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How to Build Credibility on the Web

How to Build Credibility on the Web

How to Build Credibility on the Web

    There are literally millions of voices on the Internet. Blogs, Social networks, micromessaging services like Twitter, instant messaging services, email, wikis, forums, and dozens of technologies I haven’t even heard of – and dozens more to come – give us all an unprecedented ability to be heard.

    But with all those voices clamoring for attention, how do you stand out from the crowd? More importantly, once you get someone’s attention, how can you keep it? How can you show that it is your voice, out of the jabbering multitude, that’s worth listening to?

    In short, how do you appear credible online? A panel at BlogWorld Expo set out to explore the issue of credibility online, and the panelists – Daniel Gray, Scott Monty, Michelle Naranjo, Joe Neuberger, and Muhammad Saleem – had some mighty interesting things to say. While their comments were directed solely at blogging, the principles they enumerated can apply more broadly to the issue of credibility on the Internet in general.

    The same accessibility that makes the Internet such a great medium makes credibility hard to establish. Where it used to be that anyone who wanted to do business with you needed at least enough capital to establish an office, print stationery, and put a listing in the Yellow Pages, nowadays you can set up shop on the Internet for free – there’s almost no barrier to entry, or to deception. In 20 minutes I could set myself up as, say, a legal consultant, an aerospace technologist, or an environmental lobbyist – regardless of whether I was actually working as any of those things or not.

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    In time, all but the most skilled con artists will have a hard time keeping up the illusion that they are competent experts, but how do you get people’s attention long enough to prove that you are what you claim to be? Here are a few ideas, some abstracted from the discussion at BlogWorld, and some from my own experience and study.

    1. Hold to the highest standards of honesty and integrity.

    The trouble with lying is that it takes a lot of work to maintain consistency. This goes well beyond the old maxim about needing to remember which lies you told to whom; deceptions, even small ones, need to be internally consistent or, sooner or later, your story starts to unravel.

    The truth, on the other hand, is internally consistent by definition – it really did happen that way! When you’re being honest, it shows – you’re spending your energy on connecting warmly with your audience, rather than on keeping up false appearances.

    2. Work your profile.

    People are credible; faceless voices are not. Make sure you fill out profiles on all the services you use (an “About Me” page on your blog performs the same function). Put some thought into your profile – you want whoever reads it to understand not just where you live and whether you’re single, but what makes you a person worth paying attention to.

    Unless you have a pressing reason not to, it’s always a good idea to include a picture of yourself whenever possible. People connect with faces – most of us remember faces much better than we do names. Allowing people to see your face gives them a real person to relate to. There’s a reason we speak disparagingly of “faceless corporations”…

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    3. Consistency

    A large archive of consistent activity on any blog network, or service will go a long way towards easing any doubts about you. People trying to pull a “fast one” rarely put three years into blogging, or send a thousand tweets, or submit a hundred stories to Digg (this last example is false, but in an interesting way: some scammers actually do submit lots of stories to Digg before submitting their own, simply because they understand well the air of credibility a long-term investment lends them).

    Being consistent also means avoiding behaviors that contradict your core principles. While you might change the candidate you endorse on your local politics blog as new facts emerge without damaging your credibility, a more serious contradiction like running ads for pornography on your church website would be irredeemable. Make sure you keep an eye on what’s done with your content, wherever it’s posted, so that you don’t end up inadvertently associating your work with material that contradicts it.

    4. Stay above the fray.

    This doesn’t mean avoid controversy – in fact, taking strong stands that accord with your core principles will usually help your credibility. But defend your stands with tact and dignity – don’t stoop to personal attacks and mudslinging, which send a clear message that your position isn’t defensible on its own merits.

    This can be especially difficult when you face personal attacks, and if you spend any time online, you will. A good rule of thumb is to wait at least a day before responding to any harsh criticism; responding in the heat of the moment leaves you far too vulnerable to saying things you’ll regret later or that will make you look bad.

    5. Be persistent.

    If you have something to say, and you want others to hear it, don’t give up. Persistence shows more than just a strong will, it shows that what you’re saying is truly important – important enough for you to commit your efforts to it until it is heard, despite your setbacks. If you want proof, watch any Hollywood biopic or TV biography show – the stories we’re most interested in are the people who succeeded “despite terrible odds”, to the point that screenwriters and TV directors will invent conflicts if real life doesn’t prove challenging enough.

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    6. Be everywhere you need to be.

    Figure out where the people you need to reach congregate, and make sure that you’re in the same places. Don’t spam, of course – instant lost credibility, that is – but make yourself visible to the people whose attention matters most to you. That might mean joining forums, commenting on blogs, participating in social networks, submitting to social media sites, signing up for a flickr group, or whatever else it will take to get seen by your prospective audience.

    7. Build a network of trust.

    On the Internet as much as anywhere else, credibility is established as much by who you know as by what you know. Build strong relationships with other credible people in your field, whether they are producers, fans, customers, reporters, or whomever. This is the basic principle underlying Google: if lots of people trust a site (as expressed by linking to it) then Google assumes that site is a good source, and the more trustworthy the sites linking to that site are (as expressed by the number of sites linking to them), the more credible the site is considered to be.  Surround yourself with the people you trust the most.

    8. Be available.

    Nothing undermines credibility faster than someone failing to respond when needed. Make a point of responding as quickly as possible to anyone who expresses interest in what you’re saying – whether that’s by commenting on your blog, responding to your forum post, replying to your tweet, or however else they choose to contact you. Answer questions quickly and to the best of your abilities – one impressed contact can easily multiply into tens or hundreds of new followers/readers/fans/etc. as word spreads of your expertise.

    9. Feature your hits.

    This applies most to bloggers,although if you can figure out how to apply the same principle to your other online activities, all the better. As you build up an archive of really strong content, make sure that you pull it up and re-present it from time to time. Keep a list of your top 5 or 10 posts on your front page, and backlink to old posts when you write new ones. Make it as easy as possible for people to see that you’ve been creating consistently high-quality content for a long time.

    10. Participate.

    After his presentation at BlogWorld Expo, Muhammad Saleem tweeted, “You’re not living in a vacuum. It’s the ‘participatory web’. Participate.”

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    What separates spammers from credible people is that spam is a one-off affair (even if they flood a service with thousands of messages). Spam isn’t participation. Real participation is sustained and engaged, creating relationships that endure beyond any specific exchange. If you pop into a forum and dump links to your site in 20 threads, or post your stories to a social media site without ever posting anything else, you look untrustworthy: how can anyone tell you know what you’re talking about if you never display it?

    11. Be right – or wrong in interesting ways.

    Credibility is all about people relying on you to provide the information that they need, so it’s important to provide correct information. At least for the most part – being wrong in ways that provoke thought, force a reassessment of a situation, or force people to strengthen their own arguments can be just as valuable, or even more valuable, as being right.

    12. Pay attention.

    Know what’s going on in your field, and express it. Notice when changes are afoot, and show people how to deal with them.

    Pay special attention to the needs of your audience. If they are growing, make sure you grow with them. If they express dissatisfaction, fix the source of their concerns. You can be the most knowledgeable person in your field and come across as a mere newbie if you respond to the questions you think people should be asking instead of the ones they actually are asking.

    13. Act with professionalism.

    There’s plenty of room for random wackiness in every field, but be sure to balance your wackiness with the needs of your audience. Tweets that attack your competitors, flame wars on your favorite forums, email newsletters packed with typos, and all manner of personal foibles can quickly undermine your credibility – even if they’re unrelated to whatever your area of expertise is. A typo in a blog post headline shouldn’t matter – but it does. (Note: having said that, I’ve virtually guaranteed that there will be at least one typo in this post that I don’t catch when I proofread. C’est la vie!)

    14. Control your business.

    Establish your limits early on and let others decide whether they fit into your limits, not the other way around – don’t try to be all things to all people. Say “no” to favors that don’t fit your purposes, set your rates (for ads, client work, consulting, or whatever) and don’t alter them, avoid softening your positions just to appease your naysayers (that is, in the absence of an honest reappraisal of your position). Don’t alter your path in response to every changing trend or dose of criticism – stick to your guns, especially where your core principles are concerned. People whose opinions change with the tides come across as thought followers, not thought leaders – and followers aren’t credible.

    More by this author

    Building Relationships: 11 Rules for Self-Promotion How to Become an Expert (And Spot out One Nearby) The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works) Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed Back to Basics: Your Calendar

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    Last Updated on March 14, 2019

    7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

    7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

    Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

    For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

    Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

    1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

    A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

    It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

    It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

    How it helps you:

    If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

    Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

    2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

    Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

    Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

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    How it helps you:

    Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

    Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

    If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

    Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

    3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

    Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

    Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

    How it helps you:

    This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

    For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

    Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

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    A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

    4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

    To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

    A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

    How it helps you:

    One word: hierarchy.

    All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

    In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

    If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

    5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

    Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

    Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

    How it helps you:

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    Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

    If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

    This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

    6. What do you like about working here?

    This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

    Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

    How it helps you:

    You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

    Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

    Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

    7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

    What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

    As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

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    How it helps you:

    What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

    First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

    Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

    Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

    Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

    Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

    Making Your Interview Work for You

    Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

    Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

    More Resources About Job Interviews

    Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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