Those who blog for fun and those who blog in order to earn a living out of it seem to be on two ends of a spectrum. On the one side: logic, strategy and profits. On the other: empathy, passion and heart. Never the twain shall meet, right?
There’s one point where they do come together, though. Whatever moves you to build an audience for your content, you need to inspire one key response.
More than admiration, money, or attention, you need to earn your audience’s trust.
Prove you’re human
It’s a weird, Bladerunner world when we have to prove we’re human, isn’t it? But the Internet is a giant tangle of mistrust, aggravated by the use of viruses, bots, spiders, and other not-human things that creep around the web making trouble.
Let people know you’re a human being. Put your photo somewhere on your site—we’ve got deep and important wiring in our brain that lets us create relationships with faces.
Tell stories from your personal experience. (And don’t make yourself the know-it-all hero.) Talk about mistakes you’ve made, and how they made you stronger and smarter, even as your ego got a little bruised.
People trust people. You don’t need to get painfully confessional if that isn’t your style, but let your individual human personality shine through in the content you create.
Take a stand
This society we live in has long been plagued by the curse of niceness.
This is a horrible quality in a blogger.
No, you don’t want to be a bitter crank or a narrow-minded bigot. But nothing is more boring than lukewarm wannabe writing that refuses to take a position.
We can’t trust a person who won’t come out and stand for something.
The truth is that if you stand for nothing, you’re likely to fall for everything.
When you find yourself wanting to write, “on the other hand,” hold back. Let your readers chime in with the other hand, or another writer on their own blog. Don’t try to hold all sides of the conversation by yourself.
This is not about the truth, it’s about your opinion. That’s how you see it, and you acknowledge that others might have a different opinion.
Be bold. Take a position. Then greet differing opinions with a generous, confident spirit. Not only will your work become more interesting, but you’ll mark yourself as a trustworthy person with strong opinions, who values debate without being threatened by it.
Take care of your people
This ought to be obvious, but sometimes it isn’t. You must treat the trust of your audience as your most valuable asset. Trust takes a long time to build and an instant to destroy. No matter how tempting the payout, never go for short-term gains at the expense of long-term trust.
The most obvious example is never to promote affiliate programs or products that you haven’t thoroughly vetted, or that you don’t believe will offer exceptional value to your content community.
Promoting great quality will increase your audience’s responsiveness the next time you have something to offer. Promoting junk will trash your relationship, and your bottom line along with it.
Your loyalty must be to your audience first.
At the end of the day, earning trust is about putting the needs of your audience ahead of your own. Speak with a personal voice that shows your humanity. Let your actions speak as loudly as your well-chosen words. And treat the relationship with respect.
Earn their trust for the long haul, and your audience will follow you anywhere.