Why Credibility Matters Online

Laptop figures hand shakeI bet you don’t know me.  I mean, you don’t know me personally and that’s okay.  You've met me online by reading my blog and perhaps gotten to know me through social media postings. Somewhere along the way, you decided my content is worthy of your time and interest.  I cannot express how thankful I am to you for that.

The beauty of the Internet is that we can expand our connections and relationships beyond the people we can physically meet to more easily share our knowledge and experience and interact with a much larger virtual community.

Why do we engage with other people's content?  There are probably a couple of reasons, but one that I pay attention to is credibility.  I work to create regular content that is accurate and relevant to the audience interested in my niche which is how to build your expert status and grow your business using online media.

In the TV news business, credibility is everything. The viewer has to trust that the stories news people deliver are real, factual and reliable. What does credibility translate into? TRUST!  Reporters work at ‘getting it right” so you come to rely on the information they present, believe their reporting and embrace their station as your trusted source for news.

In the non-news arena, trust is just as important.  You have to trust your doctor, your accountant, your hair dresser and many others to do what's right, to be an expert in their field and to act in your best interest.

People want to do business with someone they know, like and trust but it is human nature to be skeptical, especially online. So if viewers come to know you strictly from your online presence, you have to work at K-L-T.

What are some ways to earn the trust of your audience?

Be the Expert:  Give away enough valuable information to show people you know your stuff.  Put out fresh content regularly and set up your social media profiles to present consistent information about you across the platforms. It worries me when I see someone say they are a dog trainer in one profile and something entirely different and unrelated in another. You want a google search of your name to return solid and congruent results about you, your personal brand and your business.

LinkedIn means business and is the professionals platform. Your LinkedIn profile should be fully optimized to show your body of work, updates and links to things you are doing and creating now, the awards you’ve received, recommendations from clients and colleagues, etc.  My friend Donna Serdula is the expert here – check out her services at LinkedIn-Makeover.com

Be Real:  Do you write a blog? Does your domain name and email address look professional?  Don’t try to be too clever or obscure with the online identity you choose.  JanetVasil.com and an email to match is better than something like giglsplitzgah.com and ecots@giglsplitzgah for an email name. (I made these words up; they do not exist – hopefully!)

Be Accessible:  Is your business legit? How can people get in touch with you? Do you have a visible email, physical address, phone number online? Do you respond in a timely way when someone contacts you?  

Be Human:  In your blog posts and social media exchanges, it’s okay to mix a little personal with the professional. Not TMI, but a little.  And if you mess up, admit it and explain the lesson learned.  Let people into your world and show you have foibles and challenges like all the rest of us.

Be Social:  Social media gives you so many more opportunities to engage with other people.  Share widely and often, be a contributor, join an online community and/or start one,

Do What You Say You Will:  Nothing destroys trust faster than not being true to your word.  Be careful about hype and false urgency. For example, it annoys me when marketers say there are only 5 copies left of a digital product. If it is a simple digital download, there are endless copies.  Only 5 left at a certain price point? Now that's a different story.

Watch what you promise and don’t make promises you can’t keep. If you give a deadline for something and the day comes and goes with no change, you hurt your credibility. If you can’t follow through for some reason, admit it and explain why.

My number one tip for building and maintaining online credibility would be to do VIDEO. Of course, if you are a regular reader of my content, you probably knew that would be at the top of my list.  It’s such a powerful way to communicate.

When people see and hear you on videos on your website, your blog and on social media sites, it’s the next best thing to meeting you. People who will never meet you in real life can feel connected to you because your persona on video gives them a better sense of who you are. Done right, your expertise and authenticity shine through in your videos. Video is much more effective than print because you get a chance to SHOW and TELL the audience what you and your business are all about.

A final point to consider: Credibility is a delicate thing. Strive to always be an honest agent. You want your audience to see you as a trusted source of information.

You can work hard to build up the know-like-trust factor online, grow your audience and then lose their good will with one gaffe. And once gone, like a good reputation, it can be a long hard slog to get your credibility back.

Thoughts? Please leave a comment.