Back in 1984, Dr. Robert B. Cialdini’s book “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” changed the way marketers interact with their target audience. In it, Cialdini lists the six methods of generating the influence necessary to optimize sales processes: reciprocity, commitment/consistency, social proof, liking, scarcity, and authority.
The idea that influence plays a critical role in optimizing sales funnels may be older than the internet, but it remains highly relevant today. Throughout the digital realm, brands are implementing these six strategies to generate and convert leads more effectively.
In this post, we’ll put online authority under the magnifying glass. We’ll discuss five different ways to position your brand as a thought leader in a particular niche, with the intention of generating the influence Cialdini advocates in his seminal book.
1. Create Genuinely Valuable Content
It’s easy to think about your company’s blog as nothing more than a mechanism that enables content marketing. Don’t get me wrong – you should be basing your content strategy on keywords that will attract the maximum number of convertible visitors. But this shouldn’t be your only consideration.
Your content strategist might come up with a completely generic topic, but even when that’s the case, try to insert one or more unique snippets of knowledge into each piece. Whatever the topic, it makes a whole lot of difference when you offer insights that haven’t merely been spun from other online sources. Recruit experienced content writers and incentivize them to conduct new research and draw unique, provocative conclusions from it.
By adding exceptional value to your marketing content, you’ll be reaping a double benefit. Firstly, if you follow best SEO practice, your article stands a decent chance of ranking on Google’s SERP and generating a respectable amount of organic traffic. This is content marketing 101.
Secondly, by exposing readers to new knowledge, other blogs may link to it as an informational source. Backlinks increase the post’s visibility to Google, boosting both its ranking and your website’s domain authority. When potential customers consistently see posts from your site ranking in the top five search results, this creates enormous credibility for your brand.
Runners Athletics is an excellent example of a company that treats their blog posts with this amount of respect. The sports sunglasses manufacturer isn’t afraid to post a long read packed with new, referenceable information written by a knowledgeable writer.
These posts generate authority because they contribute to the site’s overall visibility on Google and give visitors information that they can’t get anywhere else. This is the very definition of online authority.
2. Make the Most of Media Mentions
Occasionally, even a small business will get favorable coverage in the media. This usually happens either because the company got exceptionally lucky, hired a well-connected PR agency, or because they convinced someone that their product was worth the attention.
Either way, getting your company mentioned in the media isn’t an easy thing to pull off. Digital marketing guru Neil Patel’s website recently published an excellent how-to guideline on the topic. I highly recommend this as a starting point if you want to explore this particular strategy of building online authority.
Once you get positive press coverage, you’ll want to shine a very bright spotlight on it. Even the most casual reference by a recognizable media outlet can be leveraged to win online authority and your visitors’ trust.
Zoma Sleep does this exceptionally well on their memory foam product’s landing page. After scrolling past the product details, the visitor is shown a very prominent “In the News” section. This area displays the logos of the outlets that featured their product, along with selected quotes from the coverage.
Visitors to the Zoma site will interpret this neat UI element as proof that their interest in the product is justified by a source they can trust. They also feature customer reviews below, to add extra social proof (another of Cialdini’s six methods of influence).
3. Partner with the Right Influencers
What sets influencer partnerships apart from social proof such as customer testimonials? Why is a recommendation from the right influencer more valuable than one obtained from a regular customer?
Considering you’ve made it this far through the article, the answer shouldn’t come as a massive shock to you. An influencer’s opinion carries additional weight because they’re exceptional in their niche. They have authority because of what they’ve accomplished.
When exploring the world of influencer marketing, many small businesses make the mistake of prioritizing an influencer’s reach over their suitability for the brand. This one of the most common reasons why some influencer marketing campaigns fail to achieve their goals.
Context is everything. Your brand’s target audience must see the influencer as an authority in your niche, rather than just someone famous. This leads to “authority by association” – and that’s something your brand’s marketing department can spin into numerous pieces of content.
An excellent example of a small business that managed to attract influencers with an exceptionally high level of relevant authority is Transparent Labs. The company bagged themselves Game of Thrones actor (and former World’s Strongest Man), Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson and his wife, fitness influencer Kelsey Hanson, as spokespeople for their nutritional supplements.
The connection between their products and their specialist endorsements is evident, and the amount of online authority (and subsequent influence) this creates for the company is enormous.
4. Land a Frequent Guest Blogging Gig
While guest blogging is often seen as a predominantly SEO-oriented technique, it’s also an effective way to elevate your CEO’s authority on a particular topic. The major difference between guest blogging to generate backlinks and guest blogging to build authority is that the latter benefits from frequent posting on the same platform instead of posting on as many sites as possible.
Your company CEO (or any other appropriate spokesperson) will build an audience by making regular contributions to a high-authority platform. They’re going to be recognized. Their opinions will also carry greater weight because they’re published on a reputable source of knowledge.
This is great, but how do you go about landing a frequent guest blogging gig?
Brace yourself; it’s not easy. The research and outreach effort alone could swallow up quite a bit of your time. Let alone, creating content of sufficient quality and insight. Fortunately, there are many online resources to help you with the initial part. Finding a prospective platform and pitching yourself as a potential contributor.
5. Engage with Your Community on Social Media
Social media provides excellent opportunities to build your brand’s reputation and authority on a specific topic. Of all the strategies that we’ve discussed in this piece, social media engagement constitutes the least amount of effort. It is arguably also the approach that will yield the fastest results.
The one drawback is that, just like creating quality content, social media interactions have to make a meaningful contribution to the community’s knowledge of a particular topic. Simply retweeting and liking a thought leader’s provocative tweet isn’t going to cut it. Neither is responding to it with a banal contribution that any member of the public could come up with.
If you want to leverage social media interactions to build genuine authority, you’re going to have to give serious thought to what you add to a particular conversation. Give every interaction the attention and thought it deserves. Ask yourself whether your thoughts on a topic drive the conversation forward. Be opinionated without being arrogant. When possible, base your opinions on content that your site has published and include links to your sources.
Again, there’s no shortage of excellent online resources on using social media to build authority for your brand. Don’t be afraid to do some research before embarking on this rewarding but potentially risky journey.
Some Final Words
These five strategies cover two main aspects of building online authority and influence: illustrating expertise and knowledge, and showing external credibility to win trust. Both of these approaches are equally important if your company wants to shorten its sales cycle.
Just bear in mind that this level of authority isn’t won overnight. If you genuinely feel that your company can benefit from generating influence in this way, you have to understand the level of commitment it requires. There’s no shortcut to looking like an expert on a complex topic.
All you can do is put in the hours to develop your knowledge and find ways to exhibit it meaningfully. It’s a tough challenge, but the rewards are there.