Whatever your politics, you have to admit…
The internet has gone crazy with fake news.
By that I mean deliberate lies pumped onto social media (and mainstream media if you count certain shock jock papers) as factual stories.
But not only that…
There is a lot of puff and bluster and fudging going on in the real news too.
Remember when, after Trump was elected, his spokesperson Kellyanne Conway, claimed that their press officer hadn’t lied, he’d just told ‘alternative facts’?
Now when new goes against Trump he says its fake news…. but it’s not fake… except when it sometimes is…
…or is it?
Then there’s the Brexit debate, Corbyn’s ‘treason’, the Panama papers and other stories of corporate corruption, all mixed up with elements of truth and downright nonsense so that nobody can really tell what’s going on.
The internet is so awash with misinformation, lies and contradictory stories, that the public simply don’t know who to trust… and instead trust nothing and nobody.
Oh, and by the way – this is precisely the aim of the original ‘fake news’, which describes the deliberate spreading of misinformation by the KGB in order to undermine trust in Western news sources.
It’s working, that’s for sure.
We’re in a right old mess.
So why am I telling you this?
Well this is not a rant. This is very much related to your hopes of running a successful business.
Because this ‘fake news internet’ is the twisted, weird, chaotic landscape in which you somehow have to try and gain the trust of complete strangers, and get them to buy from you.
The networks you need to find and communicate with potential customers are the SAME as those being used by the KGB, the White House, the trolls, the propagandists, the corporate liars and a plethora of other unseen agents of mistruth and misdirection.
That means we’re all in the mire… knee deep in muck… and the muck keeps rising higher.
Even the trusted big players are losing their sheen
Facebook, seen as a bastion of forward thinking, socially conscious media a few years ago, is now sinking into a bog of claims about bias, fake news and dodgy practises.
Google, too, is now taking flack, for trapping its users in its technology, threatening fair competition and lacking transparency about why we see certain websites (and not others) when we search for information.
Trust is so low, people don’t even trust the systems they’re getting the stories through, never mind the stories themselves.
Which gives us a problem…
..in a world lacking in trust, where everyone is shouting nonsense, how do you make yourself credible?
And gives us an OPPORTUNITY…
…in a world lacking in trust, people are sick of the bull and are desperate for honesty.
In his first blog post of 2018, the brilliant US Marketer and ex-Grateful Dead fan David Meerman Scott discussed this landscape of mistrust.
He suggested that the best thing you can do for your business this year is tell the truth.
“When we do encounter a person or an organization treating fairly, we’re excited!” he explained. “When told the truth, even if we don’t like it, we feel respected. And when we do encounter this kind of company, we’re happy to do business with them again and to tell our friends too.”
So one way you can stand out from the crowd is by being honest and telling the truth.
In other words, be authentic.
Here are some pointers…
- Be real – explain your backstory on your ‘about us’ page and have a social presence online. Show that you have real human interests (favourite music, films, TV shows, pets, family, political or economic views, a sense of humour)
- Admit your flaws – real people have flaws and weaknesses. That’s what makes us human. Be honest about those as well as your strengths. As long as you show those flaws in a positive light, people don’t mind. For example, you can admit you’re lazy, but perhaps that’s why you’re good at finding shortcuts and cheats for your readers. Profit’s not the primary goal – your social media posts, blogs and other communications should be primarily about offering free advice, support, news and information that will improve your prospect’s daily lives.
- Encourage feedback, comments and criticism, then make sure you respond – show that you’re just like your readers and prospects: you’re continually learning and developing. Don’t be afraid to share this fact.
- Be open about the real problems and goals that your customers have – That means offering free help, tips and advice on your blog, or through free reports, videos and webinars. Try to respond to people’s questions via email and on social media, offering your opinions and advice freely, without expecting payment or gushing thanks. You should also stand up for your ‘crowd’, that is, the sort of people in your niche.
- Stand for something – show that you believe in what you do. Be passionate about your subject matter. You want to come across as someone who is absolutely passionate about your field of interest, your products and the capacity they have to improve lives.
- Declare your purpose – if possible, bring out the benefits your website, products and services might have for a greater cause. What are the ethics of your business? What are your views on sustainability or ecology? What are you doing for society? Honest – Continually hawking your wares and linking to sales pages and product recommendations will lose your audience.
- Express your unique worldview – if you have a very particular viewpoint, or something unusual has happened to you in your life, bring it into your online content. Your combination of failures and successes, experiences and opinions make you unique. Nobody else can possibly have that same combination of traits and experiences.
- Apologise – if you make a mistake, don’t be afraid to contact customers and apologise, but then offer them something else, something better, or something for free, and cement that trust.
- Create a community – let your customers share information with each other, so that your business is transparent and credible, with loyal customers who will back you up if challenged.
Ultimately, the lesson is, don’t be like Google and Facebook and the White House Press Office…
If you want to attract and retain customers, you need to gain their trust. And that requires honesty, not fake news and spin.