You already have a reputation online and as we discussed in the very beginning of this personal branding series you’re either managing it yourself or the general internet population is – we’ve firmly established that you want to be in control!
One of the next things that you’ll want to start thinking both from a strategic and tactical perspective is how to begin to manage, curate, and build your reputation, especially as an expert.
Now, you might be thinking “Um, sorry, I’m not expert at anything!” and you might be right (or overly modest) but many of us mistake expertise and being a specialist (see this post about specialization). You see, you don’t have to be the “best of the best” to be an expert – in fact, here is a worthwhile definition for you to hold on to:
Noun: A person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area.
Adjective: Having or involving such knowledge or skill.
See, the thing is that an “expert” is always relevant and contextual to those that need an expert – in other words, an expert is someone who’s knows more about a subject than their audience, and in many cases, their clients and customers.
This means that if someone is looking to you for help or is even compensating you for your advice then you are, in that relationship and context, the expert.
If Everyone is An Expert…
Sure, many of you will want to put the brakes on for a moment and say something to the effect of “Well, if everyone is an expert than no one is!” and that may be true but it’s never stopped the world from turning and never stopped people making a difference and certainly never stopped making people a healthy and respectable living.
You see, you can be an expert locally, within the context of your network, in your close circle of friends and family, and even to a set of growing and paying clients. Who really cares if the guy across from you at Starbucks also is an “expert” and is even in your same field?
The question of this series is whether or not your curating, managing, and growing your online presence and brand and promoting your expertise better than they are, right? Those that complain the most about “all the other experts” are upset that they aren’t busy enough with work and clients to care.
So let’s get down to business and start building your personal reputation as an expert in the select few areas that are marketable and profitable for you and let the rest of the world handle it’s own business, right?
And honestly, people that complain annoy the heck out of me – let’s all be doers instead of whiners, ok? Heck, let me admit as well that I’ve even whined about it in the past too! But I do mention focusing and being honest about one’s expertise.
Build and Grow Your Online Reputation (and Your Expertise)
Be remarkable at what you love and what you do and people will talk about it. In fact, they will think the world of you and most likely give you way more credit than you rightly deserve. This is human nature and it’s neither wrong nor necessarily right – it is what it is.
The challenge for you is to make sure that you deserve the right to be called and named an expert which means you realistically have the talent and skills to match the brand that you’re promoting. Review your “positioning” and three core strategies to help you determine these the best.
But here are some additional thoughts of how you go about effectively building your reputation especially in terms of marketability and your target market:
1. Separating Experience and Expertise
Make sure that you’re comfortable and confident with your core skillset(s) as a professional. The more specific the more targeted and the more understandable to your target market.
I always amuses me (and confuses me) how some people’s digital brand says that they are have expertise in 20 different things ranging in many different market segments and industries. The challenge is separating “experience” and “expertise” into two separate and understandable camps.
You see, although I have “experience” doing a image editing and graphics design I would never say that I’m an expert or that you should follow me or even hire me for that type of job. The problem is that many of our viewers or customers see this as an expertise.
The result? Dilution of your brand. Instead of building and growing your online reputation in a specific area you’re diminishing it across many different fields of the marketplace. There is nothing wrong with having a lot of interests but your personal brand can’t be a crazy hodgepodge assortment of origami folding, web development, and nordic skiing.
2. What’s the Most Profitable?
One of the other areas that hurt people attempting to more effectively brand themselves online is not focusing on what will ultimately bring them more clients and customers – and what will ultimately help their bottom line.
The internet has severe ADHD and a very limited attention span. The moment you tell a potential customer or reader that you’re essentially the jack of all trades and the master of none you’ve lost them. People are naturally looking for expertise and they are willing to pay you for well for it but only if they get the “right” brand in their mind and see you as the solution.
Sometimes we have to bite our tongue and swallow our pride and limit the areas of expertise to really the most profitable. What I mean by “profitable” is financial on one level but it’s much more strategic than anything else since you’re goal is to help yourself become memorable, in comparison to your competitors and those vying for attention in your space.
You need to build a brand around your skills and expertise that matter to the marketplace that you want to serve – in other words, you need to showcase the elements where they really count, not anything superfluous or that may dilute your overall efforts.
There are ways to capture these other experiences but don’t make it part of your chief brand.
3. Becoming the Expert (Online) You Were Born to Be
Sometimes all you’re missing is an effective strategy and plan for being the online expert that you already are – and this is the challenge for a lot of “older” folks that have had incredible careers with game-changing perspectives and years of experience but have never taken the time to manage their online brand and they feel like they are starting from, literally, scratch.
Well, my friend, the fact is that you are starting from scratch aside from what already exists online about you.
Here are just a few ways that you can expand your already existing influence offline into the online world:
- Become an amazing blogger. Or at least start one.
- Join Twitter and Facebook. Try some other social media sites.
- Get to know your competitors online. Talk with them.
- Get to know the leaders in your field of study and market. Engage with them. Learn from them.
- Connect with core readers and community members that already “know” you but may have more established online brands.
- Buy your own domain name (your own name, perhaps) and put something up. Something, anything.
- Communicate to your existing client base and/or previous followers and let them know your “going online” – get them excited and get them to back your efforts.
- Commit to the process and the challenge of growing it. It can take time, but it’s well worth it.
These are just some of the few things that you can do and I’ll focus on more of these specifically as we move forward in the series.
Your online reputation as an expert is in your hands – do it well and you’ll see some significant reward.
[This is part of the Personal Branding Series.]