As go-to sources for innovative content, amateur bloggers have been teaching mainstream media professionals some new tricks. Once considered the sideshow of journalism, blogging has taken the center ring. Even traditional media outlets have joined the fray, bolstering blogging’s reputation. But for amateur bloggers not writing for a trusted brand, establishing a trustworthy reputation remains important. For Justin Carder of Capitol Hill Seattle, consistency is key: “You do the same good stuff day in and day out for long enough, and you become trustworthy. It’s a function of effort as much as anything.”
In addition, here are five tips for gaining your audience’s trust, and writing like a pro—even if you aren’t one:
1. State your credentials: When positioning yourself as a blogger, you must inform your audience of your qualifications. Credentials inspire confidence, and the term does not exclusively apply to professional degrees. For instance, if a blogger is an experienced ballet instructor and writes about ballet’s emotional benefits, her opinion has merit, even though she is not a licensed behavioral professional.
2. Write what you know: When you write about subjects you have in-depth knowledge about, your insights are richer and more authentic than when writing about a topic requiring extensive research. “Because I care about what I write, I can help my audience by making useful suggestions, interesting observations or just making them chuckle a little at what happens to me,” explains Candy Martin, author of the Seattle P-I reader blog Mother of Style.
3. Use credible outside sources: Outside sources bolster your own research and help persuade your audience that you already have others on your side. Using outside sources also demonstrates that you’ve taken the time to verify your facts. Moreover, the old saying that “you are judged by the company you keep” also applies to writing. Make sure your sources are worth defending and not just convenient. If they seem dubious to you, they will look even more dubious to your readers, and so will you.
4. Write with authority and accuracy: When trying to prove yourself to an audience, how you write is just as important, if not more so, as what you write. Information riddled with grammatical, spelling, and typographical errors will be dismissed by many readers as not credible. Use a confident, professional tone, and proofread your content before posting. In this way, you not only ensure that your writing is polished, but you communicate to your audience that you are careful and methodical.
5. Respond to comments: Interactivity is a key element of all online communication. By posting something online, authors instantly subject themselves to scrutiny, and it’s likely that their audience will respond to what they read. Part of being a credible source is a willingness to engage in further conversation with your audience.
What are your strategies for strengthening your credibility online?
Megan Jeffrey is a graduate student in the MCDM program at the University of Washington. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and public relations from Cal Poly University, San Luis Obispo. She has worked as an account assistant for Verdin Marketing Ink and as a HubPages.com columnist. Megan is currently a community manager for Serra Media and a social media strategist for the UW School of Drama.