The future belongs to the trusted few

The level of trust web users have in the information they find in blogs, forums and social networks is getting lower and lower. This is a shame as blogs and forums in particular used to be the places where people could trust the writing as being non-commercial and honest.

Unfortunately, companies love the idea of getting their messages into these channels and more and more adverts and videos are finding their ways into blogs. Marketers are creating blogs, forums and social network pages specifically to promote their products or services.

Levels of trust could well continue to decline as more and more marketing messages flood every aspect of the web.

Your opportunity

It's unfortunate there's so much 'advertorial' out there. It's a shame that hundreds of thousands of MySpace pages don't belong to individuals at all... but instead are created by companies pretending to be individuals.

But there is an opportunity. As levels of credibility and trust sink lower, readers will seek out the gallant few. That is to say, if you deliver honest, useful content on your site, with no sneakiness, then people will get to hear about you. They'll be hungry for information they can trust.

What not to do

There are some excellent, trustworthy sites out there which support themselves through all manner of advertising and sponsorship deals. The trick is not to remove the advertising, but to clearly separate editorial from advertising. Just like they used to do, and sometimes still do in the world of print.

People understand that information media needs to support their existence through advertising. What isn't OK is when you try to trick your readers.

It's not acceptable to:

  • Write content that's thinly-veiled advertising
  • Try to make people think a certain page is editorial they can trust, when in fact it's there to deliver a marketing message
  • Write a blog entry that appears to be editorial when you're being paid a fee by a company to write it
  • Write poor content simply to attract readers in the hope they'll click on an advert

These are the practices that dilute trust and make web users skeptical about the next blog, forum or website they visit.

How to build trust

Online, every marketer is in a hurry to make money. But if you just slow down a little you'll do better in the long run.

Create valuable, useful and honest content, whether it be in the form of articles, reviews, guides, white papers, blog entries or forums posts. Keep marketing messages out of your content. Add them separately, and keep them separate. Over time, people will come to trust your site and the information you provide.

Trustworthy content will win in the end

As the web and all of its channels become flooded with untrustworthy content, those who build and maintain trust with their readers will be the long-term winners. People quickly learn which sites are trying to 'play' them.

So while we're in the midst of an explosion of sneaky marketing right now, the smartest marketers will be investing in sites, blogs and forums that are genuinely trustworthy. They will be the winners in the end.

This article was written by Nick Usborne. Nick is a copywriter, author, speaker and consultant. His consulting and speaking site can be found at Nick Usborne.com. His information sites for copywriters and freelance writers can be found at Excess Voice and www.freelancewritingsuccess.com respectively.

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