This post was written by Aditya Mahesh, founder of AMBeat.com, a complete resource for entrepreneurs complete with advice articles, start-up profiles, interviews, news analysis, and more. Note: I (Darren) have added a few thoughts below Aditya’s post.
When it comes to the blogosphere it may be all about the content, but when it comes to content, credibility is king. Credibility can make or break a blog. Take a look at the successful blogs out there; TechCrunch, ProBlogger, Shoemoney, Huffington Post, Mashable, and the list goes on. What do all these blogs have in common? They are written by credible sources people trust as experts in their niche.
Building credibility is a crucial part of any business or blog. It is a process that requires tireless effort and can take months or years to build. In my opinion, your credibility is by far the greatest asset you have as a blogger, regardless of your monthly page views, RSS subscriber count, or even ad revenues.
While building credibility is difficult for anyone, it is especially difficult for young entrepreneurs who may still be completing college or even high school. Society seems to have this misconception that credibility and wisdom come with age and the older one is the more credible they are. Young entrepreneurs and bloggers definitely have to work harder to build their credibility, but speaking as the founder of a successful public relations firm I started as a freshman in high school at the age of 14, it is by no stretch of the imagination impossible for student entrepreneurs to brand themselves as credible resources.
Here are a four ways I built up my credibility:
1. Always Provide Quality
The best thing you can do regardless of age to build credibility is to always deliver a quality product. When I ran my public relations firm I did the best job possible for all clients. Hence, they provided my service with positive reviews and recommended me to their peers. This word-of-mouth marketing was crucial to the success of the firm. In the blogosphere, focus on the quality of your posts and the content you provide. Over time, if you consistently provide quality output, no one will care how old you are.
2. Associate yourself with Industry Leaders
One of the best ways to build credibility is to associate yourself with leaders in your industry. In the blogosphere this can be done through guest posts on larger blogs, inviting industry leaders to exclusive interviews on your blogs, and networking at industry events. While these leaders may be hesitant to work with young entrepreneurs at first, if you showcase the skills you possess, either by writing a quality guest post or asking for an interview with fresh unique questions, any doubts over age will disappear. In addition, this is a great way to build a network of mentors. Everyone likes it when someone else looks up to them. I have used my age to build a network of mentors for my personal success and my blogs.
3. Use your Age to your Advantage
While there are a decent amount of young entrepreneurs, your age still makes you unique and you can use this to your advantage. How many times have you seen large Tier-1 newspapers or magazine such as the New York Times, Business Week, Entrepreneur Magazine, Inc Magazine, Fast Company, and countless others feature pieces on young entrepreneurs? Business Week’s 25 under 25 which showcases 25 successful entrepreneur sunder the age of 25 or Inc’s 30 Under 30 which does the same for 30 entrepreneurs under the age of 30. When you pitch your business or blog to Tier 1 media for news coverage, your age makes your pitch unique and increases the chances of someone picking up the story.
Getting coverage in Tier 1 media is one of the best ways to become a credible source and using your age as a differentiation point can help you get coverage.
4. Lead you Peers
One of the most effective ways I have built up my credibility is to work in leadership positions with my peers and make them loyal followers of my blog or business. I am currently a sophomore at UC Berkeley and am teaching a course on entrepreneurship to other Berkeley undergraduates.
Teaching this course has helped me garner the attention of students on campus, entrepreneurs in the Berkeley community, and media outlets all which help my credibility as a blogger and entrepreneur.
In addition I am using promoting content from my blog in the course in effect building up a devoted reader base in my students.
Overall, building credibility does not happen overnight. It will take a lot of time and dedication. If you are a young entrepreneur it can be especially difficult. However, if you follow the tips above it should put you on the right path to branding yourself as a credible resource.
A Note from Darren: I think that Aditya is right on the money with his advice here. I’ve watched a number of young bloggers do quite well for themselves over the years by taking the above approach. To reiterate what Aditya has said:
1. Quality Matters – if you help someone or provide them with something that enhances their lives in some way then you’ll win respect with most people no matter what your situation is.
2. Associate with Industry Leaders – I think this one is particularly useful. It might take a little time to get on their radar but if you can position yourself near and even get endorsement and support from them you will not only learn a lot but others will take note. I’ve seen a number of young bloggers break into their niches by doing this.
3. Use Your Age to Your Advantage – don’t just do this in main stream media – if you’re young and pitching other blogs with guest posts, take the ‘young person’s view’ or the ‘a 15 year olds advice on….’ type approach with your articles. Again – this is something that I’ve seen get young bloggers standing out form the crowd.
4. Leading Your Peers – another useful point. Become an industry leader in your own peer group and in time as you all grow older you’ll still be positioned as one.
My last two pieces of advice are:
A) to persist and not get bogged down by those who look down on you because you’re young. You will find that some people will be reluctant to put their trust in you because you’re young. Don’t get bogged down in this or let it slow you down – move on, keep being useful and building what you’ve set out to build.
B) to have youthful exuberance and enthusiasm but to lose the youthful arrogance – by no means do all young people suffer with this problem but I have vivid memories of a few that do. Yes you’re young, yes you may know what you’re talking about – but don’t feel that if someone says ‘no’ to you that they’re doing it just because you’re young – other factors could be at play. By all means be enthusiastic and follow your dreams – but keep in mind that humility counts for a lot and those ‘older folk’ around you might actually know a thing or two that you’re yet to discover. There’s a fine line somewhere there – try to find it and walk on it!