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? ;)