Let’s say you’re in Starbucks, sipping your Americano, when two guys sit down at the table next to you. One guy is dressed in torn jeans and a T-shirt. The other guy’s in a nicely tailored suit, and has a Bentley keychain. Both are talking about their widget development businesses.
You need widget development for your own business, and you’ve been looking for someone. So you’re listening.
Both guys seem smart and knowledgable, and both are energetic and enthusiastic. Both seem nice and friendly. Both seem to have a customer service mindset. In every way you can tell, from your coffee-soaked vantage point, both of these guys know widget development inside and out. So which of the two would you prefer to work with?
The likelihood is that you’d go with the guy who drives the Bentley.
Don’t worry, this isn’t a trick question, and there’s not “judge not, lest ye be judged” twist at the end. Choosing Bentley over T-shirt is normal and justifiable. Here’s why.
You’d probably make some assumption about Bentely. He’s successful, and probably wealthy. He has good taste, and he values quality. If you’re going to trust anyone with your widget development, it’s going to be this guy.
And that’s normal, because Bentley has social credibility.
In other words, he shows all the right signs to make you feel comfortable about trusting him with your business. He’s not just talking a good game, he’s showing it.
Build a Strong Platform
In the digital marketing world, social credibility works much the same way, but it comes in a range of benchmarks. Your target market — your audience, your prospect, your customer — may look for any number of signs to determine that you have what it takes to get their business.
How many Twitter and Facebook followers do you have? How professional is your website? How many 5-star reviews do your products get on Amazon? How polished is your product or service?
All of these are part of puzzle of social credibility, and all of them make it clear that your target audience is looking for factors that are personal and relatable to them. In other words, you want to target your messaging and branding to the specific audience you’re trying to reach. You want to go where your audience hangs out, for starters, and reach out to them with a message and a product or service that resonates with them, specifically. You want to build a solid platform for you business, and use that platform to reach the right group of people.
If you don’t already have a strong platform online, it can seem daunting to try to build one. Getting followers to a social media feed sounds easy until you realize that building an audience means engaging with people constantly, spending hours crafting relevant content and even more hours pushing that content out to the masses, in a way that’s meaningful to them. Then there’s all the chatter back and forth, curating comments and responding to posts and liking photos and on and on and on.
It’s worth it—all this effort and work. It nets good results, in the end, even though it can be exhausting. It just takes time to build that social credibility.
But there is a shortcut, of sorts.
Experts Write Books
Having a book as part of your content marketing strategy means establishing instant social credibility with you target audience. That’s because most people think of books the way you probably do: “Writing a book is hard.”
The assumption is that anyone who has a book with their name (or their CEO’s name) on the spine must have been pretty knowledgable and dedicated. They must be an expert. Because, according to public perception, experts write books.
Which is not to say that only experts write books. There are plenty of authors out there who aren’t experts in anything at all. But even without an expertise in the field, simply having a book on a subject, with their name in the “author” spot, lends them a great deal of credibility in the eyes of the public.
Quality Matters (a lot)
One caveat: Just having a book is meaningless, if the book isn’t well done.
Pause … re-read. “Well done.”
In the context of this post, that means you have a book with a professional cover, a professional layout, and a professional message. Paying attention to the details is more important here than almost anywhere else in marketing, because a book is much more permanent form of content. It carries more weight.
A white paper can look like it was typed on an old Underwood while the writer was being dragged behind a truck, if the content of the paper is valuable to the reader. An ad can be dismal in design and devoid of content, because in a month no one will remember it. An email can have broken links, because you can follow up with an apology and a freebie, turning a bad swipe into a good opportunity.
But a book is forever.
That’s why, when you decide to use a book as part of your content marketing strategy, you absolutely must approach it as work created by a true professional.
But you don’t have to be that professional.
Writing a Book is Hard Work
That’s the going philosophy, anyway. It’s a lot of words, and we were taught in grade school and high school that putting a lot of words together is difficult. We still wake up in the middle of the night, sweating and panting because of the nightmare we just had about a term paper we forgot to write.
That’s the common belief, but it actually works to your advantage. Because as long as the rest of the world looks at a book and thinks, “A lot of work went into that,” you can use that assumption to help you build faster and stronger social credibility.
You’ve probably read books by CEOs or celebrities, and noticed that under their name on the cover there’s a bit of text that says “with So-and-So.” That book was written by a co-author—someone who talked to the CEO or celebrity, interviewing them about their ideas and their story, and then writing the book for them.
Sometimes, the co-author gets his or her name on the book. Usually when there’s a social credibility advantage, such as the author having his or her own audience and platform to draw upon. Sometimes, though, the co-author’s name is nowhere to be seen, and it looks like the CEO or celebrity wrote the book themselves. In those cases, the author is referred to as a “ghostwriter.”
Hiring a ghostwriter to help you craft your book can be a shortcut to building fast social credibility. The author talks with you about the ideas you want to express in the book, about the style and voice, about the formatting. Then they interview you to get the content of the book, and convert those interviews into prose. Sometimes they can transcribe your interviews word for word. More often they nudge what you’ve said aloud so that it flows well on the page. In both cases, they take the biggest burden of writing a book off your shoulders, and you still end up with something that gives you instant credibility with your audience.
30 Days to Social Credibility
Some writers are skilled enough to turn a book within 30 days, depending on its length and the depth of research involved. It really just comes down to organizing data. So it’s possible for you to go from the idea of having a book with your name on it to having that book available in just a couple of months.
That’s key—because the reason you don’t see more books used in content marketing is because most people believe they take a great deal of time and energy to produce. With the right author helping, though, you can take advantage of this belief, and produce to market in a very short turn.
Even if it takes several months to write and publish a book, however, the amount of social credibility you receive from it is worth all the effort. People see your name on the cover and their perception is that you’re smart and responsible, that you are an expert in your field, and that you have answers. And answers are what every business sells now.
Consider adding a book to your content marketing strategy, and gain some of the benefits of increased social credibility. You’ll be surprised how much you can leverage that into new leads, new sales, and new opportunities.