What Makes Your Content Credible?

content marketing
Photo via Geo Liv

I was thinking about content, as I often am, the other day during Social Media Week here in New York City (you can read about my experience at SMWNYC here).

We were listening and reading information from trusted sources like the New York Times, Google, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

We trust these brands based on what? Their size? The fact that they’re experts in their niche? Their experience?

And if all of that is true, then what about the “little guy”? People like you and me … how do we gain credibility online with our content?

“What Makes Content Credible?”

I posed this question to the smart and savvy SteamFeed crew in our private Facebook group. To say I was floored by the responses would be an understatement. Here’s a list of words, ranked from highest to lowest, that people used to describe what credible content meant to them:

  1. The author/source
  2. Relatable/real/authentic/believable
  3. Reliable/useful/actionable
  4. Approachable
  5. Subject matter
  6. Emotional connection
  7. Consistency
  8. Numbers
  9. Humor

A few notes:

Gettysburg Gerry made a couple of interesting statements:

  1. “I don’t believe total credibility is possible.”
  2. And in reference to Mike Bal‘s comment saying, “I think solid numbers are always a good anchor for content”, he responded with: “I disagree about numbers, #s can be too easily falsely manipulated. I think we put too much weight on a persons “status”, I often learn more from the guy/gal in the trenches.”

I also thought Kim Yuhl had a winning take. She said:

“I look at credibility from a little bit of a different perspective. Yes, I agree it’s earned but can also fluctuate. Each piece of content has to earn its credibility and can not rest on the laurels of its author. I believe credibility is gifted through the audience.”

She also noted that,

“… [when] someone I trust recommended the content as being credible – and even then I proceed cautiously.”

And Ray Hiltz made a profound (and super smart) comment when he stated, in part:

“As for credibility, one of the things I do when reading a post from someone I don’t know is to search out their site. You’d be amazed at how many people who write this stuff have little or no presence on the platform they’re evangelizing.”

As for David Schwartz‘s comment on consistency, I’m surprised he was the only one who mentioned this.

Some of the other words used to describe the author’s credibility surrounded their:

  • Achievements
  • Experience
  • Values & interests (and if they aligned with the readers’ values & interests)

So, Really, What Makes Content Credible?

From the looks of my little experiment, it sounds as if content credibility, like art, lies in the eye of the beholder, or reader. What you may find credible, I may find to be unworthy.

In looking at the top three ranked word choices, a clear picture emerges in the type of content we most align with. It probably:

  • Comes from someone we know, know of, or has been recommended
  • As Ari Herzog said, “It has to be something that the average person on the street can relate to.”
  • It most definitely has to add value; we have to be able to learn from it
  • Uses an emotional tug
  • Is consistent – I think this is key in gaining credibility, and also remaining credible

Becoming credible — and staying there — takes a myriad of strengths. It comes with hard work.

I think Ray hit the nail on the head by saying that he does his homework to label someone, or their content, as credible. If the definition and the label comes from us, we need to do a better job of seeking out those who walk the walk, and not just talk the talk.

What makes content credible to YOU? Let me know in the comments section below.

See you in the social sphere!

[Shout out and THANK YOU to ALL of the SteamFeed authors who participated: Jessica Ann, Mike Bal, Randy Bowden, Gettysburg Gerry, Daniel Hebert, Ari Herzog, Ray Hiltz, Keri Jaehnig, Carrie Keenan, Jennifer Olney, Anne Reuss, & Kim Yhul]

Brooke Ballard
Like many of you, Chief Digital Strategist and Founder of B Squared Media, Brooke Ballard, has seen a fundamental shift in business due to social media. How do businesses take advantage of this? Where do they start? Is social media for everyone? In-the-trenches online media experience helps B Squared Media answer these questions for companies seeking to formulate successful social strategies. Using tactics developed in her yearlong honors thesis study, Brooke helps bright and innovative entities develop social strategies around content, community, conversation, collaboration, and conversion. Simply put: Think Conversation, Not Campaign.™ Click here to subscribe to my mailing list
Brooke Ballard

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4 Comments on "What Makes Your Content Credible?"

Gettysburg Gerry
1 year 1 month ago

Brooke you did a great job of putting into perspective all the responses….and thanks for the shout out. I don't think my comments are all that credible…LOL, seriously though that was a great exercise. Honored to be a part of the project.

1 year 25 days ago

Thank you so much, Gerry! And thank you for participating with your wise comments. :-) They ARE credible!

Kumar Gauraw
1 year 1 month ago

Hi Brooke,

I tend to agree that each content has to earn its credibility and it is something that the author has to earn each time. But then, as an author, you can earn credibility through writing valuable quality content that others can relate to and trust that you have done your homework before presenting.

As an author, it takes time to build credibility and that means it also takes consistency, persistence and perseverance because obviously, you do want but you can't make everybody happy. So yes, you have to go through challenges. But then, that's what brings credibility :-)

Thank you for sharing some awesome ideas about this topic here.

My recent post Essential Tools, Resources And Services From My Toolbox

1 year 25 days ago

Hi Kumar!

You're absolutely right. It does take time (it took me nearly a year for my blog to achieve mild success). Challenges, consistency and being relatable all help us get to the "credible" area more quickly.

Thanks so much for sharing your insights with us!