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?


    1. Hi Maggie,

      Interesting post. While I agree with you on some points, I have a different perspective with others, and as you’ve pointed to my post in this one, I’ll address my thoughts on transparency and authenticity as it relates to social media and the internet in general…

      My bottom line with social media (and the internet, and life in general for that matter) is that words and claims have meaning and need to be authentic in order for the transparency to become self-evident. I also don’t like spin, and as a consumer, and a marketer, I have a nasty habit of calling companies on it when I see it.

      There is a distinct and important difference between communicating supportable marketing messages and positioning vs. stating something that is easily recognized as unsupportable. That is the essence of transparency and authenticity with brands in my view.

      And in the age of semi (and complete) anonymity online, you really never do know who you are talking to. “Linus” could be Linus Torvald, the inventor of Linux and the pioneer of open source code. “Danny” could be Danny Sullivan, guru of all things search.

      I bring up these two examples in relation to the post of mine you pointed to, and my assumption that the reference to “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.” was in reference to our back and forth over Digital Snippets at Brian Solis’ blog.

      If anyone is going to make a claim online it should be easily supportable… that is transparency. In my post, I take issue with iStudio’s claim that their SMR was “optimized for search” (which was what the SMR’s original focus was over a year ago, with SMO as the secondary objective). When I can right click and “view source” (and, as a digital marketer & communicator who recognizes the power and democratizing nature of search and speaks at search conferences it’s a topic close to my heart) and see for myself if their release is truly SEO friendly, which it was not as it was built in an MSFT frameset, that is the internet in action and demonstrates the true power of the web and of how the playing field is leveled. I didn’t take issue with their release itself; I took issue with the spin.

      In the case of Digital Snippets as I mentioned, I have no problem with SMG building a proprietary platform for SMRs. But, at the same time, I do take issue with your claim that it is open source. It was built using OS code, but it is copyrighted and therefore it is not itself OS. A semantic distinction, but an important one.

      The internet is more than just words and product launches, it’s also millions of hours of coding and robust communities of programmers, developers, systems administrators, etc. etc. They have a language and culture as well that needs to be respected in the social media space. They have built the GNU license that open source code is distributed under and it’s important to respect the positioning of OS itself. Like I said, there’s nothing wrong with Digital Snippets, and I applaud you for releasing the content structure via Creative Commons license, but I felt it necessary to correct the notion that DS itself was open source.

      Just as in the mass world we have Consumer Reports (not to mention gov’t orgs like the FDA) testing product claims, in the social media space we have friends, strangers and acquaintances testing our claims. What we say should be 100% supportable, which makes it authentic and transparent in my view.

      Anyway, good discussion to have!


    2. Hi Tamera – thanks for responding, and actually, I linked to your post purely because it came up on a Google search for “social media”+transparency, and because we’ve met.

      Again, I’d like to reiterate my clarification – Digital Snippets was built using open source. The platform itself is not open source (i.e. code freely available). If we’ve said otherwise in comments on Brian’s blog or elsewhere, it was an error (last time I checked, humans still made those, though I could be wrong).

      Our initial post introducing DS states the correct information very clearly.

      Thanks for coming by!

    3. While transparency might be viewed as an over-used buzzword that easily becomes vacuous market-speak in this environment, one cautionary word about dismissing transparency under the guise of one’s right to confidentiality: this should not be confused with a license to be discriminatory, exclusionary or abusive. Could cyber bullying and online gang mentality be direct results of environments that encourage openly exclusive behavior? Interesting to see if in the world of widely observable social commerce, such positives will be the new negatives.

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