Transparency – Social Media’s “Inconvenient Truth”
For many organizations caught in the wake of the recent social media tsunami, there is a growing sense of urgency to adopt a social media strategy. That’s great, but since social media and branding are both CEO-driven initiatives, they are only as good as the people behind them. Developing an authentic and open social presence and committing to stuff like regular blog posts, group discussions, knowledge sharing, tweets, etc, requires lucid self-evaluation. That’s not very convenient for companies that have never done business that way before.
Transparency is all about trust
Without question, one of the most inconvenient aspects of social media is transparency because it tends to expose weakness. Simply put, being transparent means being open, honest, authentic and trustworthy. I would wager that most business owners want their organizations to be all of those things. But wanting and doing are not the same. Buyers are now more socially engaged and connected than ever, and they expect companies to be equally engaged and connected with them. They want to be shown, not told.
Show me, don’t tell me
A brochure-ware website telling the world how great the company is doesn’t cut it anymore. Those days are over. Companies must prove they are engaged with their audience by demonstrating it socially. Here’s why…
- Social networks allow buyers to seek out relationships and brands they feel they can trust.
- Buyers openly recommend, follow and are fans of products and services they like.
- Buyers take advice and referrals from fellow social peers, not banner ads and Spam.
- Buyers prefer to deal with companies that “live their brand”, like Apple or Cisco.
- Buyers like companies that engage and communicate with authenticity and leadership.
In other words, trusted brands foster trusted relationships… and vice-versa.
Be in the zone
So what to do? We advocate working toward what we call the Trust Zone. The more transparent and socially active the company, the more trustworthy it is perceived to be. Companies that are inside the Trust Zone have essentially shifted their marketing focus from traditional outbound marketing to social inbound marketing.
- One-way communication like Direct Mail, Unsolicited Email (Spam), Telemarketing, etc.
- Online presence is static “brochure-ware”.
- Traffic is generated by an unsolicited “Cold-Calling” paradigm.
- Two-way conversations like Blogs, Social Networks, Opt-in Email, etc.
- Online presence is dynamic and socially connected.
- Traffic is generated by a social “Word-of-Mouth” paradigm.
How transparent should a business be?
Short answer: As much as strategically possible. The size of the organization, regular social activity, and “living the brand” determine how quickly a company can ramp up. The first step is committing to a strategy and then following through one step at a time.
Let’s face it, social media has changed the way companies go to market. That’s pretty obvious in B2C and it’s now a reality in B2B as well. That old cliché “Change or be changed” has never rang more true.
As always, we welcome your thoughts and experiences.