People are trained to follow authority figures. How can you establish your authority in your web marketing and social media activity?
We’ve discussed the power of reciprocity, commitment, social proof and liking in Robert Cialdini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, so far. Now it’s time to look at the power that authority holds over us.
Like social proof, authority gives us a short cut in dealing with the complexity of the modern world. We listen to our doctors about health care issues, professors about scholarly matters, and talking heads on TV for everything from child-rearing to national security issues.
Often, this is a good thing. People often become authorities after years of rigorous study. However, in a famous experiment by Stanley Milgram, average people were persuaded to shock another person to near death by a person wielding nothing more than a clipboard and a white lab jacket. (Thankfully, there was no electricity and the person being “shocked” was a confidant.)
Experiment after experiment showed that humans are completely unaware of the amount of autonomy they give over to others, just because of a title, clothing, or trappings.
Let’s keep in mind here, that our goal is to become effective, ethical web marketers. To that end, we need to establish our authority, not fake it.
Here are some techniques you can use to establish authority and improve the results of your online marketing:
- Establish your authority…via blogs, video, etc. Not only will people see your expertise (even if you don’t hold an M.D. or other degree), members of the media will find your blog or video and interview you as an expert on the subject. The number of times I’ve been described as an expert because I wrote one blog post on the subject is astounding. Blog posts have gotten me interviews in both Inc. magazine and CNN.com.
- Use an authority figure. Not an authority (yet) yourself? It’s easy to find someone who is and leverage their authority. A vitamin maker could interview a doctor on the benefits of the vitamin. A maker of dog products could use a dog trainer to pitch her wares.
- Leverage authority from other sources. How many blogs and websites promote the fact they were featured on Oprah, or NPR, or FastCompany.com?
- Brand yourself. In today’s world, you don’t need a formal title to establish expertise and authority. Just ask The Ezine Queen, The Dog Whisperer, or The Diet Ninja.
- Create virtual trappings. It’s been said that visitors to our website make a decision about is in just a few seconds. A generic template isn’t going to cut it. Invest in a custom design, logo, and photography.
Perhaps the best place to establish your authority is by adding intelligent comments to a well-respected blog…like this one. Go ahead and share an example of how you have used authority in your online marketing…or an example you’ve seen.
In my fifteen years as a web marketing authority, I’ve seen the value of a well-constructed comment on an industry blog, so get commenting. Don’t make me take out my clipboard.
Next Weapon of Influence: Scarcity