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Is There A Difference Between Authority and Fame?

creating online authority or fame

Last week while driving my six year old son to camp, he asked me an interesting question.

 “Dad, how do you become famous?”

I responded that you do something notable and worthy.

He then went on to ask me to define worthy. Which I defined is doing something meaningful for the world. Something that made the world a better place because you did it.

He then went on to ask me a rather interesting question. He asked,

“then why aren’t soldiers famous?”

Honestly, I have to admit what came out of my mouth was nothing. I really did not have an answer for what was a really, really good question. And I have to admit I was a tad surprised that a six year old could so quickly connect the dots between the honor and worthiness of a soldier and the conversation where having. Kids — where do they come up with this stuff right?

Luckily for me we arrived at camp before I had to begin to try to explain such a complex concept to a six-year-old who undoubtably would simply have more questions.

But my son’s question got me to thinking about the concept of fame. As we all know there are plenty of people in the world who are famous really for no other reason then being famous. Paris Hilton comes to mind, the Kardashian’s, and pretty much ever reality TV show figure of the last half decade. These people are all famous but I would argue have done little that is worthy.

Is There Business Value in Fame?

So many people, especially social media practitioners and content marketers, equate fame with success. They seek to create audiences for their content or their social stream. They track the number of followers, likes, comments on their blog, and a host of other Key Performance Indicators (what they consider important business metrics) to establish their level of fame.

I myself can admit falling victim to this mindset from time to time. Like many in the digital space, I have been guilty of chasing the click. Of creating content designed to be shared, clicked, tweeted and retweeted. All in an effort to grow an audience and achieve a certain level of fame or notoriety.

But the question becomes how valuable his fame? And maybe more importantly does fame equal authority? And lastly what’s more important fame or authority? This becomes an especially interesting and important question when you consider marketing tactics such as Influencer Marketing Programs.

The Difference Between Fame and Authority

I believe the difference between fame and authority is really quite simple. Famous people are known but authoritative people are followed. Tweet This

And let me be clear when I say the word followed. I don’t mean following in the social media sense. I mean following in the I pay attention and act based on what you do say or instruct me to do sense.

In my definition authority is the power to persuade. And in business, the power to persuade equals the power to sell which equals the power to live, prosper and be successful.

Should You Chase Fame or Authority?

This is actually a much more difficult question than you might think. Based on what I just wrote you may think that I would answer authority is more important than fame. And if we were talking about a salesperson, consultant, or myself, I would agree.

But what if the context wasn’t one of those people, but instead a website that makes its money on advertising derived from page views? If that is the context,  than I would say best fame is more important than authority. In that world, an eyeball is an eyeball.

But fame has a dark underbelly that most forget about until history repeats itself and at underbelly comes to light. You see fame is fleeting. Fame derived from popularity or social notoriety will fall in and out of favor with the masses. Fame is cyclical in nature and is based solely on the whim of society.

Authority is tied to worthiness. Worthiness never goes out of style. Worthiness is always a quality required by people, companies, and organizations. The world always has questions and it is always in need of those who can supply answers — real, data-based, intelligent answers.

Yes, those who chase the click often achieve fame, blog traffic, invitations to speak at big conferences, and the appearance of a bright and rosy future.

But I’d argue that only those who achieve true authority in their chosen field will last the long haul. It is only through authority that you can establish a reputation, that can translate into new prospects and customers.

So today I encourage you to be worthy. Stop writing list posts or following the latest Internet meme, or trying to Newsjack the story of the day to drive traffic to your website. Instead, commit to providing your prospective customer with the answers they seek and the knowledge they need. Be worthy. Create content that makes the world a little bit better place than before you published it.

You may not end up becoming famous… but I can assure you it will always be successful.

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About Tom Martin

Tom is 20+ year veteran of the marketing and advertising industry with a penchant for stiff drinks, good debates and digital gadgets that helps digitally challenged companies create innovative and effective digital marketing strategies. He is the founder of Converse Digital , author of The Invisible Sale and a contributing writer for Advertising Age. Tom guides clients through the digital marketing maze and helps companies teach their sales force how to Painlessly Prospect their way to more sales. Connect with him on Google+ or follow him on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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