How to Stand Out as an Authority in a Culture Full of Authorities


How many “marketing experts” would you say there are in the world? If you go by LinkedIn profiles or Twitter bio descriptions, there are approximately 2 billion.  

Stand Out as an Authority in a Culture Full of Authorities

In today’s culture, everyone is an authority. Everyone is an expert. Most everyone is some kind of “influencer,” at least in the way they describe themselves.

It’s a symptom of a social culture that both prioritizes authority and lowers the barrier to entry in authoritative conversation.

All the “claiming and calling oneself an authority is resulting in some real problems — including political polarization and willful disobedience of resolutely good health advice.

What about influencing in marketing?

If you’re in the marketing world or trying to bolster a new startup’s visibility, you face a different set of concerns. You want to stand out as an authority  — but how can you do that in a world that’s full of so-called “authorities?”  

The Influencer Apocalypse  

We’re in the middle of what I’m willing to call an “influence apocalypse.” Social media is filled to the brim with would-be “influencers,” or authorities with significant followings.

Presumably, the opinions and directions of these influencers have a bearing on the attitudes and behaviors of their followers. With so many active influencers stating contradicting opinions, this seems unlikely.  

How did this area become so oversaturated?  

A few important factors are intersecting here:  

1.Accessibility. There’s practically no barrier to entry when it comes to sharing an opinion online.

Anyone with an internet connection can start their own blog in a matter of minutes, publish a manifesto, and share it with a global audience via social media. There are literally billions of content creators creating new content regularly, whether it’s a new eBook every week or an occasional tweet.  

2. Scale and volume. Sheer numbers make it easy to overestimate your own prowess – and stimulate your ambition to get even more. For example, let’s say you post a controversial opinion and 100 people “like” it or share it.

That’s 100 people who presumably like what you have to say – and you may not have close to 100 “irl” friends. If that number grows to 200, it could feel like you’re on top of the world if you’re not used to that level of exposure.  

3. Niches and gaps. You could strive to become an influencer in a broad field like sales or marketing, and many people still do. Still, more frequently, we see people trying to conquer a specific niche – like introducing a new sales methodology or specializing in one type of marketing.

These niches tend to fill quickly, and new influencers are always looking for gaps, resulting in near-total coverage and little room for newcomers in generic fields.  

4. The allure of status. Whether you’re interested in taking your company public, running for President, or just getting a round of applause for your meatball recipe, all of us are vulnerable to the allure of status to some degree. Earning a new title, getting more respect, and having more of a presence within a given community simply feels good.

It’s no wonder why so many people strive to be stand-out influencers in today’s world, even if our top channels and media are overcrowded. It’s even stronger since we get to see so many people enjoying the benefits of being at the top.  

Why Authorities Still Matter 

It would be silly to suggest that the influencer apocalypse has spoiled our appetite for expertise. 

Human beings have always valued the knowledge and authority of people more experienced than us. We seek out advice. We learn from teachers and mentors. We run searches to verify our intuitions and curiosities.

No matter how many influencers there are or how many channels we have to communicate on, there will always be some demand for authoritative content.  

In other words, if you’re trying to stand out as an authority in your own right, there’s hope.  

How to Stand Out  

What does it take to stand out and build an audience in this “influencer apocalypse” era?  

These are some of the best strategies at your disposal:  

  • Master something unusual. Consider mastering something unusual – a field of study or a topic that not many people have explored. This is a great way to differentiate yourself from others and avoid competition. It’s also a great way to earn links and inferred links from external sources since you’ll be one of only a few potential link sources on the topic. The only tradeoff here is that your initial audience will be smaller – but it will also be easier to acquire and potentially more loyal.  
  • Maintain a consistent vision/philosophy. Try to be consistent with yourself. If you make a firm stance on a given issue, don’t reverse course the next day. Such maneuvers are often executed as a cheap attempt to win short-term loyalty, but they have the potential to devastate your perceived integrity.  
  • State controversial opinion (with backup). Don’t fall into the trap of always telling your audience members what they want to hear. Sometimes, you’ll gain more prestige and notoriety by going against the grain. Don’t be afraid to state some controversial opinions, as long as you have the data or logical arguments to back up what you’re saying. This is especially valuable if it distinguishes you from other experts in your industry. 
  • Stimulate discussion. It’s not just about you – it’s about the people around you, too. Facilitate discussion in your groups and your platforms of choice. It’s a great way to learn new things, make your audience feel connected, and get attention at the same time.  
  • Take accountability for your mistakes. We all make mistakes. We misstate facts. We say dumb things. We change our minds on our opinions. When this happens, take accountability for your mistakes proactively.  
  • Don’t copy someone else. Some people attempt to become influencers by studying existing influencers and copying everything they do, including their mannerisms, posting schedule, and content style. This is a veritable death sentence if you want to be seen as a distinguished expert. It’s important to inject your personality and do what you think is best – even if that means breaking from the norm.  

Building from the Ground Up 

Are you looking for a fast track to become an expert in your chosen field?  

You’ll be disappointed to learn that there isn’t one. If you want to do it right, it’s a long and gradual process. But you can hasten that process with these initial steps:  

  • Earn credentials. First, make sure you actually earn your credentials. Don’t just call yourself a “marketing expert,” prove it by showing that you have “10 years of industry experience.” Don’t just call yourself a “financial expert,” show off your degree and certifications.  
  • Get in with groups. Start your path to expert recognition by getting in close with specific groups – and the smaller and more niche these groups are, the better. Use social media and public forums to discuss key issues, talk to other individuals, and develop a reputation for yourself. It’s a great way to build a small, but loyal following.  
  • Collaborate. Create content and work together with other people in your field – especially if they already have an audience of your own. It’s an easy way to get introduced to people who might otherwise never hear of you, and you’ll gain more experience and knowledge in the process.  
  • Break from the norm. Look for ways to distinguish yourself however you can by exploring new channels, stating controversial opinions, and engaging with your audience in new ways.   

You can’t become an influencer overnight.

If you want a chance at rising to the top in an era oversaturated with so-called “influencers,” you’ll have your work cut out for you. But today’s consumers are still eager to hear the opinions and perspectives of well-read, experienced, and thoughtful people – and you still have a great opportunity to capitalize on that with the right approach.  

Top Image Credit: pixabay; pexels; thank you!

Timothy Carter

Chief Revenue Officer

Timothy Carter is the Chief Revenue Officer of the Seattle digital marketing agency SEO.co, DEV.co & PPC.co. He has spent more than 20 years in the world of SEO and digital marketing leading, building and scaling sales operations, helping companies increase revenue efficiency and drive growth from websites and sales teams. When he’s not working, Tim enjoys playing a few rounds of disc golf, running, and spending time with his wife and family on the beach…preferably in Hawaii with a cup of Kona coffee.

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