Personally, I harp about authenticity – that if your organization is going to participate in social media, you need to be up front about who you are and communicate in the way that you would if you were speaking face-to-face with your audience (and, again, I’m using that word because it works and has no negative connotations for me). If anything, it’s as much about tone and manner (content) as well as observing the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) ethics code:
Honesty of Relationship: You say who you’re speaking for Honesty of Opinion: You say what you believe Honesty of Identity: You never obscure your identity
A lot of us in this space also talk about transparency, and I think we use it too much and don’t articulate it well. Transparency doesn’t mean opening your books and executive offices and secret R&D labs and inviting the world in, answering each and every question that is asked of you. Not at all.
Social media is not a truth serum
Transparency means simply that if you have a lousy product or lousy customer service, you can no longer hide it. It is not voluntary. Just by using the Google, I can find a thousand different opinions about your products and services, and I weigh those collective voices (some more than others) when deciding where to spend my money. Ultimately, if there are hundreds of people talking about how much you suck as a company, I am going to listen to them when making my own decision.
Social media has meant an end to the isolated incident – now that everyone is a publisher, bad news travels fast (just ask Target). Smart companies understand this power shift and know they can’t stop the bad news, but they have a huge opportunity to learn from it. Disgruntled customers are inevitable, but hearing from them in a consistent and widely observable way provides valuable business intelligence that can help you fix problems before they hit the Wall Street Journal or your stock price.
Negative is the new positive. Do you have the guts to capitalize on it?