Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Overwhelming Importance of Transparency

Yesterday, I offered my opinion on Jacob Morgan's suggestion that organisations need a social media marketing department. For me, the social media represents more than the technology on which it is played out; it represents a culture. Founded upon an overwhelmingly human desire to connect, the various platforms oft referred to as Web 2.0 have emerged as a corollary of the resultant demands. It is my belief that in order to implement an effective social media strategy within an organisation, the workforce in its entirety must be enlisted and encouraged to participate willingly therein. Limiting these responsibilities to a dedicated department will invariably result in the 'conversational' output being perceived as manufactured. Manufactured posts will invariably be identified by the community and exposed. Woe betide the organisation that claims that the content offered up to the social media is genuine, when in fact it has been produced by the marketing team... This leads me on to today's topic; transparency.

It is increasingly acknowledged that the value of the
social media stems from its ability to facilitate conversation; after all, the majority of the applications were specifically developed to cater to societal demands for connectivity described above. Initially a means of connecting various 'communities', the potential for the social media was quickly recognised as an innovative new marketing channel by astute marketers. Whilst this provided an unparalleled opportunity to converse with one's customers, the transparency of the conversation was promptly contaminated as organisations began covertly influencing the direction of the community under the guise of an indepedent user. Fortunately for the social media, for every astute marketer, there are several thousand equally astute community members. Marketing efforts to covertly enter a conversation with the intention of influencing the mindset of the community were more often than not exposed as fraudulent. Attempts to manipulate the conversation often backfired, the damage having been recognised in the brand'sequity.

It was at this stage that still more astute marketers
recognised the true potential afforded by the social media. Having recognising that the social media is a communications facilitating platform, many organisations decided to use the new medium as intended, engaging the organisation's stakeholders in direct conversation. Instead of attempting to misguide consumers into discussing a particularly brand or product, organisations began openly and honestly conversing within the communities. Herein lies the value of transparency. By making your intentions for entering the conversation clear, the likelihood of community engagement is significantly more likely. Further, it is this engagement that will provide meangingful value to the brand, most notably in the form of genuine consumer insight. If your organisation is open with the customer, then the customer will be open with you. Access to honest market insight of this sort is likelyto prove difficult to come by elsewhere.

, there are still many marketers getting this wrong, in fact Danny Brown has instigated an extraordinary discussion which, amongst other things, examines the presence of unashamed promotion on Twitter. These organisations still do not recognise that you will only benefit from the social media by acting socially; i.e. by openly and honestly participating in the conversation. Whilst self promotion is permissable, such marketing efforts will only succeed where the listener perceives there to be propostional value. In other words, the social media is about give and take. Encourage your employees to honestly engage with communities via the social media. Not only will this provide insight into customer brand perceptions, but it will simultaneously encourage said customers to perceive the organisation as more human, more approachable.

The social media is a
fantastic tool, but let's no go contaminating it with unashamed promotional efforts. Let's use the social media as intended, and engage in conversation with the customer in an environment designed for them, not us as marketers...

Show the Rogue some Stumble love


  1. Couldn't have said it better myself, Chris. As you mention, social media is a fantastic tool to market a product, company or service to your consumer base or target audience - but only of it's done right.

    Get it wrong - whether intentionally or not - and you'll soon see the (lack of) rewards coming straight back at you.

    Social media is a powerful combined voice - start one negative response and be prepared for the backlash.

  2. I feel that as long as you are honest about who you are and what you represent, you can't go wrong. If you want to know who I's easy. I make no efforts to hide the fact that I am a marketer and that I am actively promoting myself and my product within the social media sphere. I've gotten a great deal more respect this way and the results have been quite effective.

    The result has been that people are now seeking me out, knowing that I hit their niche/interests. Once you prove to people that you are honest and worth knowing...the marketing aspect becomes secondary (and quite easy). Great post!

  3. Hey guys, thank you both for your thoughts. I think that the whole transparency issue is one of the most important considerations for any organisation looking to succeed in the social media. Failing to consider this will without doubt destroy an organisation's social media efforts.

    I think that the purpose of the social media itself needs to be examine (perhaps my next post!). The above got me thinking; as was the case in print and television before it, it is fine to market through the social media within reason. As long as you are transparent about your contributions then they will invariably be hospitably received within the electronic community. It is when the tool becomes a 'foghorn', used solely to broadcast a message that the use thereof becomes intrusive... No amount of transparency can save you in that situation! My recommendation; use the social media transparently, but remember - it's their tool, not ours.

    Thanks again guys.