This is a guest post by Nick Thacker of Life Hacked.
I’m an expert (enough of one, at least).
You’re probably enough of an expert as well—you just need to prove it to the rest of us before we’ll sit up and take notice.
In the early days of blogging and the social web, a commonly used (read: overused) concept was, “in order to be an expert, all you need to do is say you’re an expert.”
Essentially, we could all be experts, as long as we had a platform that perpetuated this idea.
Likewise, that was a time during which it was easy to have a platform—there was no WordPress, Twitter, or Facebook, and Google wasn’t quite the behemoth it currently is.
So it sort of made sense that the people who had carefully and purposefully spent the time to build an online platform for themselves could be considered “the experts.”
Times Have Changed
Obviously it’s not as easy, these days—sure, building a website, setting up a blog, and publishing a book is much easier than it ever was—but since everyone’s doing that, it’s much more difficult to brand yourself as a true “expert.”
So this guide is going to help you with that: a step-by-step outline of how to brand yourself as The Expert or at least “Expert Enough” in your field, without wasting time doing things that won’t help.
Ready? Here we go.
Step 1: Do.
To become an expert, you don’t necessarily need to spend years studying a craft or hours reading up on a subject. Malcolm Gladwell writes that it takes 10,000 hours to become truly great at something, but I’d argue that we become good enough at that thing to teach others about it long before we’ve spent 10,000 hours learning it (yes, you need to practice, but don’t just practice).
And there’s no quicker way to learn something than by doing it. You don’t learn to play an instrument by reading about it or watching videos—you do it.
Becoming an expert is all about doing, to the point at which you’re good enough at that thing to teach someone else about the basics of it. A major-league pitcher would probably be just as helpful to a 10-year old little-leaguer as the kid’s dad. The reason for this is that the 10-year old is still working at the fundamentals of the sport; they’re not quite ready for the advanced techniques that a pro could teach them.
You don’t need to be in the “major leagues” to show someone a thing or two about your subject. You just need to have done it a time or two.
Step 2: Create.
Creation is at the core of The Expert’s modus operandi. The Expert creates content, ideas, concepts, and above all, value.
The little league kid’s dad creates value in his son’s eyes by providing consistent, helpful guidance every day after school in the backyard, throwing the ball back and forth.
You can create value by creating content on the web—blogging, writing books, and creating videos are the obvious answers. But what about creating a place for your students to share what they’re learning? The Expert isn’t just an expert because of what they known, but also because of what they create for others to use.
Consider creating content, but in a way that makes it easier for people following you to go through the same steps in a quicker way than you did. Since you’re not the world-renowned expert on your subject (yet!), you probably have experience doing the wrong things that set you back in your path—share these mistakes openly and freely, and that will be a very valuable resource for your readers!
Step 3: Share.
Obviously you’ll need to get the word out about your particular expertise. Starting a blog and setting up a Twitter account is only half of it, though. You need to find where your readers are currently gathered, and meet them there.
The Expert shares their work freely and openly on their own website, but they also seek out and overturn the more obscure places their “future students” are hiding—forums, MySpace and LinkedIn Groups, and Yahoo! Answers pages, for example—and points them to The Expert’s content.
When you share, don’t share as The Expert, either. Share the content of the people in the groups, and the content the group is already familiar with. By this I mean find what they’re already used to seeing—maybe there’s another expert they mention frequently—rather than seeing this person as your “competition,” see them as a perfect example of the type of content the group enjoys, and share it as often as possible.
On Twitter, I have an “80/20” rule for myself—80% of the time, I’ll share the work of other “experts” and up-and-coming experts in the field, and 20% (or less) of the time, I’ll share my own.
This formula lets people see that I’m truly trying to help them, and it’s not considered spammy or irrelevant when I do share something of my own.
The Last Step
These three actionable items will work, but the final (and most important) ingredient in the equation is time.
To establish yourself online as The Expert, it’s important to give it the time it deserves. We’ve all been burned by fly-by-night companies trying to make a buck off of us, and in today’s world of thousands of marketing messages flying our way every day, we’re preconditioned to ignore most of what we see.
So it naturally takes a good deal of time to establish our expertise and brand online. We need to constantly—and consistently—add value to the people we are able to reach, but we absolutely cannot give up too soon.
Most “pro” bloggers claim that their seemingly “overnight” success really took years or at least months to happen, and it’s no different for any of us.
To me, the mark of a true expert isn’t how much we know or how well we know our subject—it’s simply the fundamental and dead-simple approach of not giving up after months or years of discouragement and obscurity.
Put It All Together
These principles aren’t new, or even concepts you’ve never heard before—but to really put them into play, you must have the confidence that you’re already “expert enough” in your subject.
You’ve read enough content, blogs, books, and watched enough videos—you have the information to teach us your craft already. Don’t think that because there’s someone out there who’s better, faster, or more popular that you’re not an expert as well.
Remember: The teacher only needs to be one chapter ahead of the class!
Go teach us the chapter you just read last night!