Transparency is part of who we are as human beings – that is, unless you’re a pathological liar. I’m willing to bet most, if not all of you reading this, take pride in your honesty in your day to day lives, right? Transparency is necessary to bring the human quality to social media – to bring authenticity, build those personal connections. Transparency builds trust – and trust is absolutely necessary for customer retention. Did you know 1/3 of millennials prefer to use social media as their method of communicating with brands? If you want to win them over, transparency is the way to do it.
Is your company facing criticism as a result of misinformation or rumors? Rather than relying on a public relations company to release a statement for you, try facing the issue head on with complete and total honesty directly from your company.
Remember when McDonald’s was dealing with acquisitions of using pink slime, rather than real meat products in their hamburgers and chicken nuggets? While Snopes long ago set the record straight saying the story is a mixture of both true and false information, the brand clearly suffered. As a result, McDonald’s Canada launched a campaign that allowed their customers to ask them questions directly. They provided answers, and even video to address customer concerns, which helped to repair the brand’s image. The website still allows people to ask questions and get answers.
For example, Don C. asked “Does McDonald’s beef come from a particular type of cow? If so, what breed of cow?”
The company replied: “Great question, Don. Yes, the cattle used to make our hamburger patties are Angus and Herford, Charolaise, and Simmental breeds. The breeds are often cross-bred to foster the best characteristics of the breeds. They’re 100% Canadian beef from independent Canadian farmers and ranchers.”
No matter what your identity is, hold true to it. Who are you? Communicate your niche, specialty, or practice area, and be proud of it. Don’t try to be everything to everyone – because this can easily create the impression that you are something you’re not.
Share your business values, so your audience understands what your company stands for. Lush Cosmetics, for instance, makes it very clear they’re against animal testing by omitting animal based ingredients, and only using ethically purchased ingredients in their formulas. Many products are vegan, and those that aren’t can still be classified as vegetarian.
As tempting as it can be to delete any comments of criticism or something you don’t agree with – instead, address those comments and issues head on. It’s part of being authentic because if people think you’re just going to ignore or delete the bad comments, they won’t trust that what’s they see represents the whole picture. We all know that no matter how good a business is, they just cannot keep 100% of their customer base happy 100% of the time.
Don’t Be So Serious
It’s common to expect business to be formal, but in the days of social media – it’s everything but. You have to speak to your audience, and unless you’re dealing with a bunch of people who prefer the formal communication of yesteryear, that means being lighthearted and a little funny.
I personally love how Taco Bell handles their social media – Twitter in particular. They engage with their audience, and frankly, they’re funny as hell when they do it.
Your best stuff should always be out there, of course, but it’s okay to share your less-than-perfect stuff from time to time, too. If you want to humanize your brand, then that’s one of the best ways to do it. No one can be perfect all the time, and we know it. Show video from the behind the scenes of someone cleaning up a mess on the production line. Show bloopers from your recording of your latest video or commercial. Have a little fun with it!
Admit it When You Screw Up
If there’s something going on in your company that you’re afraid would damage your reputation if word got out, the best thing you can do is admit it. Yes, this falls in line with being honest, but being honest about everything all the time doesn’t necessarily mean mistakes won’t happen.
Transparency matters to your customers, of course, but it matters to your employees, too. To earn and keep the trust of both, openly discuss your company’s failures to the best of your ability. It shows your brand is human, and that you’re willing to provide private information for the sake of others. When you admit your brand’s failures, you’re giving your customers the ability to stay customers, rather than being taken down with your brand’s demise. It’ll help motivate your employees to improve their performance, and ultimately, it gives everyone the freedom to decide who they trust.
Think about the Target data breach of 2013. They’re still dealing with the ramifications now, with costs now approaching $300 million… but that’s not the point. When it happened, they quickly reached out to customers and offered free credit monitoring services, to ensure that those who were affected could be made aware of any malicious activity on their accounts before it turned into a full-blown identity theft issue. They owned up to the issue, explained how it was fixed, and what action was being taken to avoid it in the future. Did it damage their reputation a bit? Sure, but the brand still has thousands of shoppers in stores and online every day.
Don’t Hide Behind a Corporate Veil
There’s nothing more frustrating for a customer than not being able to find contact information for your company when they need to get in touch with you. Of course, they can email you, but there are some situations where emailing isn’t ideal because they need a more immediate response. Make it easy for people to get in touch with your company by actually posting the right information. It’s unreasonable to expect a solopreneur to have a call center with people answering 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but having a Google Voice number that rings to your phone? That’s an option so that people have a way to contact you via phone.
Not only this, but provide real details about the company. Go beyond the standard “About Us” page and provide more information. Tell your customers how your company got started, how many employees you have, what your company culture is like, your annual revenue, and so on. The more quantifiable data you provide customers, the more likely they are to trust you as a credible brand (and source of information) in their everyday lives.
Transparency is Key to Social Media Success
Transparency isn’t a matter of choice. If you don’t take steps to ensure your brand maintains transparency in everything you do online, of course excluding legally protected information, you can’t expect employees and customers to maintain any kind of loyalty to you.
What are some ways you are transparent online? When people meet you, do they say you’re exactly who they’d thought you be? If you can say yes to that question, you’re doing a great job.