The 2016 presidential election was one of the most divisive in history, and one major contributing factor was “fake news.” In the days following the election of Donald Trump, there was a massive uproar about whether so-called “fake news,” on Facebook, specifically, had contributed to his election.
While Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg came out and said he didn’t believe that fake news could have impacted the election, and that “more than 99 percent of what people see [on Facebook] is authentic,” Facebook launched a crackdown on fake news immediately after the election, as did Google.
Today, people trust headlines less than they ever have, and rightfully so. Fake news articles earned more than 10.6 million shares, reactions and comments during the 2016 election and primaries, and people are finding it hard to tell what’s real and what’s not.
Even if the content you create doesn’t get anywhere close to politics, this reticence to believe headlines has a widespread ripple effect, and it impacts content creators everywhere. With this in mind, here’s what you need to know about creating trustworthy and reliable content in the modern world.
7 Tips for Making Your Content More Trustworthy
Today, anyone can be a publisher. While this is great for the accessibility of content, it’s a real problem for the trustworthiness of online material. The reason is this: reputable journalists and publishers have always gone through a rigorous barrage of fact-checking, either self-imposed or at the hands of editors. Thanks to the rise of free blogging platforms like Medium, though, anyone can get on the Web and publish anything, even if it’s not true.
While there’s no way around this, it has placed increased importance on the development of trust. Today, brands that want to be taken seriously have to find a way to differentiate themselves from these hobby-publishers, and the best way to do that is by building trust. Here are seven tips to do just this in your content:
1. Focus On Being Useful
Content should be one thing first and foremost: useful. If your content isn’t helping your users solve a problem, answer a question, or learn something new, it won’t be trustworthy. With this in mind, focus on creating content that fulfills your audience’s needs first and your business’s goals second.
2. Reinforce Your Claims
Claims made without statistics, facts, or evidence to back them up destroy trust at a record rate. This is especially dangerous in today’s environment. To prevent yourself from falling victim to this fate, make sure that you’re reinforcing every claim you make. Cite your sources, provide in-depth screenshots to illustrate your point, and use examples at every turn. In addition to making your content more trustworthy, this will also make it more useful for your readers.
3. Be Objective
Nothing screams “not trustworthy” louder than content that only features one extreme side of the argument. While it’s fine to have an opinion and to state that opinion in your content, it’s critical to temper it by showcasing both sides of the argument. When your readers can pick and choose what makes sense to them, and use your content to make an intelligent decision of their own, they’re much more likely to trust you and your material.
4. Be Professional
A professional voice will get you far when it comes to inspiring trust with your readers. Today, your audience will be able to tell if you’re tooting your own horn, putting someone else down, or just not investing the time and effort required to produce great content. With this in mind, take pains to be professional in everything you write. From your headlines to your body copy, a professional, objective, rational voice will do great things for your content.
5. Stay Consistent
Consistency can have a large impact on perception and trust. With this in mind, work to keep your content voice and approach consistent. In addition to helping people see your point more effectively, consistent content also helps make you a recognizable presence on the Web, which does a lot to increase the trust audiences feel in your brand. Consistency can be as simple as keeping your color scheme standardized and as complex as ensuring your font, formatting and voice stays predictable.
6. Use Trust Seals
Anything you can add to your content or website to inspire trust is a fantastic idea. These “trust seals” range from Better Business Bureau accreditation and HubSpot certifications to customer reviews and anything else that can make your content more approachable. You can also use social proof indicators, like subscription counters and similar tools to showcase how many people are already interacting with your content and encourage more.
7. Invite Comment
To show your audience that you hold yourself accountable and are willing to hear what they have to say, include a call to action at the end of your posts that encourages readers to leave a comment, point out inaccuracies, or weigh in with their opinion. When you get comments, respond to them and engage in dialogues with your customers. The more open you are about your material and ideas, the more likely other people will be to perceive you as trustworthy.
Trustworthy Content in the Era of Fake News
While the openness of the Web has created dozens of incredible opportunities for publishers around the globe, it has also created a fake news monster that some of the biggest online organizations are fighting to tame. While we notice it most in politics, the distrust of the media has expanded into all industries and being reliable in your content is more important now than it’s ever been. Fortunately, you can create and build trust in your content by following these seven tips, and ensuring that you’re always taking a proactive approach to improving the quality and relevance of your content for readers across the globe.
Julia McCoy is a bestselling author of So You Think You Can Write, podcaster and an expert content marketer. She’s also the founder and CEO of Express Writers, a leading online content creation agency, with more than 60 content writers and strategists. Julia leads her team to serve hundreds of worldwide businesses with the highest-quality content for their online presence. Follow Julia’s blog.