Transparancey: A Social Media Norm

TRANSPARENCY IN MARKETING is not a product of social media, but traces back to the days of the snake-oil salesmen of the Wild West. When Doc Brown’s tincture did not actually cure The Vapors, he was run out of town—never to return to “them-here parts”.

Honesty is at the core of the transparency discussion. This includes the obvious requirement that you identify yourself as working on behalf of the company, when participating in a discussion or board-posting. Readers have repeatedly shown that they will engage in a dialogue with a self-identified corporate representative, without hesitation or fear. In contrast, when representativesof an organization have tried to portray themselves as an anonymous participant, they inevitably become exposed and are trashed, along with the brand’s reputation.

Also, core to transparency in business is relevance in the discussion. It’s important to observe and process the nature of the existing discussion on a given board. For instance, you must objectively evaluate the tone and intent of the existing discussions about your brand. Making the mistake of being too sensitive to negative statements results in harsh and ill-considered replies.

The online postings about a brand’s weaknesses or customer dissatisfaction are isolated, and are an anonymous way for consumers to vent. Marketers must be cautious that their participation in a discussion is the proper strategic decision. In particular, they must determine if the discussion board is a site they want to be associated with and a place that they are supposed to be participating in.

Knowing when to get out of a discussion is as important as knowing when to join a discussion about your brand. Like any strong communications plan, your messages must be concise, deliberate and measured. You can join a discussion, state your position and then you need to excuse yourself to let the dialogue react. Marketers cannot hope to win the favor of all who participate, but instead must intend to put their position on-the-record, and await the reaction; hopefully a positive reaction.

Finally, all of these issues associated with transparency must be in support of your brand promise and within your brand guidelines (you do adhere to guidelines, right?). Likely, your brand is built on integrity of character, a quality product and dedication to customer satisfaction. These same tenants must be upheld in your participation in all media (whether social or not). Your consumers are smart—smarter than you may think—and they can spot snake-oil a hundred yards away.

Written by Daniel Gore
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