Lately I've noticed a growing trend where reporters, readers and other bloggers share their distrust of high profile bloggers. Whether it's because of accusations of plagiarism, not disclosing their brand relationships, or the way they interact with their community, losing the trust of your following can be a blogger's downfall.
The truth is, your reader's trust is your most valuable asset as a blogger. It's how you establish authority and grow your site. It's what brands are trying to tap into and why they're coming to you. Because readers trust you and share that experience and trust with others.
Trust From Your Readers Comes When…
You do what you say you will and uphold the values you promote on your site.
You act in their best interest, while staying true to yourself.
You own up to the mistakes you've made or violations of their trust. You apologize for mistaken ideas or how you've expressed them.
How Do You Build Trust with Your Readers?
Building trust with your readers is a long and slow process, but ultimately is a goal you should always keep in mind. So… how do you do it? These tips are based on my own experiences or observations from when readers lose trust in a blogger.
Share an interesting, true perspective and point of view.
Provide interesting content that is true to you, your voice, and your interests. It seems like this can be difficult in the fashion community, but people rise to the top by sharing their personal opinions. Your blog should be every moment you– not just you sharing the latest trends and regurgitation of everyone's content.
Present an honest vision of reality.
Bloggers often get accused with creating a dreamy, fake version of reality. And maybe this is the real way you try to live your life, creating a glorious, gorgeous existence. If that's the case, okay! There's definitely an audience for that. But if you're trying to run a luxury blog, but 90% of your purchases come from Target, you're being dishonest to your readers. Our lives change dramatically and quickly, and sharing that honest version of your reality is a way for readers to bond with you.
Your readers lose their Freedom of opinion and voice.
This is the point when bloggers often start to lose their reader's trust. The blogger starts censoring their reader's opinions, comments, and input on a regular basis, or maybe even removes the comment section all together. It's difficult to put trust in a blogger when you realize that they don't trust you or value your relationship. Has that happened to you? You invest so much energy in a blogger, only to realize… she doesn't care about you. You're a number. Let's STOP viewing our readers as numbers.
Don't just share the positive – share the negative (if it's true).
Bloggers receive a LOT of items for review, and the fact is– they're not all amazing. They can't be. So for all the good you write, make sure you're sharing any valid concerns or criticisms you have of the product. Alternately, if you're going to share only the best products, make sure you publicize that and make sure brands know that if you don't like a product, you reserve the right not to review it.
Cite your sources.
This may sound simple, but a huge criticism I've read of many large fashion and lifestyle bloggers is that they borrow ideas (whether for a series, a recipe, or a DIY) from other sources and fail to acknowledge their original source. We're all inspired by one another, but if you're borrowing an idea directly from another blogger, just say so! It won't hurt your credibility that you found inspiration in another… if anything, it'll show more care that you respected them enough to link back.
Be honest about monetization.
Again, I see many bloggers who don't disclose — whether they received the item C/O (courtesy of the brand), received compensation for the post, or whether it was part of a bigger program. The FTC has put compensation laws into place for a reason! It's easy as a blogger to assume that the average reader knows that C/O means courtesy of and was given to us by the brand. It's easy to assume that readers know what an affiliate link is, but the fact is… they don't spend as much time online, and blogging concepts are a very foreign term. Be clear and upfront about anything that could confuse your readers or trick them.
Don't make everything about money.
At the heart of your blog should you and your passions, not your desire to make money (even if that IS why you blog). When every post becomes sponsored or related to a brand project, your readers start to lose trust. They can see that money is the motivation behind what you write.
Apologize when necessary.
I'm no stranger to controversy, and neither is IFB. And the wonderful and horrible thing about producing content online is that it's very easy for things to get taken wrong or out of context because we're missing facial expressions, tone, and inflection. If that's the case– apologize. Sometimes an apology can still spiral out of control and you lose readers. Sometimes your readers will appreciate that you've tried to right your wrong. But the point is– you've publicly tried to make amends.
What qualities or actions help you trust a blogger? Or what has made you stop trusting a blogger in the past?
Note: while I'm approaching this piece from the trust relationship between a blogger and her/his readers, it should also be noted that trust extends beyond that. As a blogger, you should be building up a trusting relationship with the brands you work with and your fellow bloggers. If other bloggers don't trust you, you lose out on being part of the community and the opportunities that come with that. If you work with a brand, and give them reason not to trust you, then you're losing revenue, and most of all, your reputation. Publicists and Online Marketing Managers move around a lot in their field, and you may be compromising other future opportunities by betraying that trust.
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