Are Bloggers More Credible Than Random Strangers?

Edelman has published an interesting study measuring consumers trust of various sources ranging from “People like myself” to “bloggers” that aims to explain the credibility people give to different relationships:

I wonder how different the results would be if – rather than bloggers – the poll asked whether they trust “Perfect Strangers?”

Then, switch the other questions to, “a person like myself” who blogs, etc.

For example, if I’m looking for a restaurant recommendation, I’ll often turn to “a person like myself” to decide what’s worth checking out. And I may find that recommendation on the blog of “a person like myself” who seems to enjoy similar restaurants around Minneapolis.

If I’m interested in digging deeper into an issue, I may find the perspectives of a professor who studies the issue for a living valuable, even if the professor publishes her professional research on a blog platform.

Personally, I put much more weight on a person’s credibility than their choice of publishing platform.

I get the impression that Edelman is asking the wrong question here.

A better question could be built around, “How do you determine whether someone is credible online?”

How does someone go from being a random stranger with a blog (known as “a blogger” in Edelman’s current study) to someone who’s credible and trustworthy on a subject that interests you?

What Do You Need to Set up a WordPress Blog?

I’ve found myself answering this question a lot lately, so I figure I should just turn it into a blog post so I can point people to it.

So, you’ve decided that you want to host your own blog with WordPress? Great. Here’s what you need to make that happen.

1a. A web host that supports PHP/MySQL. Most web hosts do, but be sure to check before you pay. Personally, I use MediaTemple.net for my blog hosting, but there are many many hosts that are perfectly capable of hosting a WordPress blog.

1b. This isn’t a requirement, but it’s nice if they allow .htaccess editing. Not all do. Without that, you can’t create human friendly post URLs, so your URLs will end with something like .com/?p=386 rather than .com/post-title-humans-understand/

2. A domain name. Something that’s easy to spell and memorable is generally a good rule of thumb, but that’s for you to decide. After buying your domain, you’ll need to update the DNS records to point to your web host’s servers.

3. A Theme. WordPress comes with a handful of pre-installed themes to choose from, but they’re not spectacular. You can build an entire theme from scratch, but you may find the free themes available here valuable as starting points for your design. Plenty of designers can help you customize one of those themes or help you create something that’s entirely unique.

4. Plugins. You can customize the functionality of your WordPress site using Plugins. For example, you may want to allow commenters to subscribe to the comments of a post and receive emails when others reply. There is a plugin for that and hundreds of other things.

5. An FTP program. You’ll need this to upload WordPress, themes, and plugins. Personally, I use CuteFTP, but there are dozens of choices – both free and paid – to choose from.

Those are all the tools you need.

Other tools that can be helpful include:

– An HTML editor like Dreamweaver, for editing themes.
– An image editor like Photoshop for editing themes and images for posts.
– A stats program like Google Analytics for tracking traffic to the site.
– Using Feedburner to track RSS feed subscribers.
– Using the ScribeFire extension for FireFox to make blogging more efficient.

Dealing with Comment Spam Collecting Posts

One problem I’ve been noticing more and more as of late is that certain archived posts on blogs tend to become magnets for comment spam.

One way to deal with this is to automatically close comments on posts after a set amount of time. That’s not a bad thing, but I think there can be a lot of value in comments on seemingly old posts so I prefer to keep them open when possible.

What I tend to see is a lot of spam on a limited number of posts. Most often, this seems to be related to the topic of the post where topics known for being more attractive to spammers draw more spam comments.

If you find that you have some problematic, spam attracting posts, consider disabling comments on just that one post.

Here are two examples of how this can be done.

In Movable Type, find the problematic post in the admin side of your site and uncheck the feedback checkboxes:

Disable Comments in Movable Type

And the same thing works for WordPress:

Disable Post Comments in WordPress

No One Trusts Bloggers?

A report came out yesterday suggesting that no one trusts bloggers.

Frankly, that’s one of the most refreshing things I’ve read in a while. If people trusted someone just because they rambled on about something on the web using a free blogging platform that would be bad; very very bad.

The report goes on to state that people have a lot of trust of people that they know who they define as “people like myself.”

However, this makes me wonder, “What happens when your friends have a blog?” If your friends read your blog and trust your opinion on subjects that they know you know something about, will they suddenly distrust your opinion just because you posted it on a blog? Of course not. You’re the same person, right?

I can only assume that the study mentioned above is asking what people think of random generic bloggers since no one would discount the opinions of people they know who happen to blog.

Your Blog is Your Resume

Seth Godin posted an argument on why resumes are becoming a worthless way creative & professional people market themselves compared to other available options.

How would you rather be judged: Based on what you can cram into bulleted lists on a single sheet of paper? Or by sending someone a link to a blog where you’ve demonstrated your industry knowledge over the past years?

Why bother having a resume?

If you don’t have a resume, what do you have?

How about three extraordinary letters of recommendation from people the employer knows or respects?
Or a sophisticated project they can see or touch?
Or a reputation that precedes you?
Or a blog that is so compelling and insightful that they have no choice but to follow up?

Some say, “well, that’s fine, but I don’t have those.”

Yeah, that’s my point.

This applies to both job seeking and professional relationships such as consulting, real estate, or law. Turn prospective clients or bosses into fans by demonstrating your knowledge in a public forum.

What NOT to Blog About

This is a quick list of things to avoid blogging about as a business blogger.

1. Self Promotional Posts – Nobody is interested in hearing you talk about how much experience you have in business or how incredible your customer service is. The biggest challenge here is that you’re saying nothing of value to prospective customers while simultaneously making statements that any of your competitors could make as well. Instead, focus on educating people about various aspects of your business. This will infer expertise and prospects will find it valuable.

2. Copying Trademarked Content – If you find a news article that your audience may find interesting, great. Share it will them, but DO NOT copy / paste the article onto your blog. Instead, include an excerpt from the article such as a paragraph or two that is particularly interesting. Then link to the article from your blog post so your readers can click through to read more if they’re interested. That’s great blogging etiquette and will avoid trademark issues.

3. Negative posts – It’s very difficult to write effective negative posts. There are many challenges here, including being perceived as someone who has to put people down to prop yourself up. There are plenty of positive things you can write about, so take the high road. If you want to write about something that you disagree with, be sure to do so in a way to provides value such as a learning experience, rather than simply tearing someone down.

4. Legal Advice – This could get you into trouble. Avoid it.

What would you add to the list?

Where to Find Blog Post Ideas

I’ve been on a speaking tour this week discussing the value of business blogging to non-bloggers. One issue that seems to stump newbies is figuring out what’s worth blogging about.

The first place I’d look for inspiration is your sent emails folder. Scanning through a few dozen emails will surely uncover some emails were you’ve offered advice to clients. Think about how you’d describe the advice you offered in a conversation with a friend.

That’s the trick. Anonomize the advice and turn it into something you can share with the world. Turn it into something that will be valuable to other clients, prospects, or people who may happen upon your site through Google.

You just made the world a better place by sharing some information with the world and built credibility with prospects who can easily infer that you know what you’re talking about.

What’s important to remember here is that this isn’t a case of self-promotion. Self-promotion doesn’t work on blogs since nobody is interested in reading your pitch.

Set aside time to trickle out a new post on a regular timeline such as weekly or daily. Make it a habit and watch the traffic (and your online credibility) grow.

Dealing with Blog Comment Trolls

Paul Graham has an interesting post on forum & blog trolls where he explains the factors he thinks contributes to rude behavior by members. Anonymity plays a role, but so does the forum’s acceptable culture:

The final contributing factor is the culture of the forum. Trolls are like children (many are children) in that they’re capable of a wide range of behavior depending on what they think will be tolerated. In a place where rudeness isn’t tolerated, most can be polite. But vice versa as well.

I don’t know if children is the best term for trolls since that would imply that moderators are like parents. I think moderators are more like bouncers who keep things under control and kick out people who are behaving badly.

There’s a sort of Gresham’s Law of trolls: trolls are willing to use a forum with a lot of thoughtful people in it, but thoughtful people aren’t willing to use a forum with a lot of trolls in it. Which means that once trolling takes hold, it tends to become the dominant culture.

That’s dead on. Why would anyone leave a thoughtful comment on a YouTube video or Digg post if it’s just going to be buried alongside all the rudeness? We see a bit of this locally on the occasional degraded MNSpeak thread (although it’s not consistently crappy like YouTube or Digg comments).

Pioneer Press’ OnTarget Blog Doesn’t Pass the Smell Test

For those of you who’ve missed it (aka. most of you), the Pioneer Press has been running a blog that’s specifically about Target called OnTarget (registration may be required).

What kind of stuff will you find on the OnTarget blog? Hold that thought for a second. Keep in mind that Target is one of the Pioneer Press’ largest advertisers. Now what kind of stuff would you expect to find? Exactly.

The Daily Mole’s Steve Perry has been reading OnTarget so you don’t have to. He mined a few gems from recent posts that help illustrate the hard-hitting off-the-cuff reporting we’ve grown to expect from blogging “journalists”:

TC Morning Roundup: When Target struggles, Gita struggles

Pi Press reporter Gita Sitaramiah files a sad, terse little dispatch to say that local retail hero Target posted a below-forecast 1.1 percent sales increase in November. But over at her On Target blog (previous Mole item), Sitaramiah bravely them cheers them on. Couple of excerpts from the past week:

“Not that anyone needs another excuse to Christmas shop at Target, but now you can feel better about loading up that red shopping cart.”

“Another effort has been the addition of TargetLists… Move over brides and parents-to-be, now anyone can start adding to a list of potentially welcome gifts from Target.”

Admittedly, those gems were hand-picked to prove a point. Here’s what Gita’s posts look like when the pom poms are put away:

Driving Sales

If you’re going to buy your fake Christmas tree and decorations, you better plan to spend. Target tucks the stuff in the back of stores so you’re tempted by digital cameras and designer sheets on the way back there.

The seasonal stuff is in the back? Like, in the same spot where they put the back to school stuff in August, and the Halloween stuff in October? Color me informed.

As Da Mole pointed out on the 3rd, the OnTarget blog was pretty much the only site in town that didn’t touch the Target Rounders story that blew through town last week:

Target pays college students to give it some Facebook loving

The meta-meta-scandal: On Target, the Gita Sitaramiah-authored Pi Press blog devoted exclusively to Target news (and previously covered at the Mole), has not breathed a word of this–in fact, it hasn’t been updated at all since November 29!

While a blog like OnTarget could work, I don’t think it’s something that’s going to work when associated with a company so largely dependent on Target for revenue.

What I’d like to see is an OnOnTarget blog that covers the OnTarget coverage of Target. That’s something I’d read.

Happy 2nd Anniversary to Us!

Technology Evangelist turns 2 today!

This site started as an experiment and teaching tool. We hoped to teach ourselves about blogging through blogging, and have learned a lot through this process over the past two years.

On the experiment side, I thought about many of the experiments we’ve conducted on this site over the past two years:

  • Blogging
  • Using photos in posts
  • Video Blogging
  • Mobile Video
  • Creating HD content for the web
  • Podcasting
  • Live video podcasts
  • Twitter
  • Blip.tv
  • YouTube
  • Brightcove
  • Revver
  • Flickr
  • Mobile Blogging using Flickr and Blip
  • Movable Type customization
  • MyBlogLog
  • Technorati Optimization
  • Democracy Player / Miro
  • Comment Spam Moderation
  • Advertising Experiments:
    • Adsense
    • CJ.com
    • Chitika
    • Text Link Ads
    • ReviewMe
    • AdBrite
    • Direct Ad Sales
    • Feedburner

After two years, we think we’re starting to get the hang of this blogging thing.