Blogging: The death of trust?

by Urs E. Gattiker on 2012/04/15 · 32 comments 17,702 views

in d business ethics

Update 2012-04-29 – next in the series: Is YOUR blog a failure?

4 rules to live by
A culture of suspicion could have dire consequences for bloggers and advertisers. Once a reader or client’s trust is lost, restoring it is difficult, expensive and definitely not fun.

This is the first post in a series of blog posts that address some surefire tips for making your blog successful.

Let me start with last year’s back to back earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown disasters in Japan. It shattered Japanese faith in most of the country’s government agencies. But the death of trust is an issue everywhere – even social media. For instance, Stephanie Schwab’s post talks about the so-called decline of blogs or, can we trust these bloggers, as referred to in Karen Russel‘s Teaching PR – March 20, 2012 newsletter. Stephanie raises some very pertinent issues regarding blogging ethics and trust.

After sharing a post entitled, Bloggers: Can I trust you, I decided to investigate this a bit further. Here I discuss four critical points that will affect your brand, reputation and the trust your readers or customers put in your content.

1. Give credit where it’s due

I recently received an email message for guest contributors. Among other things, it reminded us of the importance of copyright:

“We encourage your inclusion of photos, charts, cartoons, drawings and other embedded content in your posts, but if they are not your own creations we have to be strict about crediting the images and only using those to which we have proper rights,” (from SmartData Collective Contributor Newsletter | March 29th, 2012).

Whatever we write, it will be out there and we might be measured against the original sooner than we think, regardless of whether we blog professionally or personally. This also means we must acknowledge our sources.

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Semmelweis University, Hungary’s oldest medical school stripped Hungarian president Pál Schmitt of his 1992 doctorate on March 29, 2012, for plagiarism. Yes, books benefit from eReader technologies and Luther’s friend’s re-published his works to help spread them across German-speaking lands, but now we have copyright, because we want people to acknowledge our work.

By the way, last year German defense minister Guttenberg resigned over a PhD plagiarism row that ultimately led to him being stripped of his academic title.

2. Without trust, you’ve got nothing

Almost 500 years before Facebook and the Arab Spring Luther’s friends already knew how to launch multimedia campaigns. Social media helped him spread his ideas and start the Reformation. In the same way, today’s blogger wants their entry to go viral and be read by as many people as possible. Guy Kawasaki calls this the battle for eyeballs.

Personally, I think it is all about trust: can you trust these bloggers? Will their book review really tell you the truth or are they just slapping each other on the back?

Click on image - Guy Kawasaki and Dan Zarrella - mutual admiration society - can I trust this?

Did Luther stand by his principles or sell his soul? Was his social customer relationship management (sCRM) just, fair, truthful? If he had simply been trying for more eyeballs or readers, he certainly would not have written his disputations in Latin. Instead, Luther would probably have used a sexier, even misleading title to get attention. But honesty is what it’s all about.

Unfortunately, considering the 2008 financial crisis, bankers bonus mania, etc., ethics seems not to be very important for many. Nevertheless, once people feel they can no longer trust you, past efforts that helped you build your reputation are useless, because reputation is lost much faster than it is built.

3. Disclosure 101

Click on image - LESSON 1 => In fashion terms, see-through garments are generally a message about direction, and maybe even intention, but not actual wardrobes. Roberto Cavalli -  model Fall 2009 for Spring 2010 line.Of course, disclosing possible conflicts of interest is a good beginning for transparency and keeping your readers’ trust. For this reason, the US FTC (Federal Trade Commission) wants bloggers to reveal if they got paid to write something or received a free product to write a review about it. Naturally, I wonder why the FTC did not feel this was necessary for print journalists – they are not asked to reveal the goodies they receive or what they were paid to write about something.

For a corporate blog this means you better write a disclosure policy that deals with this issue. Some publications now require authors to submit official declarations, such as the example below:

Declaration of Conflicting Interests

The author declares that they had no conflict of interest with respect to their authorship or the publication of this blog post at the time of publication.

Of course, this is not a bad thing considering that even researchers at universities receive external funding that should not, but might influence the work (think pharmaceutical industry).

Also check out the US FTC – November 2008 guidelines or the UK’s rules regarding fair dealings.

4. Reputation and brand are everything

Brand and reputation are two sides of the same coin:

– brand is what we want people to believe about us, and
– reputation is what people say about you when you have left the room.

BUILD YOUR BRAND  - Nike, Coca-Cola, Lady Gaga, Daimler IMPROVE with commetrics.drkpi.chThese days I often wonder if social media gurus are trying too hard to make their content go viral, simply slapping each other’s backs in the hope of reaching more eyeballs.

Does this really mean that doing quality work, calling a spade a spade and being honest could get you into trouble? Possibly true, and being nice and popular is today’s mantra for success, while quality seems less of an issue (Brian Solis – researchIs social media un-social? 6 keys to success).

Also check out Social media marketing: Can I trust you?, When did good journalism die?, and 3 lessons for bloggers: Fashion, BP and the FTC

Bottom line

As we all know, building your reputation and brand takes a lot of effort, time and probably some money, too. However, getting it tarnished happens in the blink of an eye and can cause serious damage to your bottom line.

So tend your garden carefully, water the flowers and please, keep up your weeding, or your trust with readers and customers might be gone in a flash.

A question for YOU

How do you decide which blogger, product reviewer or product recommendation from a friend to trust and which ones not to? Please leave a comment! ;-)

Tip: Search for more ComMetrics and CyTRAP sources on
trust, business ethics and social media
(click to query).

@ComMetrics Blogging: The death of trust? | Tweet This

Urs E. Gattiker, Ph.D. - CyTRAP Labs - ComMetrics.

The author: This post was written by social media marketing and strategy expert Urs E. Gattiker, who also writes about issues that connect social media with compliance, and thrives on the challenge of measuring how it all affects your bottom line.
His latest book, Social Media Audit: Measure for Impact, is scheduled to appear from Springer Science Publishers in Summer, 2012.
Connect with the author using: Email | Twitter | Google+ | Xing

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