Unless you've been living under a rock for the last year, you've probably heard the term "fake news." This scourge of the information age has been a part of the internet since the dial-up days, but it has received a major boost in public awareness since the recent American presidential election.
As the web, and more specifically social media, has become the dominant source of information for most people, the lines between fact and fiction have become blurred. The ability to self select your news sources only adds to the problem, with people choosing to filter out alternative points of view and forego critical thinking in favor of reading something that "feels right."
Those who profit on fake news stories are counting on readers to believe their writing at face value, without any additional consideration or validation. Sadly, this happens too often. In the fast-paced world of Facebook and Twitter, anyone can publish anything in seconds, and careful fact checking has become a relic from a different time.
The tendency for readers to disregard the truth can put legitimate business at a tremendous disadvantage. How can you stand out in search results in a world filled with click bait and outright lies?
Below are key tips you can use to build credibility with your customers through authentic, high-quality content on your website.
While there's no doubt that fake news is influential, it tends to only work best in the short term. Purveyors of fake news want to provide content that confirms your existing bias so you feel good and move on.
As a business, you don't want people to simply read your website once and move on. Rather, your goal is to build a long-term relationship to keep visitors coming back and that means creating valuable, authentic content throughout your website.
Unlike news seekers, who are just craving a quick hit and want to move on, people who visit your website are considering whether or not to give you money. That means you have to tell them real facts—who you are, what products/services you provide and what makes your business stand out from the competition. If you don't deliver on these facts, they'll know and then you'll have a problem even worse than fake news: angry customers.
Regularly posting great, useful content that reinforces your core brand position is essential to building an authentic connection with your customers.
Think Like a Journalist
In the age of fake news stories, it may seem like journalistic standards are dead, but thinking like a journalist can provide a major competitive advantage when it comes to content marketing. Here are three things good journalists do that can help your business too.
- Cite multiple sources - If you're making a recommendation to your customers, you should be able to back up your claims. Whether it's a positive testimonial or research that shows why your product or service is superior, citing multiple sources is a great way to show your customer that you have their best interest in mind.
- Link to outside resources - Many business owners are reluctant to link to external websites for fear of losing their customers, but a willingness to use outside resources can bring a lot of credibility to your content. It shows your customer not only that you've done your research, but also that you're willing to let them learn more before asking them to move forward. Obviously, you don't want to send people away right at the moment of purchase, so be mindful of where and how often you use external links.
- Publish corrections - When journalists get a fact wrong, they own up to it and publish a correction. You should do the same. If you don't meet a customer's expectation and they complain, you should make it right. That's Customer Service 101. Admitting a mistake and showing how you made up for it is a more powerful statement than trying to bury the truth.
Let Others Tell Your Story
One of the things that drives the spread of fake news is distrust of media. Ironically, because many people are so conscious of being manipulated, they turn away from traditional news sources in favor of something that feels more authentic (but is in fact much less scrutinized).
A similar principle applies to business. You have to assume that prospective customers will be skeptical of your business at first. That's where positive testimonials and reviews can be so valuable. In its 2016 Local Consumer Review Survey, BrightLocal found that "84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation."
Bottom line: people are more likely to trust a positive review of your business from a satisfied customer than you saying how great you are. That's why your website should include reviews.
The Truth Shall Set You Free
While we can only hope that fake news is a passing fad, the web will likely only become more segregated as Google, Facebook and other companies continue to refine how they deliver information. Despite this unfortunate reality, rest assured that when you treat your customers with respect they'll notice. That means providing relevant, valuable and (above all else) factual information.
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