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With distrust around social media growing and de-influencing all the rage, it’s getting harder to determine who to believe and who to blow off.
But one activity still provides credibility, and it’s far from new — it originated in the 14th century.
A book, you say. Wouldn’t publishing social media content be much easier and more effective?
Not really. A few years ago, prioritizing social media made sense. But as time passes, business owners are better off focusing on showcasing their authority.
“Social media fame can create so-called experts who aren’t actually experts,” says business strategist Maresa Friedman. “I went viral for not wanting to give up my seat on a plane. I am hardly an expert on plane seating, yet now that’s something I’m known for.” She adds, “A book gives you the opportunity to show that your knowledge exceeds a 90 second video made by a guru who two years ago wasn’t even in the industry.”
Look at it this way: Would you be more likely to trust James Clear (#1 New York Times bestselling author of Atomic Habits, with over 5 million copies sold) or Tai Lopez (someone with 2.8 million Instagram followers who became known for raving about how everyone should read while standing in front of a Lamborghini)?
In a day and age when someone can take a summer class at Harvard and then list on LinkedIn that they’re Harvard alumni, even the sort of credibility that institutions used to provide has been leveled.
Related: 5 Reasons Why Writing a Book Is a Smart Move for Entrepreneurs
Lack of trust makes us feel less safe
Influencers have been caught doing everything from making racial slurs to shilling mascara while actually wearing fake lashes. And yet entrepreneurs spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on social media marketing.
Given what we’ve experienced in the past few years, it makes sense that we’re primed to prioritize actual authorities over fake authorities. “When you live in a society that considers people who aren’t always educated about a topic ‘experts,’ it makes us feel unsafe,” says dual board-certified psychiatrist Dr. Josh Lichtman. “After surviving a pandemic, people are tired of feeling unsafe, and so they’re turning back to actual authorities for guidance.”
Books are the ultimate authority builders
“A book is like the world’s best’s best business card. It gives you that topical authority,” said Nick Loper recently on the Write About Now podcast. “It signals this is what I know about because I wrote a book on the topic.”
Using a book to establish authority is nothing new. Even before the time of the seven-second attention span, how-to books were the sort of currency that bestowed immediate legitimacy on the author. After all, Robert Kiyosaki went from struggling entrepreneur to expert in real estate investment when he released Rich Dad Poor Dad in 1997.
Tim Ferriss, meanwhile, transformed from a behind-the-scenes entrepreneur to someone who would probably pass the “Does my mom know who he is” level of fame after releasing The 4 Hour Workweek in 2007. Even though he appears to work at least 400 hours a week, the book made him an expert in spending four hours doing anything (including cooking and working out).
What a book gets you
Most business owners aren’t going to skyrocket into top podcasts, TV shows, and the most widely read blog on the internet.
But any founder or CEO who creates a book that demonstrates how they were able to build their business will, with a high-quality book, be able to enter the public discourse.
“Every single time, event bookers will pick a published author over someone who hasn’t written a book,” says speaking coach and author Topher Morrison, “even if the other person is a better speaker and has a better demo reel and is more entertaining.”
The same is true when it comes to traditional media. When I published a humorous novel about my recovery from addiction in 2007, I immediately found myself on the Today Show and CNN as an expert.
I don’t see trust in influencers increasing any time soon. And given that books have been building authority for almost 600 years, I don’t see that decreasing anytime soon.