We see it time and time again. Articles and blog posts that talk about ways to build ‘online authority’. Mostly, there’s nothing inherently wrong with the articles; indeed they often - well, the ones I read anyway - usually contain solid insights, tips and advice and are well worth the read.
But the thing that sticks out for me time and time again is that a distinction is being made between online and offline. It’s as if building authority is confined to activities associated with what you do in the online world. Or put another way, you get the feeling that what you do offline - in the flesh, so to speak - doesn’t really count for much anymore, which is unfortunate and thoroughly misleading.
I know in some cases it might just be an oversight, or pure enthusiasm on the writer’s part for blogging and all things social media. But after delivering heaps of talks and presentations these past few years at conferences and business events around the country, you’d be surprised how many people I’ve chatted with who think it’s okay to ‘craft’ an online persona that differs from their ‘real self’.
We’ve heard it often: Authenticity - being real - plays a big part in your personal brand.
Remember, as Jeff Bezos from Amazon says, 'your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room'. People’s collective experience of having come into contact with you, the sum of perceptions they gain from interacting with you whether online or in real life, is your personal brand, whether you like it or not.
So wouldn’t you want to influence those perceptions in some way?
What do you want people to say about you when you're not in the room? Is it different for when you’re online versus meeting people in the physical world? No, of course not.
And here’s the kicker (with a touch of irony, given the title of this post):
The more you do online in terms of creating compelling content - whether that be producing podcasts or video or writing ebooks or blog posts, PLUS your activity on social networking sites such as Twitter and LinkedIn - will in all likelihood provide more chances for you to extend your influence and authority offline.
These will come in varying forms, for example:
- being asked to speak at events or be part of industry expert panels
- potential business opportunities necessitating face-to-face meetings (which might help you ‘close the deal’ if it’s a sales lead, or at least lead to a relationship that bears fruit for both parties further down the track)
- being approached at events, conferences and networking functions from other connected and influential people in your industry because they already ‘know/like/trust’ you from your online efforts (this may even be a potential employer)
I’ve said it from day one (once I got my head around this thing called social media) and that is, the power of online is offline - it’s about the relationships you build (that started virtually but moved into the physical world) where social media really comes into its own:
- It’s the connections you make with like-minded people, and the personal and professional networks you build and cultivate over time.
- It’s the speaking engagements you secure (which can often lead to business and social opportunities, not to mention additional exposure if people in the room blog or tweet about your presentation).
- It’s the special events you get invited to attend - or the nonprofit committees you get asked to join - where you rub shoulders with other influential people in your profession or industry, who in turn tap you into their networks.
- It’s the moment where all the work you do building a powerful presence on the social web comes to fruition because face-to-face interaction will deepen the relationships you have with people you’ve connected with online.
Publishing content online will get you noticed and give people something to share and talk about. Participation on social networks will bring you into contact with people who, in all likelihood, you would never get to meet in real life simply by attending meetings and events over the course of your professional life. But more often than not it all comes together when we come together - when we meet each other for the first time, when we build and nurture those nascent relationships over the journey.
So... in case you haven’t guessed, the answer to the headline of this article - Online Vs Offline: Which is more important in building your authority and reputation? - the answer is BOTH. They are equally important in growing your profile and building people’s perceptions of your brand in a positive way.
Online is most effective at extending your reach - whether personally via social networks or the content you distribute via publishing platforms such as blogs and YouTube; it can also amplify anything you do in the physical world i.e. people tweeting about your killer keynote presentation, or Instagramming photos of you at a networking event.
Offline is most effective in deepening the connections you’ve made with people online; to build respectful relationships with others in your industry, as well as potentially with influencers such as bloggers and journalists, customers or partners or maybe even future employers.
Bottom line: The more you can integrate your efforts online and offline - and be genuine and consistent across both at all times - the greater your influence and authority will become in the longer term.
About the author
Trevor Young helps companies and organisations leverage social media and content marketing to tell their story, grow their audience and build their brand. Trevor blogs at prwarrior.com and can be followed on Twitter @trevoryoung. His book microDOMINATION: How to leverage social media and content marketing to build a mini-business empire around your personal brand is available from all good bookshops, as well as online.