To expand on my last post about continuing your web education, there are many specific things that you can leverage the web for to build your professional reputation and add to your resume. As people go about continuing their education, at some point everyone becomes an expert in something. What is important to remember is that others don’t know that you are the expert in something unless you make it a point to say so. But I don’t mean ram it down their throat.
So what I’m going to introduce here is a five step approach to becoming your own industry expert, thought leader, guru, or whatever other title you want use. I know these steps work because I’ve followed them and am comfortably to the point of saying I’m an expert on a few things. You might be thinking that you aren’t an expert in anything, but that simply isn’t true. I didn’t set out to be a SEO or Web Analytics guru. I’m simply a problem solver. But these were two web niches that have fascinated me. As I’ve become more knowledgeable about them, why not share the expertise I’ve learned with others? Remember everyone is an expert in something! People around you come to you for advice in your field so to them, you absolutely ARE an expert.
1. Determine Your Area of Expertise and Your Voice
The first step is to figure out what this field of expertise is. Remember: passion is very important here because the more passion you have towards a subject the more committed you are and the deeper you are willing to go to be the best. One of the greatest things about the web is the fact this area of expertise can be very specific because of the scale of the internet.
If you are an expert rainbow trout fly fisherman in mountain streams, then share that. There are people that are willing to pay an expert fisherman to take them on trips. Get this passion onto the web and tell your story. Use this medium to get found! Yes, people will WANT to pay you to take them on exhibitions. Personally I LOVE solving problems through the web and helping people be successful through this channel, hence why I would take the time to write this.
2. Start Creating Content: Start a Professional/Personal Blog
The first step to getting found is actually being out there producing the content that you love. The reason I say professional/personal is because your personal passion and expertise should come through in your writing, videos, pictures, etc. Don’t be afraid to establish a unique persona. People love stories so tell yours.
Now when I say let your personality come through, this doesn’t mean we care what you had for dinner or lunch. That is what twitter is for. But find ways to relate your experiences into your expertise. Just because you take it for granted and do it on a daily basis doesn’t mean others have a clue how those things really get done.
3. Start Building Relationships: Comment on Other Blogs
You need the inbound links and brand recognition to get off the ground with your new identity, so get out there into channels and begin engaging. Just because you are an expert doesn’t mean that you are the ONLY expert in your niche. Also, if there are other experts already out there these are the people that you want to be networking with. They obviously share your passion and you have a lot in common. Start building a relationship with them.
From a strictly SEO standpoint all those comments are inbound links pointing to your personal site. You should know that 99% of blogs have comments set up as nofollow links (aka they don’t pass search authority). This means that they won’t help your rankings in search engines. The whole point of a link is to drive traffic and if you are leaving great comments then people will click through to see who you are. I can tell you as a blogger I ALWAYS click through to see who people that leave insightful comments on my blog are.
Finally, just to be extremely clear on this step, starting your own website and commenting on blogs are what help you rank for your own name in search engines. As you build out more authority as an expert, ranking for your own name is crucial! One other tip: having a short name that is easy to remember and easy to type is helpful in establishing an identity. Not that you can change your name, but coming up with a short and easy to remember identity can be a game changer.
4. Network, Network, Network
I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it a hundred more times: most of the time it’s not about what you know but whom you know. I’ve learned a ton about the web over the last dozen years, but even I don’t know everything and would never hope too. What I do know is that between Google, Twitter, LinkedIn and the just the good ol’ telephone, I can resolve just about any problem thrown at me.
Those comments I mentioned earlier are a great way to start building those relationships with experts you hope to join! Having five hundred friends on Facebook, two hundred connections on LinkedIn and three hundred followers on Twitter is only good if you actually know who those people are and what they do. You don’t want to necessarily be dependent on them, but you never know when there is a service one could help you with and one with which you can help them. Also, get out and go to social events like the currently popular tweetups and definitely DO NOT be shy and sit in the corner at a conference.
5. Start Presenting at Conferences
So maybe your area of expertise doesn’t have conferences, but there are things that you can do. Maybe you can write a book, pulling from all those blog articles and stories that you have compiled. As if it wasn’t hard enough to get off the ground and make it to step five, this one requires the biggest leap of faith. We aren’t all comfortable talking in front of people, but at this point in the process this should not be much of a reach.
Remember your network that you have been building? If you have really built relationships then they will be there to support you. Finally, I just can’t help but address it… If you really know your subject and your audience then you shouldn’t be afraid of a “keynote meltdown”.
Although there might be more steps on this path, these steps stand out as being the most helpful in my mind. The point is to get off the ground and ask yourself if you have the passion and what you can become with it! What steps would you give in this digital age to build a reputation and become an expert in your niche?