Gaining the trust of your readers is your number one content marketing objective, without it your content strategy will fail. New research finds that businesses must work hard building trust and that, while people do generally trust brands, it is a fragile and fleeting trust and is easily shattered.
A recent survey conducted by Kentico found that 74% of the general public tend to trust the non-commercial content that businesses post on their corporate, social and other sites to educate prospective customers, with the aim of drawing them into their communities and customer channels.
While this figure appears encouragingly high, the survey also showed that while people will generally start out believing what you have to say, their trust in your content is on a knife-edge. When reading a blog post that may be compelling, valuable and objective, almost one third (29%) say all a company has to do to kill their credibility is add a brief mention of the product.
It’s not just steering clear of mentioning products that can affect trust: almost half (46%) say credibility is shattered by using information that cannot be verified with external sources; 17% are turned off by not including other perspectives or viewpoints; 15% are put off by content not being transparent - when it’s not made clear that the message comes from a particular company; and 12% lose trust through condescension.
You might think existing customers are more trusting as they are more engaged with the brand. Not so - 85% are no more trusting of educational content simply because they buy from the company that posts it. The majority of those surveyed (60%) also believe a company’s size has no bearing on the credibility of its content, though 29% do feel educational content from smaller businesses is more trustworthy than that of larger businesses.
So readers can be tough cookies, cynical and untrusting - making it a bit of a minefield for content marketers.
However, there are things they can do to maintain and boost the trust of their target audiences:
1. Get Buy-In from the Top
Before content marketers can gain the trust of their readers, they must first gain the trust of their bosses. So it’s your job to educate them to understand what content marketing is - and what it isn’t. The primary goal of content marketing, of course, is to secure the readership of prospects to contribute to community growth, the eventual purchase of products or services, or some other desired customer action. That readership depends on trust and engagement.
2. Think like a Newshound
Content marketers have to stop thinking like marketers and start thinking like ‘newshound’ reporters. If they serve up information with the sole intent of benefitting the reader, the reader will consider the information trustworthy and (hopefully) the organisation as well. For every piece of content consider the ‘so what’ factor, and ask yourself - How can I improve this?
3. Get Your Facts Straight
Make sure you check your facts and cite any external research you include in your content. We have seen that most people won’t trust content that can’t be corroborated and, furthermore, the research shows that 57% tend to trust content more when it contains verification from named sources, such as parents or doctors.
4. Share the Trust
Whether it’s posted on your website or a guest post elsewhere, content must be shareable. Not only does this help broaden the reader base, it helps more people get your content from an already trusted source. The figures say it all: almost all respondents (94%) have shared educational information from a company with someone; with 69% saying content is more credible when discovered through a friend or family member. Interestingly, women are 20% more likely than men to trust content shared though friends and family members.
5. Make Content Valuable
Share buttons aren’t enough if your content isn’t valuable or compelling to the reader. You need to make people want to share your content. This starts with truly knowing your audience. Who are you targeting? What needs and interests do they have? What jobs do they do? Do they watch ‘Strictly’ or ‘X-Factor’? Imagine who they are and then write to their needs—not your boss’. It’s definitely worthwhile experimenting and testing your content to see what works best - try humour, images and video. In fact anything that will help your content leap off the page.
In summary, while customers will, for the most part, give a company’s content marketing the benefit of the doubt, businesses must take care to not break that trust with information that can’t be corroborated or strays from the truth altogether. In this way, content marketing and transparent marketing must go hand in hand.
By Petr Palas, CEO & Founder of Kentico.
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