The Difference Between Authority and Influence

Many times when I’m chatting with newer business owners and ask them what their goals are, they tell me that they want to create a movement, build a community, become an influencer, or be seen as a thought leader in their space.

Those are all admirable goals, but what do they actually mean?

For me, it’s all about authority. When you or your brand become an authority online, it means that your audience will think of you as a better source of information or way to solve their problems, than your competitors. That requires an audience, influence, and another important ingredient…

If you’re interested in building your own authority, click here to download my Authority Game Plan worksheet to find out how to get started. It’s part of my Business Class Destination Guide, “How to Increase Your Authority in Your Niche Quickly.”

What is authority really?

When we talk about “Instagram influencers” or say that someone is a “thought leader” on something, we are usually referring to the fact that they have a lot of followers, or a big (metaphorical) megaphone that they use to broadcast their thoughts and opinions. And a community leader or movement maker, by definition, must also have a group of people they lead.

But it’s not just about numbers. Anyone with a credit card can buy followers these days through advertising (or less ethical means). Theoretically, a business could have 10,000 people on an email list, or following them on Facebook, and still not be an influencer or an authority.

Think of it this way: Anyone could hop up on a stage in front of a big crowd with a microphone, but are people going to listen to what they have to say? Will they even take that person seriously?

So if influence is about numbers — how many people will hear your message — authority is more about how many people will actually listen to what you have to say and take you seriously.

Does increasing your influence increase your authority?

So if authority and influence aren’t just about numbers — about how many people are listening to you — then what is it about?

Authority by definition, is the power to influence others, especially because of one’s commanding manner or recognized knowledge about something.

But the concept of building your authority can be a tricky one, and here’s why: You can increase your influence without increasing your authority.

Let’s say, for example, that you pick a new hashtag for your posts, and suddenly you have a thousand new followers on Instagram overnight.

In that case, one might say you’ve increased your influence; you have a larger audience that wants to hear from you. But have you increased your authority?

I would argue no. Those people like what you’re saying enough to listen to you, but are they going to do what you suggest?

Influence is the size of your audience; authority is how much they trust you.

Influence is only part of the equation

You can be influential in your niche, and you may increase your subscribers, leads, and social media followers because of that influence, but that doesn’t mean those people will buy from you. And in any business, making sales and growing a viable business is the name of the game.

That’s why you need authority.

In order to convert listeners into paying customers you need more than influence; you need them to trust you.  You need them to choose you above everyone else, and you need them to commit to you.

Once a prospect commits to you and your business, you have authority. And once you have authority, you no longer have to worry about competition.

While there are a few “hacks” you can use to grow your authority quickly, there are no shortcuts. Authority is something you must nurture. That’s why it’s desirable, coveted and respected.

Consider your business: Do you feel you have authority in your niche? If you don’t feel that you command as much authority as you’d like, I highly encourage you to click here and download our Authority Game Plan worksheet. It’s based on the principles I teach inside the “How to Increase Your Authority in Your Niche Quickly” Destination Guide inside Business Class, and will give you a roadmap for getting started.


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