A recent article from the Content Marketing Institute posited an interesting question: why have reviews become so prominent on websites? The answer is an obvious one, really: it’s all about trust, and understanding how to nurture it is critical, especially if you want to cultivate a loyal audience and customer base (and of course you do, right?).
The internet age has made it increasingly apparent that the customer relationship to the product is critical to the visibility and trustworthiness of brands – and therefore their success. “Consumers have seized control of the process and actively ‘pull’ information helpful to them” says marketing expert, Mark Schaefer. Marketers are no longer operating in a one-way system: consumers have created a return valve, and they fully expect to operate it. Because there is simply so much content out there (some might say too much) you have to get to a point where readers choose your content over the next result in a Google search.
It is, in short, about trust.
Trust is something which is earned. And, generally speaking, trust is something which grows over time, so the more opportunity you have to engage those customers – potential or existing – and draw them into the world of the brand, the more likely what you say is going to resonate as something worth remembering.
Seth Godin’s masterful book ‘All marketers
are liars tells stories’ reiterates this point: “Trust is the scarcest resource we’ve got left. No one trusts anyone… As a result, no marketer succeeds in telling a story unless he has earned the credibility to tell that story”.
Emotional response to content
There’s a lot that can be learnt from the journalism sector which can be applied to marketing – though much of it may already be intuited.
In the political fervour of 2016 and rise of populism, traditional, legacy publications were left scratching their heads as to why a rational, fact-led approach to reporting failed to convince vast swathes of the population. In fact the answer was simple. Especially on the populist side of the political conversation, people were frequently convinced by deeply emotive narratives. Were they bothered by the lack of facts? No. Did the more factually-calorific articles make them think again? Nope.
Now, this shouldn’t be an incitement to start weighing heavily on overly- emotive, fact-free writing (please don’t – if there’s one thing worse than shoddily thrown together copy, it’s factually inaccurate, shoddily thrown together copy). Rather, bear in mind that strong storytelling resonates deeply with readers. We’re programmed as humans to digest things in narrative forms: from the fairy tales we’re told as children, to those un-putdownable novels you read on vacation, to the headlines and stories that capture the attention in the news, we are drawn to stories to help us understand the world.
We buy into companies often because we buy into their storytelling: we seek out those products because somehow they speak to us.
So how is trust linked to storytelling?
Well, the Marketing Insider Group say that trust usually correlates with things which elicit positive emotive connections. It isn’t something which can be won overnight, and is best built gradually and consistently on the back of a sound strategy and vision.
In practical terms this means understanding your brand, your market and – most crucially – your audience and writing content which will work for them.
- Provide long-term value
- Couple your unique narrative position, tone of voice and style with strong copy – bad copy is a turn off and will undermine your messaging
- Stay on brand
- For the love of all things holy, measure your content performance
Mark Schaefer famously wrote about ‘content shock’: the fact that there is now so much content in the world that we’re increasingly unable to process it. It’s absolutely true that attention is a commodity – in most part because it is now so scarce. From a readers’ point of view this is relatable. But, from a marketers’ point of view this holds true also: resources are finite and if content marketing is part of your strategy, that content has to be worth the resources put into it.
When Schaefer talks about the danger of effectively paying people to read your content, this is what he means: if content fails to convert, is it time and resources well spent?
It’s time that marketers started paying attention to the way their content is being consumed: their audiences are increasingly picky, increasingly time-poor and increasingly skeptical. “Things that are true are consistent” says Seth Godin. Let’s start finding the truth. That’s how you start building trust.