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In general, an “insider” is a member of any group that is limited in number and generally restricted in access. The person – by virtue of being a member of this group – has access to secret, privileged, hidden or otherwise obscure or complex information or knowledge. The insider is a member of the “gang” and hence knows things outsiders don’t, including insider jargon.
The term “Industry Insider” has various meanings. For example, in the world of securities trading, the term “Industry Insider” is generally used to describe someone who works for a publicly-traded company, or trusted advisor to that company, and possesses key information (often non-public information) about that company. They know things because they are on the “inside.” That information, if shared and/or used to influence stock trades, is illegal. The Securities and Exchange Commission considers that a form of illegal insider trading.
However, with the rise of social media, the term Industry Insider has taken on a totally different meaning. In our complicated and information-rich world, the concept of insider knowledge has grown in importance as a source of direct and useful guidance. Today, being an Industry Insider is considered a badge of honor, earning that person considerable respect and influence. So how does one become an Industry Insider, and isn’t this just a new way of saying expert or guru?
Insider versus Expert
Some may think that an Industry Insider is the same as an expert. Generally, the two concepts are considered different.
Informally, an expert is someone widely recognized as a reliable source of knowledge, technique or skill in a particular area, and whose ability to judge or decide rightly or wisely about the subject gives him authority and status by peers and the public within a given field. Generally speaking, an expert is someone with extensive knowledge or ability based on research, study, certification or occupation and in a particular area of study. An expert is believed and trusted by virtue of his credentials, training, education, profession, publication and/or experience in a special subject that is well beyond that of the average person, and such that others can and do officially and legally rely on that person’s opinion. In a given situation, an insider is contrasted with an outside expert because the expert can provide an in-depth theoretical analysis that should lead to a practical opinion.
On the other hand, the Industry Insider has firsthand, material knowledge of a subject. In many cases, an Industry Insider’s information — though usually not learned through formal education — may be thought of as more accurate and valuable than expert opinion. Why? Because the un-credentialed, “non-expert” Insider often has a better functional knowledge of a situation, based on “how things really work”, than the outside experts whose expertise is often embodied in a set of rules of how things should work. Underlying the concept of the Insider is the widespread belief that in most activities, there are two simultaneous, intertwined processes at work… how things seem and how things really are. The way things seem may or may not actually be how things work at times. There is often some deviation, usually through the behind-the scene activity of small numbers of individuals within the larger group. Understanding the deviations and being able and willing to explain these activities is the role of the Insider. An Industry Insider exists only by revealing what he knows to someone on the outside. Most people have some area of Insider knowledge, but they only become Insiders when they share that information. And many of them are well-compensated for sharing.
Becoming an Industry Insider
The Industry Insider is someone who is not only a witness to how things are, but actually understands what is happening in reality and why. But how can someone interested in increasing their visibility and building their personal brand – and perhaps even be compensated for what they know — become known as an “Industry Insider” in a particular area or topic? How does one become “the one” the media goes to for relevant press stories, speaking events or other high profile events? Here are some steps.
Step 1 – Know it all.
No one wants to be called a “know-it-all.” That has a bad connotation. But in order to be the person that people go to in order to learn about a particular topic, the person must know as much as possible about the topic. It is impossible to build a reputation for being “in-the-know” unless there is real substance there. So be as knowledgeable and savvy about the industry or niche before trying to become known as the go-to-source for that topic.
Step 2 – Tell others.
Now this is where it gets hard. Telling others that “I have special, deep knowledge about this topic” can feel daunting. It is normal to worry that others will see that as bragging. It is also normal to wonder if there is some invisible threshold that must be surpassed before being considered someone who is “in-the-know”. But this is an essential step. The insider must not only feel confident enough to put his name out there and speak about a particular market segment or industry but also be confident enough to say that he is doing so.
Step 3 – Add to the Conversation.
To be considered an Industry Insider, be on the lookout for opportunities to contribute to conversation. Post articles on social media sites. Join relevant industry groups. Host webinars. Build relationships with a targeted group of bloggers or journalists by discussing a specific area of expertise and a willingness to chime in if and when a quote, facts or data is needed. These days Industry Insiders share those insights through personal blogs, social media publishing, podcasts, TED Talk or online video.
Step 4 – Be Current.
It’s not enough to know and share. The information has to be information people want to know but don’t already know. It has to be fresh and relevant. If the information that an Insider shares can be found by anyone anywhere, then it’s not special. Keep in mind the original definition of an “Insider.” An Industry Insider is a person who – by virtue of being a member of a particular group – has access to secret, privileged, hidden or otherwise obscure or complex information or knowledge. The Insider is a member of the “gang” and hence knows things outsiders don’t. If the information being shared is known by most, then by definition, it is not “insider” information and has little value.
That means that when interesting industry news comes up, share it. Write about particular trends or up-to-the-minute data gathered. Email the media about it. Often, business owners question whether and how much they should share—they think that their knowledge is their ‘special sauce’. When it comes to brand building, application of that knowledge is what counts. Many business owners can study the same topic—the real question is who will become known as the go-to person in that space.
Step 5 – Work at it.
The ability to anoint oneself as the “Industry Insider” for a particular area or topic opens up a world of possibility in terms of business and personal brand-building. But that tag is only as good as the information shared last. It’s a “what have you done for me lately” world and Insiders must remain “in-the-know” all the time to keep the title. This is a title that must be re-earned and reinforced continually.
Last but not least, for those wanting to be seen and known as an “Industry Insider”, it is important to understand that the point of sharing insider information with others is to help them. It is not to hurt anyone, and it should not be just to enrich oneself. The goal of sharing information should be to empower others and help them succeed by giving them a better grasp of what is in order to make the most savvy decisions. That is how an Industry Insider builds a reputation and gains influence.
Quote of the Week
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” John Quincy Adams
© 2017, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.