It pays to be seen as an expert. Depending on your goals, being seen as an expert could help you get leverage in a tough negotiation. It could help your brand achieve more visibility and earn more trust from its customers. It could also help you build your career, giving you access to more job opportunities and a better growth trajectory.
But here’s an unpleasant truth about the modern world: being an expert and being seen as an expert are two different things. There are experts who don’t get the respect they deserve and there are non-experts being treated as if they’re true authorities.
Fake news and other controversies aside, building your own perceived expertise can be incredibly valuable. And it’s a lot easier than most people would expect.
What does it take to be seen as an expert?
It’s a bit different for everyone. For some people, wearing a suit and speaking in an authoritative manner is all it takes to be seen as an authority. Others are more discerning.
In any case, perceived expertise is usually attributable to some combination of the following:
Credentials. You need definable metrics that, more or less, “prove” you’re an expert. A degree from a respected institution or an official title can go a long way.
Originality. There are likely thousands, or even millions, of people claiming to be experts like you. So what makes you different?
Confidence. How you present yourself matters. Eloquence, grace, and authoritative confidence can all help you build your image.
Connections. Many people evaluate authority by proxy, whether they admit it or not. The people you work with can significantly influence how you’re perceived.
So how can you earn these for yourself?
Your first job is to earn the credentials you need to be seen as a credible expert in your field. In some industries, there’s almost no getting around it; you’ll need to get a college degree or a formal certification. In other fields, you can establish your credentials through other means. For example, you could work for several years in your chosen industry or you could contribute to some impressive research breakthrough.
In any case, you should have something concrete and measurable to prove your education, experience, or skills in a given area. This is arguably the most arduous and most important aspect of your expertise-building journey.
Next, you’ll want to start creating content. It’s one of the best ways to prove that you know what you’re talking about, it’s an easy way to differentiate yourself with original thoughts and it’s low-hanging fruit for self-marketing. Build an archive of several dozen posts and try to write new content in your area of expertise at least once or twice per week.
Much of your growth as a perceived expert will come from your interactions on social media (whether you like it or not).
There are several important elements to your strategy here:
Syndicate and distribute your work. Social media is the perfect outlet to distribute your written content and other work. As your audience grows, your work will get more visibility – and you’ll have an easier time convincing others that you truly know what you’re talking about.
Join groups and get involved in discussion. Visibility doesn’t accumulate by itself, no matter how much you know or how much you’ve done; that’s one reason why some experts never get the recognition they deserve. If you want to build your authority and reputation, you need to join groups and get active in discussions. Answer questions, give your opinion where appropriate and don’t be afraid to debate people.
Build your network. Spend time building your network as well. Connect with the people you meet in groups. Reach out to people you know in real life. Get your follower counts up and start climbing the influencer ladder in your industry. The more people in your network and the more authoritative those people are, the more expertise you’ll be seen to hold.
Finally, you’ll need to start partnering and earning affiliation with trusted brands. That could mean getting a piece of work published in a serious journal or magazine, securing a Fortune 500 client or even just getting featured in a piece of mainstream media. Once you secure these connections and affiliations, you can use trust badges (or something similar) to show them off.
The road to being seen as an expert can be a long and difficult one, but it’s worth the expert. With a better reputation and more visibility, you’ll have a better chance of achieving your goals – whether you’re interested in building a business from scratch or just climbing to the next rung of your personal career ladder.
Originally appeared in Entrepreneur