Reader Trust: Your Most Valuable Asset as a Blogger

fashion blogger

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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13 Responses

  1. Renee | Beauty Fool

    Excellent article, Ashe! All great points I agree with, especially the “it’s not all about money” point.

    I have a lot of starting out bloggers asking me for blogging tips and the first thing they ask is how to make money. So sometimes I feel some people see it as a quick rich scheme, which blogging is SO not, haha! I took years and years before I made a penny on my blog; and always still stay true to my “rules”: only work with brands that are cruelty-free, and brands I like or I think is interesting and want to experiment and share with my readers.

    It’s so important for bloggers not to get lost in the “freebies!” “money!” “fame!” mindset ’cause it’s so apparent with some of the bigger bloggers, I feel like a lot of them are flaunting it, in a way, and it’s making people think that is all blogging is about. You will just lose yourself in it, and eventually, your readers. Setting your own rules and ethics for your blog – and telling your readers about it – and sticking to it will also gain a lot of trust, not to mention respect.

    x Renee

    • Paula

      Blogging is maybe like acting in that way – there are thousands of actors living in Los Angeles, only a handful of them move into the big time?

  2. Shaqinah Fakar

    Thanks for a great post! I completely agree with you – trust is definitely a huge factor when it comes to creating a lasting relationship with the readers. I loved what you said about how “your blog should be every moment you”… I think somewhere a long the road when the blogger has “made it big (working with a number of brands)”, every post reads more like an advertorial than the blogger’s personal post. It creates a small disconnect for the readers when this happens: all I think is “well that’s probably ‘cos you got it for free”(I may come off sounding bitter but just my two cents!).
    I chanced upon the Already Pretty site (thanks to your previous article) and found that on most outfit posts, she ends off with a disclosure clearly stating that clicking on links may yield commissions for her site. In my opinion, every blog should apply that practice! It didn’t affect whether or not I’ll click on the link but it sure made me instantly trust her.
    (This turned out to be a waffling comment, oops?)

  3. Ivana

    Readers recognize the effort you put in every post, good quality images, content. My advice is to be true to yourself, and do with passion. This shows on the long run, people feel it, and it is important if we want to last.


    Rue de Tres Chic

  4. Catching Flight

    I think everyone has been noticing this lately and It’s great that someone cam out and said it!

    A lot of fashion blogs don’t seem to have real relationships with their readers. However, I doubt any of this will change because they still make money and have fans at the end of the day.

  5. Kylie

    I am in 2 minds about whether a blogger says c/o on a product they are gifted. I always hear non-bloggers or those just starting out complaining about bloggers ‘bragging’ about what they get given. Yet they are under pressure to be open. Bloggers can’t win! I think if a blogger is paid to write a glowing review about a product or brand, then yes, they should disclose that. But they like and are choosing to wear the gifted stuff (no blogger is going to wear stuff they dont like for the sake of it) So that is honest I am not that bothered if they say they were given it or not. Personally I put a * next to gifted stuff with an explanation on the side bar as not to be too ‘in your face’.

    As for affiliate links… We can affiliate link up to practically every single brand out there through reward style so nothing is making us biased to any one particular brand. I think a note in your cookie policy or terms is sufficient.

    Yes I think when a blog gets really big…they loose sight of what made them big in the first place and it becomes all about their life as a blogger and what jobs they have done. Such a real shame. I like to see what the bigger bloggers are doing and it’s inspirational to the rest of us…but not the whole blog.

  6. Paula

    I’m still not sure i ever want to monetize my blog – but I really do hate it once bloggers start constantly apeing one brand over and over – it’s so obvious they got paid to promote it (the same as I would never buy Nivea eye cream because JLO sayd she uses it for example – JLO would use something ridiculously expensive with gold flecks in it) But that is just me personally. having said that – if a trusted blogger recommended something they had received free for reviewing purposes and gave it a good fact based review I would totally try it! The same as if a best girlfriend recommended me a product.
    What I’m waffling on about is that for me personally it seems that too many bloggers are out to self promote without any integrity. I’m not a huge fan of people visiting blogs just to say “read my new post” followed by heaps of links… you wonder if they even read your post!!? Come on guys!

    ♥ Paula Shoe Fiend.

  7. Gemma Savage

    I agree trust on a blog is the most important thing and to gain trust you need to be true to your self. That way you will not only grow as a blog but grow trust in others.

  8. Deena

    One of the reasons I’ve never monetized my blog is because I don’t want to start feeling a sense of obligation. Not all bloggers who monetize their sites allow their brand affiliations to colour their viewpoints of course, but there is that definite risk. I’d rather not.