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Social Media Marketing- The 5 Levels of Authority Found in Social Media




Lots of words flying around in the social media arena about Authority.

I have been seeing lots of posts lately all over the place about people that are “johhny come latelies” and making a splash on the social media sphere and bringing a huge list with them and then labeling themselves an “expert” and an “authority.”:

Some of these posts and tweets about these social media neophytes have been brutal, while some have been very honest. And to be realistic, some of the these social media neophytes have been blatantly in your face,  ”look at me” self promotional, and obviously it;s all about who they are and the numbers they have accumulated as “followers” and “friends” from their list and their friend’s list

Or is it?


Some of these new to the social media scene, self proclaimed ‘experts” have not even been in social media 6 months. We have been in for over 4 years, and the first year we spent learning, observing and gaining knowledge about this new phenomenon. Yes, you can do it quicker, but i am very deliberate person and want to KNOW that I know that I know what is going on. Then once we felt we were where we needed to be, we started doing some posting and videos.

 I have been blessed to travel to over 40 countries and train over a  million people in an 11 year span in a particular industry, but that took YEARS to develop before anyone ever took me seriously- if they even do now.  What seems to be the rub with folks, is that people that have been in social media and PROVEN they are an authority and an undeniable expert  (like and still today do not label themselves an “expert.” Check their Profiles.

Scott just appeared on Fox news and .THAT is social proof of Scott”s powerful reach in the national and worldwide social media arena.

That is where the debate has centered, and after watching this debate go on for a few weeks, I was compelled to write a post about what I feel is going on here and why. But this is just my opinion- and I do NOT call myself an Authority or an Expert in social media as I am not.  Our company just helps folks and corporations with their strategic planning and execution of social media in the marketplace as many others do with their clients, among all the other things we do.

And the debate seems to all revolve around the evolving power of Social Media Leadership today and many trying to short circuit the leadership path.

It is interesting to note what the dictionary calls an “expert:”

“possessing special skill or knowledge; trained by practice; skillful or skilled (often fol. by or ):

In the mid and late 90s; and even early 2001 and 2002, it was all about , and it was HOT. Our companies  have been doing Internet marketing for 11 years, and are blessed to bring in a lot of business marketing on the Internet every year. But around 2003 or so, a new Internet vehicle showed up that has actually eclipsed the Internet marketing world, and it is called And because of the newness of it and the unique landscape of it, it eclipsed Internet marketing as far as numbers and being the “hot new thing.”

Many people have joined the social media zone, and for the marketers out there, it seems to have become a literal “feeding frenzy” for new business. And all you have to do is see all the new direct messages, ads, posts, emails, articles, the endless list of events, and giveaways to see that this it truly is an active marketplace.  But that somewhat goes against totally the culture and meaning of social media.

Social media is about GIVING, and then maybe marketing. It is about SOWING and then maybe reaping after a time. It is about TRANSFORMING and then maybe a transaction after that has occurred.

THAT is what the process and culture is about I believe.  And there is NOTHING WRONG at all profiting for your efforts. We do everyday. BUT in social media, following the cultural Leadership process that has been evolving of giving and making a difference is critical I believe. You CANNOT short circuit that path and be a Leader in social Media.

But there is a REAL challenge with that with some folks in the marketplace, as it goes totally against the grain with internet and traditional marketing. Yes, social media is still in diapers, but it is growing and becoming larger everyday attracting many different types of people.

Rule # 1 In Marketing:

To be paid attention to, be noticed, and even listened to online, you need to establish yourself as somewhat of an ‘authority.” Marketers know this. And they are very good at it.  ( FULL Disclosure: I am a marketer and have been for over 20 years.)  So knowing that in order for anyone to take you seriously, you must establish some type of an authority and so called “expertise.”

That is where the real debate is-WHAT is happening and what is REAL Authority in social media?

Here is my take:

There are 4 Levels of Authority in Social Media Leadership. But there are 2 main ones:

1) PERCEIVED authority.

2) TRUE Authority.

And it is all about VOLUME vs VALUE.

There are those who follow PERCEIVED Authority -based on the VOLUME of followers that person has. But that person has yet to prove themselves with any social proof of results with their clients or corporations.

Then there are those who follow TRUE Authority – based on the VALUE that person offers to the social media arena, and thus has a lot of followers (i.e  ) and it took time to establish that authority and expertise.

Perceived Authority appears to have more of  a  SELF FOCUSED agenda (just watch their videos and read their profile) while True authority appears to have a more of  SELFLESS focus and is based on GIVING  not taking, Helping not hyping.

Many folks that have made a quick name for themselves as they KNOW how to market, have what is called PERCEIVED Authority which even  could be considered a False Authority. Nothing wrong with making a quick name –just know their REAL Authority level.

One person looks for what they can GET OUT of social media. The other looks for what they can PUT INTO social media and grow it and help people do the same.

REAL and TRUE Authority -or-  Perceived and False Authority–that debate rages.

What are the 4 Levels of Authority in Social Media Leadership?

Level 1) (Lowest)  Perceived Authority.

This Authority comes from the image that you market to lists — and is a pure result of marketing which can create a large numbers of followers quickly. Results and Proof are lacking as well as personal connection.

Level 2)  Promotional Authority.

This authority comes from what you promote out into the marketplace about you and your message- and brand into the social media zone. This can come from many arenas, including ads, videos, and personal connections. Some results may be starting to show along the way.

Level 3)  Knowledge Authority.

This Authority comes from having the Knowledge and education about social media and folks realize it and acknowledge it with comments on blogs, videos, and other talking about you and your message. Your teachings are well read and videos are well watched for content. Results are maturing as your Knowledge grows and matures of social media.

Level 4)  True Authority. (Highest)

This can only come from Consistent, Experienced, Knowledge Driven RESULTS and SOCIAL PROOF. In Social Media Leadership, there are no short cuts, and no hidden trails. True Authority can only come from what you have made happen in the marketplace for you and others over time and consistently. And folks will realize it, and want to be  a part of your Impact, and follow you and befriend you by the tens of thousands with little marketing needed. The word organically gets out.

But there is yet another level of Authority that we all can start with and I will end with:

Lets all work on our own Personal Authority and get as great at social media as we can, and connect and make a difference in as many lives of folks as we can. Anyone can be a Leader in social media, but you must travel the growth cycle to mature into that Leader.

And if we make some revenues along the way nothing wrong with that – as this IS Social media Marketing. But that is only PART of the Focus you should have.

blessings…doug firebaugh

(c) 2009/all rights reserved

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Linda Barbara

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