Transparency in social media. Do you trust me?

February 6, 2009

What is Transparency?
Let’s talk Transparency. Transparency is one of those social media / marketing buzzwords you’ll hear when being pitched a social media campaign, but what exactly does it mean?  Traditionally transparency is referenced with news media to inform the public why and how information is gathered from various sources. In plain English, transparency means I tell you who I received the information from so you know that it’s credible or that I was not the originator of the information. In media transparency leads to credibility, it builds the trust from someone reporting information by providing credible sources.

Transparency in Social Media
But what about transparency in social media? The same holds true yet it also has a double meaning. Transparency in social media especially pertaining to blogging and covering a product, brand or service means that’s I’m giving you an honest non-biased opinion or truth when I write or cover a particular topic. Online this can mean that, I am who I say I am online and that my reason for posting or having a discussion about a product, brand or service does not have any hidden agendas.  Or if I’m posting or having a discussion about a product, brand or service and was paid or hired to do so, you’ll know about it up front or it will be included in the conversations.

Why is transparency so important?
Transparency is about trust and with everyone trying to grab your attention online whether it is through a youtube video, blog post, facebook ad or a tweet, trust relationship marketing will be one of the key ways brands will try to sell their services to customers. In other words brands will contact you saying, blog out this, or can you tweet this. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that but will you let your readers or subscriber know that you were paid to post content about a particular brand upfront or at all?

Will you sell?
We’re in a time where companies will try leverage individuals who are community leaders or have a large audience for brand awareness.  If you have a lot of followers on twitter, blog subscribers or subscribers in an email database you have the opportunity to leverage your community and establish a few relationships with brands who may want to reach your audience. It’s something I call “selling their eyes”, to where you’re willing to push paid content to your community via product placement or sponsored ads. How you choose to let your community know about you “selling their eyes” is up to you but if you want to keep them, being honest or “transparent” is the best way to do so.

Do yo trust me?
There’s a lot of good and bad examples of transparency and social media and I’m not going say any names or cases of others but I’m going go over a few cases I’m involved in:

Crocs:
I’ve recently interviewed and wrote a blog post about Crocs’ social media specialist George G. Smith Jr. ,
Did I get paid to write the blog post? No.
Did I receive some Crocs swag? Yes.
Was I planning to write the blog post before the swag? Yes.
Did I let my readers know I received some crocs swag? Yes.

Kodak:

I was looking for a flip mino hd, and was suggested the Kodak Zi6 on twitter.  Then I purchased a Kodak Zi6 from Best Buy and was asked if I would write a blog post about using it for Kodak’s A Thousand Words Blog
Did I get paid to write the blog post? No
Did I receive any Kodak coupons or incentives for writing the post ? No

iPhone app reviews:
I’ve been approached by several iPhone developers or their marketing representatives asking if I would review their iPhone app on my blog and by doing so they would give me a free coupon to purchase the application.
Have I posted the reviews? No
Should I ? Maybe just as long as I’m honest, that if the apps sucks, I let my readers know and give them my truthful opinion.

What does the twitter & brightkite community think?
Twitter / Wayne Sutton: Question: Why is transpare ...
So I asked on brightkite & twitter the question: Why is transparency in social media important to you? Take a look at the response below:

From Brightkite:

RobertFischer's avatar RobertFischer says:Authenticity is what’s important. And it’s impossible to be authentic while being opaque. It’s all “Cluetrain Manifesto” stuff.

maravillasband's avatar maravillasband says: Transparency is why it is perceived by some to be dangerous, I think

kagorges's avatar kagorges says: Transparency builds trust, which leads to more connection and more interesting sharing of each other — and that is what makes social networking interesting. Just trading references or pitching our product/services is shallow and very quickly boring – just like networking meetings that are all about trading business cards — no real connection or context.

pamperry's avatarpamperry says: It is about your purpose. If you are not afraid of who you are and know what you are here for – you want to share it! You want to broadcast it and promote it…and nothing makes you feel better than to be understood.

From twitter

3226652132_e74d7b900f_o_normal aprillwrites: @waynesutton Because transparency is one of the factors that differentiates social media from others.
3226578286_7202405c21_o_normal JoshuaJMills: @waynesutton transparency = truest, without it imformation you provide would be tainted.
jaymeburnett: @waynesutton I just want to know that I can trust people. I like to think that most people are good, and transparency is a part of that.
Avatar_normal kerosinclothing: @waynesutton transparency I important because you want the facts on a certain topic, not just someones opinion, which always has bias

Free Marketing
A few notes to remember, if people love your product or service they don’t mind letting others know about it,  remember the mac beautiful youtube video?

But if you do want others to cover your product/services I advise you to be upfront and let you readers now about the relationship or risk being exposed using social media.

Why is transparency in social media important to you?

Wayne Sutton

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Wayne Sutton is a serial entrepreneur and general partner at BUILDUP.vc. Wayne has over 14 years experience in technology, design and business development. Wayne was recently recognized as one of the Silicon Valley 100 coolest people in tech, one of the 52 hottest new stars in Silicon Valley, one of the 46 Most Important African-Americans In Technology by Business Insider and one of the Top 100 most influential black people on social media in 2014.