What you may be less familiar with are the psychological barriers that are preventing you from forming a deeper engagement with your readers. From a relational perspective, a valuable article should, of course, elicit a sense of trust, reciprocity and emotional engagement, especially if you are serious about forming a loyal, long-term conversation with your audience. This is particularly important when you consider the sheer volume of new blogs that are coming online every second of every day.
Due partly to this upswell and the proliferation of social media, we have reverted back to a pre-industrial system of reputational capital, in which we’re increasingly having to rely on trusted, filtered sources to help us make informed choices as to whom we should trust and attend to online.
When executed well, blog-writing is essentially a marketing vehicle for the transmission of knowledge, tools and ideas. Its purpose is to communicate these effectively to its readers, so that they may benefit, grow and engage in a wider conversation with the author around a given topic. As such, there are several psychological elements inherent to persuasive communication that can help you to do this successfully.
One of these is around trust. Cited as one of the biggest barriers to gaining new clients online (whether they’re readers or paying customers), your ability to establish yourself as credible can make or break your business. Your readers’ decision to trust you will be influenced not only by the context of your message, but also by the medium through which it’s delivered and the characteristics of your visitors themselves . When we land on any given website for the first time, we subconsciously scan it for clues as to whether its author can be trusted.
There are a variety of signals we pick up on: endorsements from people in positions of authority, testimonials, ratings, reviews, an https prefix in the URL, various social cues that identify which ‘tribe’ the author runs with – each of these indicating whether this new environment is risky or safe. In fact, certain specific design features have been found to actually increase trust, including good branding and the ability for people to provide user feedback .
Another more qualitative element of building trust rests in the way in which you express the values that underpin your blog and your business. It has long been known within the psychology community that as humans, we generally prefer and trust things we consider to be ‘like’ us .
This also extends to our preference in people: the principle of homophily  describes how we tend to form relationships and communities with people who share our interests, beliefs, education, gender and social status. Yet, when it comes to writing, many of us are still suffering with a corporate hangover, believing that to appear professional we must hide our values under a bushel.
But if you hold this up against the light of established research, you’ll find that supportive, trusting relationships (those in which you can admit your fallibility) actually help promote a feeling of psychological safety , which means that if you can create a safe environment within which to discuss your ideas, you’ll be much more likely to build a real, loyal, emotionally engaged following.
1 C. N. Wathen & J. Burkell (2002). Believe it or not: Factors influencing credibility on the web. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 53 (2): 134–44.
2 C. L. Sia, K. H. Lim, K. Leung, M. K. Lee, W. W. Huang and I. Benbasat (2009). Web strategies to promote Internet shopping: Is cultural-customization needed? MIS Quarterly, 33 (3): 491–512.
3 R. Cialdini (2007). Influence: The psychology of persuasion. New York: HarperCollins.
4 V. Dennen & J. Myers (2012). Virtual Professional Development and Informal Learning via Social Networks. IGI Global.
5 W. A. Kahn (1990). Psychological conditions of personal engagement and disengagement at work. Academy of Management Journal, 33 (4): 692–724.