The Key to Great Content:
Become an Authority in Your Niche
Know. Like. And Trust = the keys (to CM and your biz)
Those words and core concepts are the keys to avoiding those big, huge mistakes in marketing and to producing meaningful content that your audience, whomever they are, wants. Really, really wants. Eagerly awaits even.
To create that kind of content and build those 3 Magic Words you need to do 2 things:
- listen to your audience …
And then listen some more.
Yes. That is exactly what you do.
You may have been marketing to a broad audience. For example, if you were a small business coach then your content may have been directed at all small business owners. But once you've been in business a while, talking to clients, helping them, and really listening – you've learned a lot I bet. Now you have an idea of who you prefer to work with and what types of customers are the best for your business. You are NOT a coach to all small businesses. You probably don't have equal preferences for working with small clothing boutiques, cupcake makers, and personal trainers for women over 40. You know who you've had the most success with, who responds to your message – and who lights YOU up. Listen to more of THOSE clients.
But the 2nd item is:
Build yourself into an authority on your special topic.
You now have the opportunity to create an ideal customer profile using marketing segmentation tools, and you have the ability to take your marketing to the next level and create unique messages for various market segments. Are you marketing to your ideal customer? Are you making the most of your analytics to craft targeted messages to your audience? Marketing segmentation is an essential aspect of a content marketing strategy.
No matter how many skills you have and services you offer, you do have a core focus. You have particular skills and interests. You've seen success with more of one type of client vs. another. So, you have a niche. Right??!! [Ok, if you're worried about this – we can get into Unique Value Propositions together – or see this resource on creating one from marketing expert Peter Sandeen]
Tell Your Story – yes, your audience DOES want to hear it
As your business has grown you may have strengthened your brand identity or you may have veered away from it. Revisit your business plan. Review your vision and mission. Are you on track? Has anything changed? One of the best ways to cultivate a following is to create a strong brand. Identify your brand promise. What do you stand for and why? Then make sure that promise is instilled in every piece of content you create.
The irony in marketing is that part of becoming, or being seen as, an ‘authority’ is getting known, liked and then trusted. <sigh> And how you do that, is create valuable content. It's getting circular, I know.
But the point remains that in today's world of overflowing information – those who make people's lives easier, make them feel smarter, solve a problem for them, or show them a new path to try are the ones who will ‘win'. Actually, everyone wins in this new ‘game'.
Producing and sharing high value, educational, informative, WANTED content is a key way to gain those key factors and become an authority in your niche. If you have knowledge to share that can help a specific audience, you are, or can be, an expert. As an expert in your niche you will get a certain amount of respect, which leads to more traffic due to your perceived expertise.
But, in order to become an expert you must start at the beginning.
No, not all the way back THAT far.
Not really at the complete beginning of your business or organization's life either.
It does help if you’ve earned your expertise through years of study, informally or formally. If you’ve read more, attended more classes, researched more and generally studied up more on a specific topic than any average person – chances are, you're already and expert. It could be via grad school or a MOOC or books or endless webinars.
Or maybe it's from the ‘school of hard knocks.’
Perhaps your expertise comes from lots of hard work and hard-earned real world experience – the positive and negative kinds. Maybe it comes from lots of listening, talking and even collaborating with other experts. Learning from the ‘feet of the masters’.
Or maybe you ‘know just enough to be dangerous.' No matter …
One of the best ways to take all that stored up knowledge and really become an expert is to just start.
Start writing or talking or presenting at events. Start shooting videos or making screen captures. Start with only 7 seconds on Vine [RIP dear old Vine]. Or 15 on Instagram.
Just start creating. Start sharing.
But where specifically to start in building authority?
Start with a Blog – and Write Often
A quick way to make you really dig down deep on your niche topic is to write … A LOT.
What if you could put new blog posts on your own site twenty times per month. Wow. That’s a lot! A post per weekday.
[Full disclosure – I don't do that. It's not even a current goal. It's HARD – especially since I have others aspects to my business besides writing + blogging! But it's an admirable goal and # for some to shoot for – even if each post is only 250 words – you're writing. And learning.]
You could use this blogging as a journey to showcase first a beginner's perspective and your trek over the next year to a more advanced perspective. Keep it focused, on topic and short-n-sweet [only way to get out that many posts]! You’ll have to research and brainstorm to keep coming up with fresh content that stays on topic. Then you'll have those skills in your toolkit now too! You’ll be learning more, digging deeper and expanding your opinion and views on your core topics as you go.
Also, guest blog strategically on websites that market to your audience. This helps you refine your writing and be more polished, as you’d be writing for a more public audience. It’s also still a legit way to earn traffic back to your site –if you only target and write for legit sites in your niche.
Blogging often is one of the top ways to get traffic to your website. It’s really a foundation of content marketing. And something we'll cover in lots more depth here in coming weeks and months.
Write Meatier Articles
Take the research you’ve done for your blog posts and expand that into a full article. Keep in mind the golden rule of writing about what your audience is interested in. Then get that article in the places your audience reads. Find online and offline magazines in which to contribute as an expert in your niche. There are tons of specialized, niche magazines, e-zines, sites, local news places and publications that match up against almost any specialized topic out there.
If you submit a compelling, well-written, engaging article, there's a good chance your submissions will be used (especially if you're targeting smaller, niche publications). Whether online or offline, this type of content helps establish you as an expert to the public.
Become a Trusted Resource
Let the local and national press know that you're a resource they can call on when they need a quote about your niche.
You can do this in a variety of ways, such as sending email to reporters when they write about your niche, making blog comments, connecting with journalists for niche topics via social media, and using a service like HARO (Help a Reporter Out). HARO is a way that you can sign up to be a source to qualified reporters on any topic you choose.
There are a number of other free and paid services to connect you with media pros who need a good source. SourceBottle is a searchable directory of media professionals. ProfNet is a paid, email-based service that connects business sources to major, mainstream publications and top bloggers and is well trusted. My LocalReporter is a reverse of HARO and ProfNet as business owners use it to target local media for coverage in specific niches.
Note – I’m NOT saying to start sending messages and requests for media attention to any journalist you come across in your niche. That’s just spam. This isn’t even about carefully targeted pitches. It’s about giving your expertise as a resource – and if you get a little extra media attention from a nice link or ‘shout out’ – great. Then you can post links to that article, interview, video or news nugget on your site.
Set Up Consistent Profiles
No matter whether it's your Facebook Page, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram or your blog, your profiles should be consistent. You want to be very careful about contradicting who you are across accounts. Use the same, or similar, graphics, colors, logos, photos and style for your profiles and cover photo areas. Be sure to be professional and have good quality photos. If your brand image is fun and snarky – and that’s what your audience wants and expects – then by all means keep it up. And keep it consistent across the platforms –as suited to each one and your audience. [If you want to read more tips on social media make-overs check this new post]
Ensure that you're consistent in what you say about your topic on each social media account, but in different ways based on the type of social media account. For instance, LinkedIn is business and buttoned up, while Facebook is more social – more like an after-hours business event. Twitter is fast, social and of course prone to snark. Just remember to be businesslike and professional on all accounts.
Don't stop working on yourself and your knowledge
Learning never ends. Malcolm Gladwell, in his bestselling book, Outliers: The Story of Success, posited that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert on any topic. There’s disagreement now as to whether that number is legit – but it IS true that continuous learning and self-improvement is just a generally good plan!
It probably won’t take 10,000 hours to know a topic well enough to start helping others on it; nor will it take that long before you can start presenting yourself as an expert.
But you do have to start!
If you follow these tips I've collected on building your authority, you CAN do it and it won't take as long as you fear. Let me know how you're going to get started on becoming an expert in your special area today.
[Ed: this post was originally shared in 2014 but has been updated Nov. 2017]