Have you ever encountered content that made you raise an eyebrow? I don’t mean the double eyebrow raise of pleasant surprise. I mean the suspicious single eyebrow raise of “Something smells fishy here."
That, my friends, is the stench of the content’s credibility going bad.
When it comes to building trust with your audience via the content you create, establishing your credibility is key.
But there are several things, silent but deadly, that can easily erode the trust you’re trying to build.
1. Selling to the top of the funnel
Alright, this one isn’t so silent but it is the most deadly. Shamelessly selling your product raises a pretty loud alarm for your audience.
Pitching your product at the top of the funnel is lethal to your credibility.
There’s a time and place within your content mix to sell the product or service you’re offering—it’s usually on your website's sales pages. Even your knowledge base, case studies, and bottom of the funnel content, despite being more company-centric, should still be created around your audience’s needs.
Content marketing at its core is about generosity, about creating something that a segment of your audience actually wants at the specific stage of the buyer journey they’re on—whether they’re just becoming aware of your brand, in the process of considering your product, or already a customer.
Overt selfishness at the awareness stage where your product is still pretty much irrelevant won’t make a favorable first impression.
2. Sloppy spelling with industry-specific terms
While I have argued against the grammar police’s strict enforcement before, especially when it pays more to speak your audience’s language, I won’t try to tell you that content littered with typos doesn’t come across as a little bit careless.
But misspelling industry-specific terms can be worse. Anyone who spends a lot of time-consuming content or talking to others in a specific space will likely become familiar with the industry’s lexicon, including how names of companies, products and brands are written out.
That’s why there’s a good chance a number of them will notice when you’re not writing the words right.
Industry-specific words not only have to be spelled a certain way, but you should double-check details like what letters are capitalized and whether to write it as one word, two or hyphenated.
Your audience is likely exposed to some words on a regular basis. For example, you might notice if I spell Slide Share as two words or don’t capitalize the second “I” in Linkedin.
Beyond appearing careless, it might make your audience suspect that you’re not that familiar with your own space.
It may seem small, even inconsequential, but the devil is in the details. Exorcise it by proofreading.
3. Borrowing from bad sources and neglecting your proof
When you leverage research or external sources in your content, you’re not just borrowing the stats or figures—you’re channeling its credibility as part of your own.
Using dated statistics to represent a recent trend might reveal that you’re not doing your homework properly—anything over 3 years old and the facts start to become questionable.
Linking to external sites that have yet to establish their credibility can also negatively impact the point you’re trying to make. When in doubt, use the criteria in this post to help you gauge whether the credibility of the content is something you want to borrow.
It's also important to remember that when you create content, the burden of proof is on you. If you're making a claim that should be supported by proof or explicit examples, take the time to provide it.
Anyone with a mouse and keyboard can say something. To make people believe it, give them a reason. Illustrate your arguments or back your claims with proof.
4. Being a bad teacher
“Those who do, do. Those who can’t, teach.” You may have heard that line shot at teachers before.
But that statement is unfair when you consider that the surest proof of understanding is the ability to simplify your knowledge and make it accessible for others.
Content marketing, especially B2B content marketing, inherently involves teaching. You’re not only trying to show your audience that you know your stuff, but also help them do it better. As a consequence of your content, your audience should be empowered to use your product or platform better.
The Buffer blog is my favorite example of a brand that knows how to teach its audience about its niche. With skilled writers and original angles, they deliver top-notch content about anything from marketing tools to distribution tactics to psychology. You can even see the focus of their content represented in their subscription copy: "Actionable social media advice."
Buffer empowers social media marketers to do their jobs better and, as a result, helps them effectively use their own social media platform for distribution and analytics to enable that success.
5. Being inconsistent
Consistency inspires trust. We’ve incorporated this notion into how we view our relationships. The same goes for customers and brands.
Inconsistency can come in the form of saying one thing and doing another—being a hypocrite—but it can also come in the form of poor branding throughout your content.
- Is your content sporadic in tone?
- Is it totally off topic compared to what your audience expects?
- Throughout your blog images, is there a visual theme?
Branding yourself through your visuals develops trust through cohesion and lets you put a clear brand image out there in a noisy internet. This is something I personally think we do well here at Uberflip (and readers have agreed), because we’re lucky to have a dedicated graphic designer on our team (what’s up Quentin!) who delivers a consistent visual brand throughout our content.
6. No visible engagement
Shares and comments are the social proof in your content. When someone lands on your blog post and sees that real people are engaging with it, it invites them to do the same.
Opting not to enable social sharing across your content is one way to lose a leg in the content distribution race. Yet enabling it without a social share count seals away your ability to add social proof to your content.
Choosing not to display the share count or turning off comments doesn’t detract from your credibility so much as it prevents you from building it in the first place.
For example, take this social bar I grabbed from a blog post (which shall remain anonymous):
Even with only a mild level of engagement—around 40 shares, which I can verify using tools like SharedCount—the fact that people are sharing the post is enough to encourage others to do the same. At the very least, visible engagement might convince visitors that it's worth a read.
Comments are another avenue of engagement that some blogs choose not to have lest someone leaves a spammy or negative comment. And then there's the obligation you have to reply to them all.
It’s true that comments often become a casualty of free speech, but it can be worth the conversations you can enable.
While Copyblogger and Seth Godin’s blog have famously removed their comments, they have established brands with loyal audiences. And they still encourage readers to continue the conversation on social media or via email.
If you’re creating content your audience finds valuable and distributing it properly, they will engage with it. Why not let them?
7. Weak author bio and undeveloped personal brand
Author bios are an integral but often overlooked part of content marketing. Author bios influence the trustworthiness of your content and whether people share it or not.
What does yours say about you?
The rules of writing still apply when it comes to eliminating typos and ensuring accuracy, but also remember some of the best practices of personal branding, along with the following considerations for your bio:
- Do you define your current role?
- Are you communicating the extent of your experience?
- Do you mention noteworthy brands you’ve worked with in the past?
- And is there a hint of your personality?
I highly recommend “doing content marketing” for yourself if you aren't already—blogging about your space and sharing valuable content on all your social media accounts to build your online presence and following.
You’ve probably noticed this focus becoming a trend with the number of professionals taking to the LinkedIn publishing platform to build their brand. But your personal brand can benefit the company brand you’re publishing under too.
Who are you? What do you do? Do you have an audience attached to your name? Are you someone who can claim they know anything at all about what they’re talking about?
Trust is earned
Authority. Credibility. Not being sketchy.
Whatever you want to call it, trustworthiness is one of the building blocks of effective content marketing. Audiences are smart. All it takes is one person to sniff out a lie or factual inaccuracy and POOF! your credibility is gone and they might never trust you again.
Respect comes before the revenue, the "content" comes before the "marketer", and we need to consider our audiences first if we want to make content marketing work.