Before we can answer that, we must define the difference between these two similar but decidedly different adjectives.
Personally, I believe the difference between fame and authority is really quite simple.
Famous people are known but authoritative people are followed.
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 short, authority is the power to persuade. And in business, the power to persuade equals the power to sell.
Is There Business Value in Fame?
So many people, especially solopreneurs, freelancers and consultants, equate fame with success. They seek to create audiences for their content or their social stream. They religiously track the number of followers, likes, and comments on their blog.
They attend webinars and conference sessions, read blog posts and books, and listen to podcasts where someone professes to teach them a new trick, a new approach or just a hack that will grow those vanity metrics they love. Tricks that will ensure that they become famous.
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. Of sitting through those same webinars and diligently applying the techniques and learnings. All in an effort to grow an audience and achieve a certain level of fame or notoriety.
But the questions eventually (for me at least) became:
- How valuable is fame?
- Does fame equal authority?
- Yes fame can drive awareness, but does it drive conversions?
- Would I, and my firm, Converse Digital, be more successful if we were less famous but more authoritative in key verticals we service?
Should You Focus on 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 say that authority is more important than fame. And if we were talking about solopreneurs, consultants or freelancers that sell knowledge — think social media strategists, content marketing strategists, SEO, PPC or really any kind of service where the value lies in how smart the person you’re hiring is — then I’d definitely argue authority is far more valuable and profitable than fame.
But what if the context wasn’t one of these skill sets? Maybe you’re a copywriter or art director or even maybe a web designer — where the buyer is often deciding to hire you because they like your portfolio of past work.
If that is the context, you could make the argument that fame is more important than authority. You could argue that an eyeball is an eyeball because the buyer is making an emotional vs rational decision — they like your style or they don’t. So get as many eyeballs as you can as quickly as you can… right?
Why You Should Always Focus on Authority vs Fame
But fame has a dark underbelly that most forget about until history repeats itself and that underbelly comes to light.
Fame is fleeting.
And fame derived from popularity or social notoriety or viral success will fall in and out of favor with the masses. Fame is cyclical by nature and is based solely on the whim of society.
In other words, today’s famous people can often become tomorrow’s one hit wonders or worse, forgotten memories.
Authority, on the other hand, is tied to worthiness.
Worthiness never goes out of style. Worthiness is always a quality desired by people, companies, and organizations.
Yes, those who chase the click often achieve fame, blog traffic, invitations to speak at big conferences, big paydays in exchange for social media posts, and the appearance of a bright and rosy future.
But I’d argue that only those who achieve true authority in their chosen field/category of knowledge will last the long haul. It is only through authority that you can establish a reputation, that can translate into new prospects and customers year in and year out over the long-haul.