Don’t Tell Us You’re an Expert, PROVE IT!
It seems like everyone is an expert now. So how do you stand out from the crowd? By proving your knowledge in key places on the web so that you can be seen by potential business contacts!
What is an expert anyway?
There was this great graphic a while back on the blog "Creating Passionate Users", in the post "How to be an expert". It basically says that experts are those who rise above in their field by trying to continually improve themselves and their craft.
So if you are that person, how you do turn that into a business advantage? The easiest (and free!) way to do this is by using technology to show everyone your knowledge and skills in your field.
A recent "Answers" trend has popped up on the internet. Places like Yahoo! Answers and LinkedIn Answers allow you to read questions submitted by users, and then provide answers to these questions. This is a great chance for you to prove your expertise by scanning for questions you have knowledge about, and then providing well-thought-out answers.
Top contributors also get increased visibility, such as this user, "imisidro" from Yahoo! Answers. She chose to answer enough questions in the General Business, Small Business, and SEO categories to earn her a "Top Contributor" award from Yahoo!. At this time, she is listed as having answered 11,528 questions … which means that at least 11,528 people looking for answers in these categories have seen her, and possibly continued on to her profile and website. (The actual number of people viewing her responses is probably 10 to 50 times higher than the number of questions asked, depending on the average number of people who view each question and read her specific response.) Additionally, in 82% of those answers, she was the "top answer", meaning that her answer appeared first! This is a powerful marketing tactic that has put her at the top of the list in small business expertise.
Do you have to find enough free time to answer 11,000 questions to find this system beneficial? No, not at all. If you only have time to participate in a few, it will still give you the networking and exposure that you would not have had otherwise.
Another method for spreading your expertise with technology is writing articles. If you have knowledge to share that is unique and interesting, put it in an article and submit it! Great articles usually do well with search engines, bloggers and journalists—which means increased exposure for you. To find out where to submit your article, check out this discussion on Article Marketing in the StartupNation community. To get some tips on writing a good article, read this information on Writing to be Read, Editorial Guidelines, and Writing a Great Article.
Become a Guru
Many sites have topic-based "guides" or "gurus" that provide expert information for the site's readers. A great example of this is About.com, where you can apply to be a guide in any open topic that you feel you are an expert at. By working with a large site like About.com, you get a high level of traffic that you would not be able to obtain on your own. Additionally, as guides are picked by hand through a rigorous selection process, the readers have confidence with regards to the information you are providing. So if you are an ATV Dealership or a Fly-Fishing Lure maker, you might want to head over there to apply for an open position to gain a lot of exposure for your business!
Don't Forget Your Tagline
Whether you are answering questions, submitting articles, or becoming a guru, don't forget your tagline! Use every opportunity available to you on each site—such as profile pages, signatures, and taglines—to promote your brand and your business. The goal is to provide enough information for the readers to find you if they want to learn more, but not too much so that your information doesn't appear to be spam.
I was searching for a site (which, yes, I should have bookmarked originally) in which people ask small business questions and the resident experts answer them. I happened to find it in one of my "lost in Google" escapades a few weeks ago, but now I just can't find it. Does anyone know what I'm talking about, and if you do – can you post the link in a comment? (This is a chance to prove your own expertise in small business websites, ha ha!)