OK – now that I’ve got that out of the way – I was recently asked in an interview a question by a blogger who did ask me for advice on working in a niche that was full of jerks (although their language was slightly more colourful than that).
The niche that they were referring to was the ‘make money online’ niche which they perceived as being inhabited and dominated by people who took advantage of others, didn’t mind engaging in unethical tactics, engaged in all kinds of obnoxious marketing tactics.
I’m going to leave the debate as to whether that niche is ‘full of jerks’ to others – but wanted to share part of how I responded because while not every niche is ‘full of jerks’ – we can all probably benefit by presenting ourselves in a way where we are not seen in that light.
You see – whether we like it or not – some people see the internet as being filled with people and sites that can’t be trusted. That may be changing as people use and trust the web more but the if your media is anything like what we see from some parts of the media here in Australia – there’s still plenty of mistrust and examples of shoddy internet use being highlighted every day in mainstream media.
So how does a blogger develop trust, build authority and be seen as authentic?
Following are a few thoughts on the topic, none of them by themselves will flip a switch and make everyone trust you – but I think combined they help:
One of the first things I’ll say about ‘jerks’ is that most of them don’t last the distance. They tend to get found out, exposed or seen for what they are eventually (and perhaps increasingly as the web develops and becomes more social).
Work hard at consistently producing something worthwhile and and in many cases you’ll outlast the jerks or at least will find that people begin to realize that you approach things differently to others and perhaps are someone worth taking a 2nd look at.
PS: one thing I’ll add here is that it’s not just about longevity but also consistency. People get suspicious when your message changes too much. Your ideas will naturally change and evolve over time but if you’re chopping and changing your approach and perspective too much people can find that a little odd.
One example of this that I saw recently was a blogger whose readership pushed back hard at them after he’d been doing too many affiliate promotions of products that didn’t match up with the values that he was ‘preaching’ in posts. He was recommending products that were not consistent with the advice he gave in his teaching.
2. Be Personal
There are times in almost every bloggers career where they will be accused by someone else as being something that they are not. People will form perceptions of you as you blog and some of those perceptions will be far from reality. This has happened to be numerous times over the last 8 years of blogging but in most cases things have turned around (to some extent) with some personal contact.
In some cases its simply about leaving a comment on a blog post to show you’re willing to interact, in other cases its about engaging in a conversation via email, sometimes it is about jumping on the phone or Skype for a voice chat and once for me it even involved a face to face interaction.
There’s something very powerful about personal contact. I’m not just talking about fixing false perceptions – I also mean being personal in the way you go about your normal blogging. Sharing a little personal information or giving a little insight into who you are outside of your blog can have a profound impact on how people perceive you.
PS: one of the things I’ve noticed is that when you put yourself out there in different mediums (whether it be video, audio or in person) you will connect with different people. The occasional video post or podcast will make your ‘more real’ to some people.
3. Be Relatable
Building on this idea of ‘being personal’ is that of being relatable.
We like people who are like us – people who we share something in common with. This might be something personal (like being a parent, or reading similar books) or it could be something a little more on topic to our blogs (like having a similar question, experience or challenge).
Show people that you’re normal – that you have similar problems, passions, challenges, breakthroughs and experiences – and you’ll find people are a lot more willing to trust what you say.
4. Be Accessible
One of the most ‘perception changing’ things that I’ve ever done is to visit industry events/conferences. This is no easy thing for me as I’m ‘locationally challenged’ and live 24 hours travel from most events in my niche – but it’s certainly been worthwhile.
Meeting people in person is perhaps the best way to show someone what you’re like – it’s the ultimate in ‘accessibility’ (unless you surround yourself in people you know and book yourself solid with meetings).
Of course traveling to events does not suit everyone’s budget or life situation – however there are other ways to increase your accessibility. One that I’d like to do more of is livestreaming video events. I try to do these every month or two on Ustream and every time that I do I get feedback that indicates that people both enjoy it and find it to be something that changes perceptions of me.
Adding contact forms, doing interviews, answering reader questions, interacting on other blogs – all of these things can help a lot.
5. Be Useful
Sometimes the only thing that really matters to people is whether you’re useful or not. If you solve a problem for someone or make their lives better in some way… you’ll create a lasting impression. They still might not ‘like’ you but it can’t help but improve your reputation on some level in their mind.
Be useful over the long haul (persist) and you will grow that reputation and hopefully in time garner some respect also.
6. Be Transparent
Even trustworthy, authentic and honest people stuff up every now and again. Mistakes are made – tempers are lost – bad days are had – temptation to ‘do evil’ can get the better of most people.
No one is a complete angle and on those occasions where things get the better of you the best way forward is to be transparent about one’s failures and own up to our short comings. In fact in my experience – it’s sometimes when you own your mistakes and failings that you become all the more authentic and trustworthy to many.
7. Be Trustworthy
Ultimately it comes down to actually being the type of person that you want to be treated as (sounds like something most Mums probably drum into their kids). If you want to be seen as trustworthy – be trustworthy. If you want to be seen as authentic – be authentic. If you want to be treated with respect – treat others with respect and act in a way that will be respected.
Being true to yourself and a trustworthy person doesn’t guarantee that others will perceive you in that way – whether it be a personality clash or someone else having had previous bad experiences, some people just don’t trust easily – but ultimately the best way to be seen as ‘not a jerk’ is to avoid being one.