When the web first became used commercially, some studies explored how people assess the credibility of a website. Consumer Reports sponsored perhaps the most influential study in 2002. Based on that study, Consumer Reports developed the following web credibility guidelines:5
Identity: Say who you are and where you are located.
Advertising and Sponsorships: Clearly distinguish between content that is advertised or sponsored and content that isn’t.
Customer Service: Inform people of any fees, return policies, and other information important to making shopping decisions.
Corrections: Correct false, misleading, or outdated content and have a policy if someone makes a purchase using incorrect content.
These guidelines are sensible.
But, almost ten years have passed.
Websites are a lot different.
Social networking and mobile
access are on the scene. More
people are using more websites
more often for everything from
banking to managing health records.
As a result, have people’s expectations changed? Has the way people evaluate website credibility evolved? I’d
love to find out.
For airtight arguments, don’t
let these mistakes (also called
fallacies) bubble up in your
Generalizing Hastily. It’s drawing a conclusion based on an odd example (edge case) or a very small set of examples. SEO will double all companies’ website traffic because SEO doubled her company’s website traffic.
Distracting with a Red Herring. It’s making an emotionally charged point that isn’t relevant. We should spend half of our interactive budget on SEO, unless we want our competitors to trample us like they did on that customer satisfaction survey.
Confusing Cause with Correlation. It’s claiming that one event caused another only because the events happened at (or close to) the same time. My company hired an SEO expert, and the next day my dog died. Hiring the SEO expert killed my dog.
Sliding Down the Slippery Slope. It’s exaggerating that a situation will lead to a catastrophic chain of events. If you don’t spend lots of money on SEO, then you’ll lose all of your prospective customers, and then your sales will plummet, and then the terrorists will win.
Jumping on the Bandwagon. It’s relying only on the evidence that other people are doing it. Your competitors are spending lots of money on SEO. You should, too.
Of course, every rule is meant to be broken. Sometimes, using a fallacy is funny.
Five Rhetorical Devices You’ll Love
Rhetorical devices are tools to enhance content emotionally. These are text examples, but you can apply many of these devices to images, video, or audio, too.
Hyperbole. It’s over-the-top exaggeration, usually meant to be funny. I love quality content so much that I want to marry it.
Irony. It’s when the literal and intended meaning are out of sync, often intended to be funny. You should publish the blog post that you paid someone $10 to write for you.
Simile. It compares unlike things. This stagnant content is like a cesspool.
Rhetorical Question. It’s a question for dramatic effect, not asking for a literal answer. Do we really want to keep creating terrible web content?
Personification. It’s adding personality or human qualities to a concept or object. The website threw content from 1999 in my general direction.
Sharpie’s Shift from Celebrities to Personas and Users
David Beckham. A megacelebrity. An ideal spokesperson.
Sharpie enjoyed soccer star
David Beckham’s representation in several commercials. In them, Beckham signs autographs with fans’ Sharpies—and
becomes so enamored with the
pens he humorously tries to score
one for himself. While these
commercials succeeded, the rise
of consumer creativity and social
networking inspired Sharpie to
try a new approach.
Sharpie developed a persona on Twitter, @sharpiesusan (Susan Wassel), who shares news and tips as well as banters with Sharpie customers.
At the same time, Sharpie introduced Sharpie Uncapped (http://www.sharpieuncapped.com),
which curates the elaborate artistic
creations by Sharpie users. As
Wassel notes, the effort “celebrates
the amazing and inspiring things
our fans are doing with our product
while encouraging others to uncap
their own creativity. The goal
is to amplify our efforts and
engage our passionate fans in
the social space with compelling
While pioneering this approach to content has meant a lot of work and a lot of lessons learned, the effort has paid off, say Wassel and Bert DuMars, Vice President of E-Business and Interactive Marketing for Newell Rubbermaid.
“The overall integrated marketing program helped us grow Sharpie into the number one writing instruments brand in North America in 2010. We have also successfully achieved a significant foothold in brand community and engagement building with our Sharpie Facebook page reaching 1.2 million fans,” says
Adds Wassel, “What we’re doing is clearly resonating. We have more than a million fans on Facebook alone—highly engaged fans who comment and share in huge numbers. And, we just recently expanded the bandwidth on our blog to accommodate dramatic increases in traffic. Truth is, we’re
as passionate about our fans
as they are about us. I think
that comes through.”
Three Devices to Repeat Words Remarkably
The ancient Greeks had all kinds of devices for repeating words. Consider these three for emphasis.
Anaphora. Repeating a word or phrase at the beginning of each clause. Content attracts people. Content motivates people. Content guides people.
Antistasis. Repetition of a word in a different or contrary sense. Don't be content with your lackluster content.
Repetition of a word or phrase broken up by one or more intervening words. Content, content, content--where will we get the content?
The Deck: An Innovative System of Advertising
The Deck is a unique advertising
system that ensures quality,
relevant ads for publications
in the creative industry such
as Jeffrey Zeldman’s A List Apart. Jim Coudal, co-creator of The Deck and president of Coudal Partners, explains the system this way:
“The Deck takes the approach
that to be successful we need
to address the needs of all three
parties involved in the advertising:
Site publishers get vetted, truly relevant ads in a manageable size and without animation or other tricks.
Advertisers get an uncluttered impression to an involved and curious audience.
Readers get ads that don’t insult them about relevant products while the sites they like to read can write and post more with the financial support of the network.
Too much of current online advertising does not treat all three parties as equally important. It’s that balance that makes The Deck work so well for publishers, advertisers, and readers.”