve found it enormously inspiring—so much so, I’ve begun doing something similar.

    Of course, podcasts and video interviews are also effective tactics for partnering to create content. Great examples are too numerous to cite. I get asked to do interviews often. Not surprisingly, I accept. 

    Here’s an interview I did about the power of content marketing with my good friends at Social Media Explorer. (Psst… Hosting podcasts and/or video interview programs gives you a press pass to speak with media figures.)
  • Lists—Make a list, as did with the blog post I mentioned above. You can make your list a post, infographic, micro-post series, email, slide deck.(Check out this one, for example, a List.ly page I did featuring many of my favorite one-liners from some of the most well-known marketers. Some even added their ideas to the list, which is a cool feature of List.ly.)

    The list approach is not unlike the round-up, however, with proper attribution to your sources, you need not tax anyone’s time or even seek permission.

  • Gamification—Create a game, contest, or scoring system of some sort. It’s an incredibly common tactic, easy to do and very effective. Make your game map to your sweet spot, a topic you’re an expert in, and gaining authority is inevitable. Want to put an community spin on it? Feature others, invite others to play, and invite others to invite others. Offer an exclusive version of your game to a website or blog you’d like to become a guest on.

  • Guest post— An enormous number of influential bloggers welcome guest posts on their blog. Generally, you’re not paid, but both parties benefit. The host gets your content. You get the host’s audience. Select your blogs wisely and contribute excellent material of great value to the website’s readers and your community of authority is sure to expand.
  • Recognition and sharing—Here’s the easiest and most important tip o’ the day. Simply be a good netizen by recognizing others and sharing their content. It’s an act of kindness and just plain smart social media in action. Your efforts seldom go unnoticed. If they do, try again. If you want someone to become a part of your community of authority—or you want to get in on his or her’s—a thumb up or tweet might be an effective first step.

    Maybe you want yours truly to know you, share your stuff, feature your advice, and recognize you as an authority. Join this conversation. Chime in on twitter via #CMMinds, follow me on Social Media Today or a social network, introduce yourself to me, interview me, or tell me why I should interview you. 

Your community of authority is in your hands.

I believe I’ve only scratched the surface of what is a vital approach to a championship content marketing campaign. The opportunities are only limited by your imagination. 

So take it in your own hands to build a community of authority. Take a long, considered, careful look at the influencers around you. Seize the day and build a community of authority for yourself.

Content Marketing Minds is a weekly Social Media Today column written by Barry Feldman about content marketing at its best and its worst. Conversations take place on Twitter at #CMMinds. Look for the future installments on Thursdays.