10 Dec 2008

How To Gain Trust And Influence People

You’ve probably already read about the recent Forrester report that lists blogs absolutely last on the totem pole as an information source people trust. Yes, a whopping 16 percent of people trust the information they read on corporate blogs. Well, then. That makes me feel warm and fuzzy.  I’ll be home in bed NOT being trustworthy should anyone need me.

[glare]

The truth is that number is probably pretty fair.  If I were to consider the number of corporate blogs that really “get” blogging and are doing it right, my number may be around there, as well. The corporate blogging space is simply filled with too much talking at people and thinly veiled press releases. Why would people trust that? That’s not what blogs are designed to be about. Creating a blog that people will dismiss as untrustworthy is often worse than not having a blog at all.

I get asked on occasion how I balance being genuine with being a “corporate blogger”. Honestly, I don’t consider myself a corporate blogger. I blog for a company but it’s not quite the same as blogging for Apple or ABC or Dell.

That said, trust is something I worry about a lot, especially as I switched blogs (and jobs) not so long ago.  It’s important to me that my voice is trusted regardless of the platform I’m currently on. It’s important to me that people know my voice and my opinion is my own, regardless of whose shirt I’m wearing at the next major search conference.

But how do you establish trust?

I’ll share some quick factors that I think go into making a blogger trustworthy and hopefully you guys will chime in on what you think down in the comments.

Style of Writing: This has nothing to do with spelling and grammar, and everything to do with how genuine you are.  If you’re always up in arms over something and blasting someone who has wronged you, I’m going to start to think that maybe the problem isn’t everything else. Maybe the problem is you.  For me, the writing style is all about how human you are.  Writing from the heart, sticking up for the causes and issues you believe in, and writing with passion €“ that’s how trust is created.

[As an aside, I think that’s why I’m such a big fan of Twitter. It allows me to show blog readers more about me. Todd Malicoat gave me a hard time during PubCon that I “life tweet” or ‘tweet my life story’. I think that’s a bit much, but I do try to share pieces of my life on Twitter. If you’re taking the time to subscribe and follow me, then I want to give you me. I try to make everything I write as genuine as possible.]

Posting Quality: You have to give people a reason to trust you and a reason to come to your blog every day. You do that by providing intelligent content with each post, or at least consistently. To me, that’s the biggest trust signal. Do you provide something that is worth my time? Do you make me think or laugh or share something with me that I can’t get anywhere else? Can I trust you to keep doing that or do I have to worry that tomorrow you’re going to post your latest press release? I need to trust your ability to give me something great.  Do that and I’m a reader for life.

Posting Frequency: I tend to put more trust into blogs that are updated constantly, likely because it gives me the opportunity to get to know the blogger and their perspective. Also, if you can’t be bothered to update, then I probably don’t want to invest too much of my time into your blog, anyway.  I have abandonment issues. I only invest in people who invest in me. I’ve found it causes me far less heartache.  It also keeps down the number of blogs I subscribe to.

Conversation: I trust bloggers who care enough about their readers to talk to them. I trust bloggers who are smart enough to realize that the people who take the time to comment on their blog are just as important as the person whose name is on it.  We’ve been pretty blessed at We Build Pages to be part of a community that is vocal in their agreement and disagreement with whatever we write. I love that. There aren’t words to express how much I love it. I hope it never, ever changes.

Own Your Mess Ups: We all screw up. We all publish that post we know we shouldn’t, we takes things a little too personally, we make a mistake and we make it in front of a lot of people.  If you’re not willing to own up to it, say you’re sorry and move on — then you’ve blown any shot you had with me. I’m okay with people making mistakes; I’m not okay with them sweeping things under the rug or making excuses for their actions. Excuses infuriate me.  Maybe it plays into that whole “showing people you’re human” thing. Or maybe I just think people who make excuses are jerks.

Those are the trust quality signals I pay attention to. But, since you guys are the blog readers, I’d actually be more interested in your thoughts and how you think we’re doing at We Build Pages.  This blog is new to the blogosphere, so where would you put it on the Trust Scale?  How can we optimize our ranking? ;)

Comments

  1. Joe Hall December 10, 2008 at 11:45 AM

    I think you have outlined probably the most important elements. However, for many that stumble across the blog for the first time, they probably won’t recognize all these. Therefore I like using things that can show quick stats that reinforce that there is a community behind the blog.

    These include:
    Your cool gravatar widget.
    MyBlogLog’s widget.
    Recent comments widget.
    RSS subscriber count.
    Twitter follower count.
    and others…

  2. Joe Hall December 10, 2008 at 11:46 AM

    Well, I see now you are already using the recent comments function. My bad!

  3. Samir Balwani December 10, 2008 at 12:50 PM

    One of the biggest problems for most corporate bloggers is that everything has to go through the legal department. So your blogger might understand but the whole company doesn’t. It’s like playing telephone with your blog post. I think a lot gets lost in translation and until bloggers get some more freedom from their PR and Legal departments, not much will change.

  4. Patrick Sexton December 10, 2008 at 3:50 PM

    For me the biggest trust factor is the communication and voice of someone. I think about words constantly and I like it when I run across someone else who does too. It shines through.
    I always think of Italo Calvino when I think about voice. In just a few moments of reading most of his books you are relaxed and with good company, nice warm comfort – even though his theme are bizarre. Sorry to get all Italo Calvino on you but…
    “Myth is the hidden part of every story, the buried part, the region that is still unexplored because there are as yet no words to enable us to get there. Myth is nourished by silence as well as by words.” and
    “The struggle of literature is in fact a struggle to escape from the confines of language; it stretches out from the utmost limits of what can be said; what stirs literature is the call and attraction of what is not in the dictionary.”
    The very yummy author of this blog post (that means you Lisa) and her cohort, Rhea, correct my grammar alot and tell me how to say things good. It weirds me out out and it makes me warm alot and I think about voice alot because the wonderful nice that is writing and reading is too find voices that you relate to.
    I relate to your voice Lisa, so much that my toes curl up from it.
    Trust is a funny thing, not the way that puppets are a funny thing or the way that comedians are funny things, but funny in the sense that your trust is entirely defined by you.
    So the readers define the trust, not the writers. Same in life.
    You define you, not others reactions to you.

  5. graywolf December 11, 2008 at 7:24 AM

    side tracking the comments:

    you know those stones with the inspirational messages engraved in them pictured above, I’ve always wanted to make some of my own and sell them, they’d be different though words like:

    throw
    smash
    break

  6. Lisa Barone December 11, 2008 at 7:40 AM

    Joe: I like the community-validation metrics myself, but it worries me when people rely too heavily on those. That said, yes, we have adopted the Recent Comments plugin, and our Web designer Zane created another plugin which you’ll see towards the bottom.

    Pat: Sage. ;)

    Michael: You need to talk to QualityGal. She wants to sell rocks on the Internet, too. :)

  7. Annie Cushing December 11, 2008 at 8:03 AM

    Many of the corporate blogs I’ve visited are pretty sterile. But corporate blogs like this one give the companies they represent a soul.

    I especially appreciated your last point of taking responsibility when you bite it. When someone handles mistakes maturely (or sometimes even just a misunderstanding where no actual mistake was made), it grabs my attention. Conversely, when I watch someone resort to positioning and dog-and-pony shows to try to cover his/her mistakes(s), I throw a flag on the play in my mind. And if it happens on a company’s blog, it affects my perception of the entire company.

  8. Dana Lookadoo December 11, 2008 at 10:39 AM

    Is it okay to comment and just say, “dittos?! I’m going to suggest some clients and colleagues read this to understand the value that blogging can bring to a company. This post is like a piece of literature, Lisa! THANK YOU!

    Agree with Ann about voice, like this, represents a soul. And Patrick’s comment was a blog post in itself!

  9. Diana December 11, 2008 at 1:15 PM

    As a blogger and writer with no corporate blogging experience at all, I have to say that what you mentioned about voice rings the truest above all else for me. I read some corporate blogs, but when I stumble across one that sounds, as you said, like a thinly veiled press release, I never look at it again. If I want ads, I can turn on the TV.

    I also feel the need to add that I don’t quite get the point of corporate blogs, except those that follow software products and things like that. Is there really anything about them that should interest the average consumer? I’m 26. I have a BA. I’m pretty much a nerd, but I still don’t see much use for corporate blogs. Perhaps something you could touch on in the future?

  10. Mike | PlanetChiro December 11, 2008 at 4:31 PM

    Never took you for a corporate blogger Lisa but now that you mention it I think I’ll be checking out your personal blog to see what you REALLY have to say.

    [heads over to lisabarone.com]

    I’m back, nice pair of widgets you have there. :P

  11. David Temple December 11, 2008 at 8:41 PM

    IMHO it’s about personality. Corporate blogs typically are missing that part of the equation due to several factors including legal dept. input as Samir pointed out. I have conversations with people not brands. I don’t trust coroporations, brands or ads, I trust people. People that don’t have a hidden agenda, people that are genuine, people like you.

  12. guardian December 12, 2008 at 1:03 AM

    Trust is something that is established in course of time. The small and insignificant habits tells a lot about the character of a person, as even fools can come out with great preparation. Observing these small habits can often help either to trust or not to trust a person.

  13. Ben McKay December 12, 2008 at 3:22 AM

    I think neutrality plays a role, but is very difficult to communicate without cynical people distrusting the message. In fact I’m not sure whether cynical is the right word, especially as the topic of conversation is about words, as cynicism has become the norm that I don’t think people should be given this label.

    Anyway, value adding content is what people want to read and I guess if you can aggregate or create value-adding content then you can get over the hurdle of such things…maybe this is neutral industry news / research / reviews…can it be neutral/trusted though? I guess that depends on a whole host of other factors relating to the trust around the brand! It spans far further than just the blog content certainly.

    Thanks for the post – provides plenty of food for thought!

  14. Barry Schwartz December 12, 2008 at 5:45 AM

    Lisa, have you ever “screwed up”? I cannot remember a time you did.

  15. Lisa Barone December 12, 2008 at 8:16 AM

    Michael: Ah, so, so clever. I wouldn’t dare want to take over that blog and ruin all the fun Michael Gray is having with the titles. :)

    David: I totally agree about the personality thing. Your personality is what makes you interesting and it’s what going to engage people. I was really lucky both at Bruce Clay and at We Build Pages to be able to blog without too many restrictions. I’ve worked for great bosses who encouraged me to be genuine and myself, and I think that’s paid off for everyone. It’s made my blogging more real. Or at least that’s how I feel. I hope others share a similar sentiment.

    Barry: Oh, I’ve made /plenty/ of mistakes in my time. Most due to responding emotionally or taking things too personally. But of course, there was that whole Threadwatch scandal, too. I’ve definitely had my share of blog screw ups. And I’m sure there are plenty more to come. That’s how you learn, right? :)

  16. seosoeasy December 14, 2008 at 4:31 AM

    Interesting article.You know I have a hard time trusting people. There’s no reason why I just don’t trust that many people.But Lisa your article impressed me and i got a better solution.Iam interested to read your upcoming blogs.thanks.

  17. monkeymeat December 14, 2008 at 11:12 AM

    Awesome post, Lisa.

    If there were more of your literary ethics in the outside world today, perhaps we might be just a bit less close to trashing the planet and killing ourselves off.

    I’m new to all this stuff. But my goal is to design something positive that promotes not only products and personal wealth, but a great user experience as well. Something the customer wants to come back to even when they DON’T feel like buying.

    I’ll be checking out your blog, Lisa. Thanks for the tips.

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