Nielsen has been reporting for years that consumers trust brand websites more than they do advertising or press reports. Trust has always been the top currency for digital marketing. If you’re online-only, your website is the only way to build trust in potential customers. Even local businesses need to build trust at their websites, because now the majority of consumers meet you online first, even when they’re in your neighborhood.
One of the best strategies for building trust is to share useful information that your readers may not be able to find elsewhere. For example, we’re doing a white paper for a client on how the Montreal Protocol will affect air conditioning costs. He’ll be saving his customers money by sharing this arcane knowledge in a very readable form at his website. Thought leadership and generously supplying great answers to reader’s questions have been strong tactics in content marketing for years now.
Things may be changing. The new concern with fake news and alternative facts is threatening the trust consumers feel for company websites. How can you build trust with your blog?
Tell the truth.
This may be obvious, but it still has to be said. If you’re casual about facts, you can easily be caught out in a falsehood, and there’s no faster way to lose your web visitors’ trust. Watch out for these very common habits that can lead you to innocent falsehoods:
- Reading the headline, not the article. Headlines are often written for click bait, and they may not match the serious information an investigative journalist presents in the article. At the very least, they’re way too short to completely capture information. Before you repeat someone’s statistic or claim, read through the article.
- Accepting second or third hand information. A recent example of this problem was a report by the Associated Press that flossing, recommended since the 19th century by dentists, had never been researched sufficiently for government guidelines. Within days, articles saying that flossing teeth was pointless were popping up all over the web. The original story didn’t even say that dental floss wasn’t beneficial. It said that it had been recommended without sufficient research. Those two claims are not the same thing. A reputable source will give the sources they used so you can track the story back to its roots.
- Accepting authority-based claims from people who are not authorities on the subject. A professional tennis player gives a statement on tennis? That’s authority. That same tennis player shares her views on climate change? Not necessarily authoritative. Being famous isn’t the same thing as being an authority.
So check your information before you share it.
Provide your sources.
If you’re an expert on the subject you’re writing about — which you should be for your company blog — you can make authoritative statements. But when you’re offering specific facts, say how you know and link to the source.
You can see this in the first sentence of this post. I know what Nielsen says about consumer trust — I write about this every year when the report comes out. But you have no special reason to trust me on this unless you read my blog regularly and have total recall.
I don’t ask you to believe me. I tell that Nielsen, an internationally recognized consumer research organization. Then I link my claim to the original source, Nielsen. Now you know where I got my facts.
You don’t need to use footnotes or cite your sources the way you did in school. Just say “according to” and add a link.
Watch out for bias.
You don’t have to be neutral about everything you say. Our HVAC client has some pretty strong opinions about the way his work affects the wellbeing of the people he serves, and we’re going to convey those opinions as compellingly as possible. But you have to be aware of your biases to make sure that you’re sharing facts and opinions honestly.
State your opinions clearly and support them with actual facts from reliable sources. You don’t have to present both sides of every controversy, though it’s not a bad idea to do so, but be aware of your biases. That way, they won’t lead you into presenting opinions as though they were facts.
The actions you take in your business relationships, your customer service, and the way you treat your clients or patients — these things build trust in the real world. Online, you have to rely on your website. A scrupulously honest policy on blogging is a great way to do that.