A few months ago, we conducted a content marketing survey that found 74% of those who surf the Web tend to trust the non-salesy content that businesses post on their corporate, social, and other sites to educate prospects and customers and, hopefully, draw them into their communities and customer channels.
The figure may be surprisingly high, but our survey also showed it doesn't take much for content marketers to break that trust: 29% indicate that even if 99% of a blog post is compelling, valuable, and objective, all a content marketer has to do to kill her credibility is add a brief mention of the product.
It may not be fair, but that's content marketing for you. People will, for the most part, start out believing what you have to say, but their trust in your content is both fragile and fleeting.
So what can today's content marketers do to capture and maintain that trust?
1. Tell your boss, 'You're no longer my boss'
Content marketers hear it all the time from their bosses: "You're not including enough information about the product!" For content marketing to work, though, you need to forget that it's marketing, which is something that most people in your company likely won't understand. If you want to do your job effectively, you need them to understand. Educate them on what content marketing is and what it isn't, what it can do and what it can't do.
The primary goal of content marketing, of course, is to secure the readership of prospects in the hopes that it will contribute to community growth, the eventual purchase of products or services, or some other desired customer action.
The more you're able to get your organization to understand that, the easier it will be for you to tailor your content marketing to the reader's needs, not your boss's, and the more trustworthy and effective that content will be—which is in everyone's interest.
2. Tap into your inner reporter
One way content marketers can be more effective is to stop thinking like marketers and start thinking like reporters. As a content marketer, your loyalty to the reader must come before your loyalty to the organization—which means creating content that truly informs. It means creating content that is compelling and valuable and useful. It means giving your readers something that can make their lives better—safer, healthier, more exciting... Keep giving them that, and they'll keep coming back.
3. Check your facts
Even the best intentions of a well-meaning content marketer can go sour if he doesn't get the facts straight. Be sure to check your facts. If you refer to external research or some other independent information, link to the original content. In fact, any content that can back up your claims should be included.
The survey I mentioned earlier also found that 46% won't trust content that can't be corroborated, and 57% tend to trust content more when it contains verification from named sources, whether it's the recommendation of parents or doctors, for example. So make it easy for them by linking to other sources.
4. Make it shareable
I know what you're thinking: "What content marketer doesn't make her content shareable?" I'm talking about more than just attaching social sharing buttons to your content. So you've given your readers a means by which to share. But have you given them reason to?
Content is more credible when discovered via a friend or family member, 69% of respondents to our survey say. Sharing not only gets your content into more hands but also comes with the sign-off of a trusted source. It's inherently more credible.
So what will you do to make your content must-read content? Will it be funny? Shocking? Will it contain images? Video? Identify what it is about your topic that will make it particularly share-worthy, and then use it!
5. Listen and Know
As the readership and community around your content grows, be sure to read what they in turn are saying, whether it's related to a topic you wrote about, your company, or altogether something else.
The people who spend the most time online have plenty to talk about, and quite often external events will color any discussions they might be having around your content. It also pays to know what's going on in the world, whether it's a natural catastrophe or another star posting a controversial selfie.
By listening to your readers and having a finger on the world's pulse, you can avoid having content taken out of context or being seen as tone deaf—all of which can damage your credibility and undo all your great work.
Listening can also make your job easier. By having a better sense of who your readers are and what matters to them most, you'll never run out of ideas for future content.