Confusing Popularity With Credibility

We used to be in awe of fancy turbocharged sites and graphics. Now, it’s a side show. We have seen the latest and greatest and if you have an online presence, your visitors may have just visited a world-class site of a Fortune 500 company. Your viewers are not comparing you to other people or companies in your industry, they are comparing you to everyone. If we have been amazed in one place, then the bar has been raised everywhere. What once was remarkable is now boring.

At some point, life after boredom becomes about meaning rather than show. When we read and engage content that shows thought leadership and credibility about a subject matter, then a dialogue and a connection starts to happen. Your positioning in the mind of your customers and prospects becomes solidified over time. You are increasing your credibility through substance.

I was not surprised at the amusing Mashable article on How to Become Internet Famous for $68 which documents how easy it was to create a vapor personality online by simply being clever. They show you the methods for becoming popular quickly and explore how online rovers buy popularity via Twitter faking. It’s not news that you can game the system for becoming popular with thousands of followers instantly with a few tools and a fake email address. There’s a back door for people that want to get popular quickly. That is, at least with the mirage of the internet. It only costs you your credibility if you are found out.

If Your Metric Was Depth Rather Than Breadth

We like big numbers like visitor counts or number of followers. However, those numbers tend to drop precipitously when compared to number of sales for many brands. If you don’t have visitors and followers, then there is not an audience of course. The harder thing to measure is how deeply engaged your audience truly is.

If you have a few hundred people that anticipate what you have to say or what you publish and they are excited to tell others, wouldn’t you rather have this depth of connection? It’s far better than managing the breadth of noise that big numbers can falsely intoxicate us with. Having a few raving fans that really want what you have to offer and can share with credibility with their friends is building a tribe that gets you. They are asking you to lead and give you trust and attention because of substance.

The question really comes down to the point, “What happens if your customer gets close?” If they detect a fraud or an incongruence with what you appear to be and who you truly are then that reputation does not stay silent in a connected world. You may have found some eyeballs from breadth of marketing, but there’s no heart for your cause or a penny for your thoughts.

As your customer gets closer, they want to know if you are for real and know something valuable. If they are far away and disengaged, the wooing of colorful show and vanity metrics can invite them to come closer. At some point, your credibility, your believability, either creates further attraction or repels someone.

We can find plenty of popular people and companies that sell nothing or deliver squat. Playing that game is a house of cards. When your customer gets close, you have to build trust. That means having knowledge, content and thought leadership that helps them and shows them you know what you are talking about in the first place. It is the credibility factor which is difficult to compete on if you are positioned and share it with the world regularly with authority.

Are you set up to merely be popular or to build a raving fan base? How can you drive depth of engagement?

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