Beware the So Called Expert 

What gurus, ninjas and other “professionals” are doing to convince you to open your wallet 

It’s no surprise that the online business world has a lot of secrets, but there’s one so insidious that I can’t help but talk about it.

It’s the shifty, dirty little secret of the expert economy.

When Social Proof is a Total Sham

Usually, when you visit an expert’s website and you’ll see their social proof in the form of media logos. This proof is designed to lull you into a sense of security and feel confident that this person/company is credible and legit.

In many cases, nothing could be further from the truth.

Studies have shown time and time again that social proof gets people to open their wallet, because hey, if the Wall Street Journal or CNN trusts them, we should too, right? Here’s my Visa card.

As the lines between editorial, paid placement and self-publishing are increasingly blurred, you shouldn’t take social proof at face value.

Here’s a few of the more common “hacks” to building online authority:

  1. Publishing a Story in iReport on CNN. In under about 2 minutes you can have a story published on this citizen journalism platform. Not exactly like making an appearance on Daybreak or Your Health is it?
  2. Using a Paid Wire Service. When you use a wire service there’s a standard number of high profile newspapers that republish the press release automatically from the Wall Street Journal to the LA Times. A press release being posted is not media coverage. Sorry folks, but an editor at the paper hasn’t looked it, so it’s no different than you putting it on your own website.
  3. Engaging a Video News Service. This is basically a faux news story where you pay a company to produce and distribute your story. Suddenly, you have a “national” TV appearance. Unless you’ve got a mic on at the local NBC studio or flying to New York to be on Good Morning America, it’s not really the “media” covering you or your company.

The reality is that none of these tactics are establishing true authority because they are lacking a critical element — third party credibility.

Authority or expert status comes from having a trusted third party checking the facts and peeking underneath the covers to ensure that you are what you say you are. Without that critical step in place, you can say you are an expert all you want, but you simply aren’t.

In the wild West of online business, social proof is too often all smoke and mirrors. It’s up to businesses and consumers to be more discerning about where, what and who they spend their money on.

Let the Buyer Beware

If you are looking to do business with a so-called expert, start by looking behind the logo on their homepage and find the story attached to that social proof. Are they featured or quoted? Do they have these listed on a press page or in a newsroom? If you can’t find the coverage, carefully think again because they may be hiding something.

If you are a business owner, be better than this garbage and take the time to do the types of PR/promotional activities such as interviews and guest posting that truly do establish you as an expert. Do not be seduced by dodgy experts promising you fame and fortune by next week. It is it too good to be true…it probably is.

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