As a blogger, the implicit trust of your readers is a precious commodity. That’s especially the case for your loyal readers, the people who follow your blog via email, RSS or other ways on a regular basis.
Holding on to that trust that, honoring it even, is essential if you want to continue growing your blog. At the end of the day, it’s your long-term loyal readers who will spontaneously promote your blog after all, simply because you add value to their lives.
But it’s easy to lose the trust your readers have placed in you. I’ve seen it happen with smaller blogs, but also with big, established, successful blogs. They may still grow, they may still have a big following—but they have lost the loyalty of their long-term readers.
Here are a few ways I’ve seen blogs and sites lose their readers’ trust—and most of them have to do with wanting to make a few quick bucks. Believe me: readers know and feel it when your focus switches from delivering added value to them to making money. As soon as that becomes the focus of your site, even unconsciously, you’ll lose trust.
Promote Stuff without Doing Due Diligence
The temptation to promote gadgets, books, or whatever is big when you know you can make money through the affiliate links. But promoting stuff without making sure they’re worth the money will leave your readers with a bad taste in their mouth. If they buy whatever you’re praising and discover it doesn’t work, they’ll blame you and rightfully so.
Do your due diligence and thoroughly test something before promoting it. And it goes without saying that you don’t let yourself get paid for promoting a product you don’t have personal experience with. If you can’t recommend it, don’t make money off it.
Overcharge and/or Underdeliver
A big blogger I admired started a paid subscription section to his blog a couple of years ago. It was a mix between premium content and a forum. For a few bucks a month, the price seemed reasonable—especially since this blogger had always been good at delivering value. Not this time. It turned out to be a quick money making scheme (or at least it sure felt that way to me) where this blogger cashed thousands of dollars and the subscribers got very little in return. I walked away with a bad taste in my mouth, my trust in this blogger crushed.
Another blogger who had been in the minor leagues for years, but then had a breakthrough, started releasing products that suddenly cost hundreds of dollars. It gave the impression of overcharging, of wanting to cash in fast. It didn’t work: his product launch tanked and it took him a long time to get over that.
The key takeaway here is to make sure you’re adding value. Don’t overcharge for your products—it’s better to charge less and leave people feeling like they got a great deal than make more money, but lose loyalty. And make sure to deliver what you promise, over-deliver even.
Completely Change Course
Another way I’ve seen bloggers lose their loyal followers is by completely changing course—without properly informing their readers. Let’s say you’re blogging about Apple products and along the way, you discover you’re really more passionate about how to write apps. So you revamp your blog and make it purely about your new focus. That in itself is fine, but if you don’t inform your readers, you’ll end up losing them all.
Granted, you’ll lose a big percentage anyway who are not interested in apps. But if you part ways in a courteous manner, they’ll keep recommending you.
Another solution would be to keep your old blog and start a new one on apps. That way your archive will still be accessible to your previous fans and you’ll be able to build a new fan-base with your new blog.
My point is this: if you’re changing course, be transparent and honest about it. Inform your readers in the nicest way possible and thank them for their loyalty.
Misuse or Abuse Your Readers
A fourth way to lose trust fast, is by misusing or even abusing your readers, for instance their personal information. The biggest breach of trust of course would be to sell their personal info to interested parties, but few bloggers or sites go quite that far.
Emailing overly promotional stuff to your email subscribers may feel like misuse to them though and that certainly happens. If I subscribe to a blog by email, I want updates, not a promotional email every other day. I’ve unsubscribed from more than one blog for spammy avalanches of mail. There’s a fine line between using and abusing—don’t cross it.
Can you think of any other ways to lose trust?
What have you seen bloggers do to lose followers?
[Money image via Tracy Olson via FreeImages]