How Do You Gauge Credibility?

Trust me!
Trust me!

An interesting question was inadvertently raised by @SabrinaDent (Sabrinas blog) earlier when responding on Twitter to my post “The FCC, TSA, @MyBottlesUp And Why Bloggers Can’t Be Trusted”.

How do you judge credibility online?

Credible bloggers are taken plenty seriously – is an example. This woman has no credibility and never built any.

How do you judge the credibility of someone you’ve never heard of?

It’s relatively easy to judge the credibility of someone you’ve been following online for a long time. You get to know them, get a feel for them and you usually can see them being mentioned by other people who you also associate with online.

If you’re part of the same community you’ll see their name appear in the same forums, see other people linking to them and mentioning them and generally they become known to you by word of mouth.

The more you see someone mentioned (in a positive light) and the more you see people you know interacting with them the more likely you are to take them as a credible source.

The best gauge of credibility for me is the interaction of my peers. I tend to give a lot of weight to the those who have the ear and attention of my peers.

It’s a very different story when you don’t know the person and don’t move in the same circles. So how do we judge?

Well, you could do a search on the person and see what other people are saying or read through multiple posts on their blog and try and get a feel for them, but seriously who ever does that. Most of us are just clicking through to something that caught our eye and moving on, with perhaps a quick press of the retweet button.

The sad fact of the matter is that the internet has a sheep mentality. People will follow you just because other people are. It has a knock on effect and is something that bloggers (as one example) have been using for the longest time to get you to subscribe to them.

Almost every blogger proudly displays their RSS subscriber count and sometimes their email subscriber count. The reason for doing this is simple. It’s like saying : “Hey look at me, I have 2000 followers, you should follow me too” and sadly enough, for a lot of people that is enough.

Sometimes you will have more information to go on. A good design helps to put us at ease as it makes us feel like someone is at least being diligent and doing their housework with regards to their blog!

On Twitter a high follower to following ratio gives a good impression as it eases suspicion that the user may be a spammer and that other people are paying attention to them.

A good Pagerank and a good Alexa rank are indicators that people may be linking to them and that their traffic is descent which reinforces the idea that they are credible, but at the end of the day they are all only indicators in a situation where most of us make a snap decision about credibility.

I’ve met some high profile bloggers in my time who appear to be very credible but in real life I don’t think I would trust them to organize dinner never mind consult or run a business. There are others like Steven Hodson, who could blog that the moon had been stolen by little green men and I probably wouldn’t go to the window to look out and check, I’d just take him at his word because since I’ve known him he’s proven to be sincere, trustworthy, cranky and credible.

So how do we judge if someone is credible or not! Most of us have neither the desire nor time to really dig into the details of someone online before deciding to retweet their post. Most of us make this snap decision many times a day?

What indicators do you use to judge if a post or blogger is credible in what they say? Or how about a twitter user, especially one with a blog?

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