This blog post is based on episode 235 of the ProBlogger podcast.
Starting a new blog can be a bit of an uphill battle. You need to create lots of content, and then use that content to bring traffic to your site.
But what’s even tougher is building authority and influence in your niche. After all, why would people believe you’re an authority in your niche when you’ve barely talked about it?
Sure, you may know a lot about your chosen niche. But talking about how much you know and what you’ve achieved doesn’t seem to cut it anymore. These days anyone can call themselves an expert, and so people expect more than just self-promotion and a list of achievements .
Which is why I’d like to share 13 tips for building and influence through your blogging.
1. Share everything you know
There’s no doubting that to be an authority in your niche you need to know something about it. And obviously the more you know, the more influential you can become. But rather than keeping it all to yourself, you should share what you know with your audience.
Not only will it prove that you really do know what you’re talking about, it will also help you come across as someone who is honest, likeable, and that your readers can trust.
Of course, that means you should never pretend to have knowledge that you don’t actually have. But you should never need to pretend you know more than you do, because my second tip is to…
2. Don’t be afraid to talk about what you don’t know
How do you react when you see someone calling themselves an expert or a guru on a particular topic? Chances are you roll your eyes and think, Yeah. Right.
The reality is that no-one knows everything about their topic. And it’s quite okay to let your readers know there are areas that you’re still learning about.
If you’ve been reading ProBlogger for a while then you’ll know I’m not the most technical blogger in the world. I’ll often tell people that I can’t answer their question because I don’t know the answer, and then try to find out from someone who does.
You might think it’s the last thing you should do when trying to be seen as an authority. But admitting you don’t know everything makes you more ‘human’, and it can help you build a deeper connection with your audience.
3. Learn in public
If you want to become an authority in your niche then should always be trying to learn as much as you can about it. But rather than keeping your learning journey a secret, why not share the journey with your readers so they can learn with you? Chances are they came to your blog to learn the same thing, so why wait until the very end to reveal what you learned?
Learning together will help you form stronger relationships with your audience. They may even even be able to fill in some of your knowledge gaps and help you learn faster.
And don’t be afraid to do it in case you take a wrong turn or make a mistake. Mistakes are a part of learning, and your readers will be able to relate to your situation, which again strengthens the relationship.
4. Use case studies of yourself and others
There’s a big difference between telling people what you know and showing people what you know. And a great way to show them is through case studies.
When I started ProBlogger, I’d occasionally do case studies on how I’d improve someone else’s blog. It was just me telling people what I’d do to improve their blog, but always in a positive way. It wasn’t a critique, but rather a list of suggestions and constructive things.
People started asking me to coach them. But instead of coaching them one-on-one in private, I wrote up little critiques and posted them (with the blog owner’s permission, of course). The posts became very popular, but also showed that I knew what I was talking about. And being able to demonstrate what you know indirectly can be a very powerful thing.
5. Show vulnerability
Just as none of know everything about a topic, none of us are perfect either. Which is perhaps why we get so cynical about people who call themselves experts. Even if they do know a great deal about their chosen topic, they can come across as being so ‘perfect’ that no-one can relate to them.
People want to connect with people, not robots.
So don’t be afraid to get a bit personal in your blog posts. You don’t have to reveal every minute detail about your life, or share every thought that pops into your head. But revealing a little bit about yourself and showing some vulnerability can be a great way to connect with you audience .
6. Share your transformations and conversions
Let’s say you want to hire a personal trainer. Who would you rather hire: someone who has been fit their entire lives and never struggled with their health, or someone who has struggled with nutrition and exercise over the years but has now reached a point where they’re healthy?
My guess is you’d rather hire the person who has struggled. Why? Because they’re more likely to understand the struggles you’re going through help you get past them.
So don’t be afraid to tell stories about how things used to be and how much better they are now. We like to hear these stories, because it makes us believe we can make similar changes in our blogging and our live as a whole.
7. Have a positive, optimistic and constructive outlook
Some influencers seem to take great delight in busting myths and tearing people down. But I’d much rather hear from someone who spends most (if not all) of their time presenting solutions, solving problems, and pointing the way forward.
That’s not to say you can’t get negative on your blog. Sometimes being negative, critiquing something and busting myths can help you build you authority. But the last thing you want is to become known as a negative person. It may bring you traffic, but it won’t help you become an authority.
8. Give to others before asking them to give to you
There’s definitely a time for asking. There’s definitely a time for selling what you do. But as I think about the people who I see as influencers and the people who I bought their products, the asking tends to be dwarfed by their giving and by their generosity. Survivors don’t be self-serving. Yes you need to win out of the scenario and this is a trap that some bloggers get into, it’s like just give, give, give and don’t actually get. You’ve got to get some balance in there on that. But you want to be known as generous before you ask.
Blogs like Copyblogger. I’ve read Copyblogger for years. Brian Clarkson Simone generously gave amazing teaching. I read them for years and as a result of that, anytime they will release a product I was a buyer of that product based upon the generosity of what they’ve done. I wanted to reciprocate. The only reason I bought their products was because they were so generous. Build a platform of generosity, of giving before you ask or promote.
9. Be reliable
Authority isn’t just built on what you know but rather people knowing they can rely and depend upon you, people knowing that you have their back. Don’t be flaky. Don’t promise things that you don’t deliver upon. You want to be shipping, you want to be showing up. If you say that you were going to do a podcast every week, do a podcast every week. If you’d say you’re going to do a blog post every week, do a blog post every week. If you’re going to send an email newsletter every week, send that email newsletter every week. Do everything you can to show up. Not to say that you can’t take a break but forecast that break. Tell people the reason why you’re taking that break.
It’s reliability. It’s being there for your reader and them feeling like you’re consistent and you’re going to continue to show up and you’re going to have their back. This builds credibility. When people know that you deliver a podcast every week or that you deliver articles every week and you deliver that newsletter, they begin to show up expecting that you’d be there as well. Be reliable in that way.
10. Keep your messages clear and simple
Did you notice how clearly and simply I said that? Keep your messaging clear and simple. Authority isn’t built upon making yourself look smart and lording your intelligence over those who follow you. Authority comes when you make your audience feel smart, when you facilitate them making discoveries, when their knowledge grows because of you. Again, let me think about this. It’s not about you looking smart, it’s about you making your readers feel smart.
I love the quote from a guy called Adam Grant. He said, “Good communicators make themselves look smart. Great communicators make their audience feel smart.” Really important distinction there. The old school way of building authority is about look at me, look at all the things that I know, look at all the things that I can say, look at all the big words that I can use. That might make you look good but influence, trust is built upon people feeling that they are benefiting from the relationship and that they are getting smarter as a result of you.
This needs to shine through in your content, the way you write your content. I’ve read a number of articles recently that talk about how to best communicate is actually write at a low level. They write at an 8th grade level rather than a university level. Actually writing in a way that your readers can understand the words, they don’t need to go away and look up words in dictionaries, they don’t need to guess the jargon you used – actually writing in a very clear way that makes your readers feel like they can understand what you’re saying is actually so powerful in building authority and credibility as well. It needs to shine through in the content that you use but also in the way you promote yourself as well. Don’t just make yourself look smart, make your readers look smart. Bring them into that in many ways that you can.
11. Use your influence for the benefit of those you influence
There are too many word influences in there but think about this. A lot of influencers use their influence to benefit them. “I want to be influential.” “Why do you want to be influential?” “I want to be influential because it’s going to get me a car, it’s going to get me a holiday, it’s going to get me money. It’s going to get me all this stuff. I’m going to get a lot out of being influential.” The reality is that that’s only going to get you so far.
Great influencers use their influence for the benefit of other people. Use your influence for the benefit of other people. I see a lot of people trying to build authority and influence because of how their influence and authority will improve their lives. But I’m struck by the fact that many of the great influencers that I’ve met live very simply. They use their influence to benefit others.
What can you do that’s going to improve the situation of your readers and make the world a better place in some way? I actually ask that question from time to time. You will discover ways to use your influence, as small as it may be, to benefit other people. Obviously, you can write content that’s going to solve your readers’ problems but what more could you do? What more could you do for your readers?
For example, as I think about this for ProBlogger, what can I do to benefit you as an audience? One of the things that we’ve been realizing over the last year or so is that yeah, we can teach you how to blog but one of the needs that we see a lot of bloggers having is they want more traffic, particularly new bloggers. As you start your blog, you’ve got no traffic. One of the things we realized as we were doing this Start a Blog course that we launched recently is that we can actually help our students to get their first traffic.
This is why we started International Start a Blog Day, which happened yesterday as I record this. We actually promoted the 103 blogs that started as a result of our course because we realized we could not only help these bloggers to start their blogs but we can actually give them a little bit of traffic. We’ve been promoting these blogs. I had an email this morning from someone who said, “Wow, I had 100 readers yesterday. I never thought I’d get 100 readers on the first day of my blog.” What could you do that could help your readers to have their dreams come true? What could you do to help your readers’ dreams come true? Don’t just use your influence to make your dreams come true. Find creative ways to make your readers’ dreams come true as well.
12. Show your audience that you know, like and trust them
The quote by Bob Burg, “People do business with those that they know, like, and trust.” This is a very well-known quote. I believe it. People will want to do business with you when they know, like, and trust you. One of the ways that you speed up people knowing, liking, and trusting you is to actually do those things to them as well. I think this quote is a two-way thing. Don’t just try and be known, don’t just try and be liked, don’t just try and be trusted but actually display that you know your audience, that you like your audience, and that you trust your audience. Let’s just break that down a little bit.
Do you know your audience? The more you know your audience, the better position you’re in to build authority with them. Do your research on who is reading your blog. Who are they? Their demographics. What are their needs? What are their dreams? When you know these things, you’re in a much better position to serve them and as a result they’re going to begin to realize that you actually know who they are. One of the best things that I get is emails from time to time from people saying, “I feel like that podcast was for me.” That is because I’ve spent a lot of time trying to understand who is my audience. I create content based upon knowing who they are having met many of them at our conferences and our events but also talking to them on Facebook lives and those types of things as well. The more you get to know your audience and show them that you know who they are, the more they’re going to want to know, like, and trust you as well. Know your audience. Know, like, and trust.
Like your audience. Show warmth to your audience. Show your audience that you actually like them. Make your audience feel they are charismatic. A lot of bloggers they want to be charismatic themselves. Actually make your audience feel like you know them but you also like them. Spend time with them. Get on Facebook live and answer their questions. Hang out with them. Some of the most popular Facebook lives that I’ve done have been the ones where I’ve sat with a beer on a Friday afternoon and I’ve just said, “Let’s hang out.” We just chatted back and forth. We’ve asked questions of each other. We’ve hung out, we’ve had fun. Those are the types of things that, actually as I look back over the year, I’ve built relationships with my audience the most. Hang out with them. Show them that you like them.
Lastly, show them that you trust them. This comes down to this vulnerability that I was talking about before. When you share something of yourself, you’re showing your audience that you trust them. By me sharing that I’ve got three boys and me sharing that I’ve just been on holidays and me sharing some of the mistakes that I’ve made and some of the insecurities that I have, that shows that I trust you as my audience. I wouldn’t share that type of stuff if I didn’t have some trust of you, if I didn’t like you. Don’t just try and be known, be liked, and be trusted. The way that you actually do that is to know who you’re speaking to, to like them and to show that you like them, and to trust them – very important.
13. Understand that it takes time
The last thing I’ll say about building influence and trust and authority is that it takes time. Most of the people that I see as influencers and authoritative type people and people that I see having credibility in the topics that they talk about, as I think about it and as reflecting on this week, they’ve all been around for a while. I’ve been following them for a while. It didn’t happen overnight.
I look at someone like Chris Guillebeau. He’s been blogging for years, probably for a decade or so now. He’s someone that gradually over time I’ve come to know, like, and trust. He’s someone that overtime I’ve began to see has authority on certain areas. It’s because he’s done all of the things that I’ve just talked about. He’s been vulnerable, he’s put himself out there, he’s kept his messaging clear, he’s shown up, he’s delivered on his promises. All of these things I’ve just talked about, he’s done them but he’s done them time and time and time again over the years. It’s the accumulation of that that makes me think, “Yeah, he’s credible. I can trust him. He’s an authority.” That is key.
I know that’s a little bit disheartening for those who just finished our Start a Blog course and you just started. But it’s the accumulation of the little things that you do over time that are going to lead to people knowing, liking, and trusting you, and people seeing you as an authority. It doesn’t happen overnight. It’s the accumulation of these things. It’s the longevity of you doing these things overtime that’s really going to count the most. Yes you can build little bits of influence early on but it’s going to exponentially grow the longer you show up and the more consistent you are with these things over time as well.
I really hope that has been helpful to you. I hope it’s been clear and simple enough. As I thought through, I’m very aware that different people grow their authority and influence in different ways.