THE BLOG

5 Ways to Look Like an Expert -- Rather Than a Narcissist -- In the Digital Age

04/03/2015 05:32 pm ET | Updated Jun 03, 2015

Whether you're selling vacuum cleaners or you're offering consulting services, consumers want to buy from someone with proven expertise. The good news is, today's digital world allows you to declare that you're an expert with relative ease. The bad news is, you'll be competing to gain attention in a crowded space.

The pressure to rise to the top and be seen as "the expert" in an industry can backfire, however. Frequent self-congratulatory social media posts, combined with claims of over-inflated qualifications and a flood of self-promotional advertisements, comes across more like narcissism, rather than expertise. If you want to gain trust and inspire confidence, these tips can ensure you'll be seen as an expert, rather than a narcissist:

1. Share Your Space

Building an online presence takes hard work, and if you're successful in gaining followers, likes, and views, it can be tempting to keep all eyes on you. After all, once you've attracted attention, why on earth would you want to use your platform to talk about someone else? Although it may seem a little counter-intuitive, sharing your space could help reinforce to your audience that you truly are an expert.

Tim Ferriss is a great example of someone who is willing to share his enormous platform. He readily interviews a variety of interesting people on his blog and podcast. He knows that acknowledging other successful people is a win-win situation. A mere mention by Ferriss give the lucky recipients a major spike in traffic, which has been dubbed the "Tim Ferriss effect." Clearly, his audiences values his expertise on the products, books, and services he recommends.

2. Give Credit to Others

Insisting you're completely self-taught will make you like a narcissist. Acknowledge that you've learned from other people, books, podcasts, or other resources along the way. Crediting others for the role they've played in your success will help you look more like a knowledgeable expert.

Guy Kawasaki offers an impressive example of this. As the former chief evangelist of Apple, some might think he should tout all the things he taught Apple about marketing. Instead, he credits Steve Jobs for many of the lessons he's learned. Providing credit where it's due gives him an added boost of credibility.

3. Admit Mistakes

Arrogance and fear leads many people to want to hide their mistakes. They worry that mistakes will expose their lack of expertise. But in reality, the opposite is true. Pointing out your mistakes can show that you've learned from personal experience.

Michael Hyatt, author of the New York Times-bestseller, Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, isn't afraid to share the mistakes he made in his early days of blogging. In fact, his willingness to share his mistakes -- in an effort to prevent his audience from repeating them - adds a lot to his credibility.

4. Acknowledge Failure

Audiences appreciate your struggle, so admitting your failures can help you gain merit. If people think you invented a product or started a business that became an overnight success, they may not be able to identify with your experiences. If however, you acknowledge that you failed several times along your journey, people will appreciate your efforts.

Arianna Huffington readily shares how failure inspired her to become better. One of her biggest failures includes the 36 rejections she received when looking for a publisher for her second book. Another failure high on her list -- losing the 2003 gubernatorial race with .55 percent of the vote (although she had withdrawn a week before the election, her name stayed on the ballot). Despite previous failures, this bestselling selling author and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post was named the 52nd most powerful woman in the world by Forbes.

5. Give People Something of Value

Constantly promoting yourself will cause you to appear self-absorbed. The "Hey look at me!" mentality comes across as narcissistic and perhaps even a little desperate. If you really want people to trust your expertise, you need to balance your marketing efforts with generosity.

Gary Vaynerchuk, bestselling author and owner of VaynerMedia, teaches -- and successfully demonstrates -- the importance of giving back. Rather than repeatedly reminding his audience of his expertise or his products, he focuses on building relationships with his community. By emotionally investing in his customers, he comes across as an authentic, approachable person that people genuinely want to do business with.

Confidence Vs. Arrogance

If you use the internet to teach and share your skills, training, and experiences in an honest and confident manner, others are more likely to view you as an expert. If however, your online persona is used to shamelessly promote how wonderful you are, you're more likely to be viewed as a narcissist.

Gaining trust and respect from your audience requires you to be confident in yourself without crossing the line into arrogance. So while it's important to share what's good about you, don't be afraid to share your mistakes and failures. Be generous toward your audience and other professionals so you can earn genuine credibility in your space.

Experts use social media to share knowledge. Narcissists use social media to make their insecurities.

Amy Morin is a psychotherapist and the author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do, a bestselling book that is being translated into more than 20 languages.