With Great Power

Bacon from Roger Smith Hotel and Chololate from 5th Avenue Chocolatiere Another point came from a conversation with Pat Phelan the other day. We talked about the notion of trust agents and what it would mean if I let my post about Timberland stand in the very negative way I had portrayed it. He brought up the fact that my blog would be indexed by Google with a negative title, and that it would impact search results for Timberland.

I want to address the many ideas his conversation with me brought about. Mostly, I wanted to share how the decisions we make as bloggers impact other people’s sites, and what it says about trust.

How Google Sees Trust (some of it)

Not all blogs are ranked equally in Google, but most of them are indexed and counted (unless you’re a spammer). Google counts links to other sites as proof that something on the other site is of value. They rate links based on the value of the site that posted the link, and ascribe some level of the originator’s page rank in Google to the target site. So, if chrisbrogan.com is Page Rank 6, and Jon Swanson’s blog is Page Rank 5, Google gives a little of my juice to Jon’s site.

So, just by linking to a site (or NOT linking to a site), I’m telling Google something mechanically about whether or not I trust a site.

(SEO folks will pipe in and tell us that there are 14.7 other things I missed. But you get what I just put out, right?)

Link Text And What That Means

By the way, HOW you link to something matters. If you link to www.chrisbrogan.com by calling it Chris’s blog, then you’re telling Google that people searching for “Chris’s blog” might want chrisbrogan.com. If you link to www.chrisbrogan.com by calling it social media resources or social media strategy or whatever (frankly, I’ve never known what to bother ranking for in search results), then you are telling Google that people searching for social media whatever might want to find my blog.

So in choosing the words for the link text, you’re also making decisions. How does that change the way you’re blogging right now?

What Your Blog Says About Trust

In a Nielsen survey, it was pointed out that 70% of people surveyed believed opinions they read about something online. It was the second highest level of trust people gave (trusting their known friends came first). So, just by writing something down online, 3/4 of the population will believe what is written. If you’re evil, this is awesome. If you’re a good person, this requires a little bit of thought.

When I write that I am frustrated with a brand, I write it as a person, as a consumer, as a user. Pat said that he considered me his trust agent and that if I’m slamming something, he’s taking that more to heart than others. This stopped me.

First, the concept of trust agent, as Julien and I wrote it, is more about the idea of someone representing a brand or a position officially, like Frank Eliason does for Comcast. We talk about how individuals can earn trust and build reputation, but it never occurred to me that people might see others (me) as a trust agent in most things. I mean, it makes sense, but then I fall into the basketball player role model problem. Know what I mean? You always hear the famous athlete saying (at his hearing), “I want kids to appreciate what I do on the court, but not to follow every damned thing I do,” or similar (I’m not making that up; you’ve seen that, right?).

So, I fall on the classic Spider-Man line, “With great power, comes great responsibility.”

Communities Demand More

A few people were upset with me in the comments of the Timberland post for voicing my opinion. I took offense at first, feeling that it’s my right to complain on my blog, and that I’m a frustrated consumer. Some part of me, however, is seeing their side, too. They come to me to get useful analysis. There’s some use in reading a rant of mine, but there wasn’t a lot of balance or analysis. Some friends might jump on this post and comment that I’m not obligated to do such, but I believe I am.

At the time of this writing, my blog is officially the #1 marketing and advertising blog as ranked by AdAge. (I rarely talk about that fact. It’s over in the sidebar badge there, but it’s not something that seems relevant to point out.) As such, people are looking to me for ideas on marketing and advertising. In the case of my Timberland post, I complained that the ad created demand that the retail operation couldn’t supply. It’s an advertising problem, or maybe a customer service problem, but it’s how I handled it that was called onto the carpet.

Translation

Interesting to consider for yourself, eh? Who’s looking up to your words on YOUR blog? Who is treating you as the authority? How are your efforts relating to trust? Is your blog a trustworthy source of information, ideas, and actionable items?

What about the blogs you read that you value the most? Do you consider TechCrunch to be trustworthy? Why or why not? What about Jeff Jarvis’s Buzzmachine? The blogs you value, do you also find them trustworthy representatives?

And how responsible do you feel for what you post on your blog?

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