What Makes a Blogger Credible?

Definition of credibility:
“The objective and subjective components of the believability of a source or message.”

I was recently asked “what makes a professional blogger credible?” and it gave me pause to think. (In this case, I’m particularly thinking about individuals who are blogging about professional topics, not organizational or personal bloggers.) So, what makes one blogger appear to be “credible” and another not? Or one blogger more credible than another in this age of citizen journalism and blogging democracy? Here’s my list of what I think it takes to be a credible blogger.

1. Knows the industry.

This is the most important element of blogging credibility, in my humble opinion. If you are blogging about a field you don’t know much about, I can’t think of why I’d read your blog. I have a minimum expectation that you read industry blogs, participate in industry conversations, are aware of industry trends and activities, and have professional experience yourself in that industry.

2. Adds value to the field that he/she is writing about.

A credible blogger is not only aware of the industry trends, but uses his/her blog to contribute knowledge to the field. I’m thinking about bloggers Dan Pallotta (nonprofits and innovation), Beth Kanter (nonprofits and social media tech), Melinda K. Lewis (community organizing, policy analysis and advocacy), Michael Margolis (brand and organizational storytelling), Amy Sample Ward(nonprofit technology and community-building), Jeff Hurt (associations and events), and Joe Waters (cause marketing), to name but a very few. These bloggers add value to their fields with almost every post, utilizing a mix of analysis, industry examples, and knowledge-sharing. What these bloggers do NOT do is create lists, participate in groupthink, or repost content. They truly extend industry knowledge and conversations. (Apologies to the many other credible bloggers that I read and didn’t include in this very short list.)

3. Is generous. Almost to a fault.

A credible blogger doesn’t have to talk about his or her campaigns/stories/activities/innovations all the time. The credible blogger wants to share the best and brightest ideas and concepts to his or her blog readers, regardless of whose campaign or idea it may be. In fact, the most credible bloggers know that showing off other great ideas is one of the best things one can do to benefit the entire industry.

4. Blogs regularly and frequently. 

You can be the most credible source of information, but blogging regularly and (relatively) frequently means that you are serious about adding value to the industry. I believe the minimum frequency would be adding weekly new content. I may get a lot of flack on this one, but I’ll hold to it. I don’t blog regularly enough, and I believe it really does hurt my credibility. I think there’s some truth to a relationship between frequency and blog credibility: readers need to be able to count on a blogger to produce regular, quality content.

5. Builds a community.

A credible blogger listens thoughtfully to his or her blog readers, and builds a community of engaged readers though the comment conversation. A blog is a forum for conversation about the post, the industry, the news. A really credible blogger understands that readers are not just commentators, but contributors to the conversation who become part of that blog’s community. Responding to blog comments, engaging commentators, and integrating comments into the original blog post as appropriate are all traits that a credible blogger exhibits.

6. Bonus: Is a really nice person.

I’ve had the experience of meeting in person a very knowledgeable, credible industry blogger that I admire, and walking away thinking “I can’t stand that person.” The fact of the matter is, you are whomever you are. But if you’re generous, attentive, and congenial in person, you’re all the more credible. Everyone wants to know that the blogger they so admire IS in fact…someone they’d like to know better in person as well. We all want to share a beer with our favorite blogger and enjoy it, right?

What makes a credible blogger in your eyes?

Debra Askanase has 20 years of experience working in nonprofit organizations, from Community Organizer to Executive Director. She is the founder and lead consultant at Community Organizer 2.0, a social media strategy firm for non-profit organizations and businesses. She blogs about the intersection of social media, nonprofits, and technology at communityorganizer20.com and regularly provides advice and commentary to our eJewish Philanthropy community.