Social Media & The Evolution of Transparency
Transparency is the new normal. In general, we trust people we know and hold their recommendations in high regard. So we often believe that they will be more transparent. For decades, earning the trust of consumers has been a central goal for marketers. This is more important today.
People are more connected, and thanks to the Internet, ideas spread like wildfire. Almost anyone with an Internet-connected device can talk about your brand. Also, it only takes one unfavorable review to sink the ship. This is a concern for many companies. Social media has shifted power to the customer. Luckily, consumers are telling organizations how to conduct themselves in order to win their favor.
In fact, 86 percent of Americans want businesses to be transparent. That is according to Research by Sprout Social. Also, the same study found that consumers feel companies are obligated to be transparent.
We Are in an Era of Distrust
The day of December 19, 2018, Karl Racine, the D.C. Attorney General, filed a lawsuit. It was against Facebook for failing to protect the data of its users. Racine noted the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal as evidence.
Clearly, both parties involved are still dealing with the consequences of their failures. They did not protect users and respect their privacy. Furthermore, similar situations in recent years have created distrust among consumers.
The alarming number of security breaches have aided the widespread knowledge of privacy laws. Also, the majority of consumers know that digital companies can be punished. That is why the consequent response is expected. As a result, customers are demanding transparency from brands.
Brand Relationships and Transparency
Consumers feel that the level of clarity, openness, and honesty are crucial. They determine whether a business is transparent according to Sprout Social’s research. But, who does not like all those things? After all, it makes sense economically. So brands that are more transparent will enjoy the increased demand for transparency.
In marketing practice, rewards are great whenever brands focus on customer needs. Hence, transparency influences the perception of consumers. This makes your organization appear more thoughtful, honest, and trustworthy.
Today, being transparent can save your reputation. You can avoid the usual backlash that occurs after catastrophic outcomes. Taking ownership of mistakes, communicating openly and honestly are critical ingredients. Just don’t throw away the corporate communication handbook yet.
Consider the following key findings by Sprout Social.
- 85 percent of people say they will likely forgive a business for messing up. Only if the brand has a history of transparency.
- About nine out of 10 or 85 percent of consumers will likely stick to a business in crisis. Only if it has a history of being transparent. You know what they say, “till death do us part”… unless a divorce is decided.
- 89 percent say businesses can regain their trust by admitting to screw-ups, plus being open about actionable steps.
Transparency As a Cure-all
Here is a company that got it right. On September 28, 2018, Facebook made a public announcement. It was about security issues that affected 50 million user accounts. “We found an attack this week and we moved quickly to address it”, said, Guy Rosen, VP of Project Management, in an interview. He added:
On Tuesday we found that an attack was taking place against users on Facebook. By Thursday, we had already fixed the issue and we were protecting the security of peoples accounts by logging them out of Facebook. -Guy Rosen, VP of Project Management | Facebook
This was a smart move on their part. That is because getting ahead of the story seemed to diminish the usual outrage. Also, consumers trust and feel more confident about brands that are transparent.
Most likely, the security update by the company was no accident. Evidently, people are still using their Facebook accounts (60 percent to be exact).
Marketing and the Demand for Transparency Across Industries
Government and healthcare organizations have the highest demand for transparency. Maybe we will see more surgeons airing live operations on social media platforms. That is a thing.
The message is clear for marketing departments. Get ahead of customer concerns with educational, informative, and overall transparent content. However, transparency can be a “double-edged sword”. Plan your communications accordingly.
Remember, in this new age, there is a generation of anti-brand sentiment. This means brand loyalty is at an all-time low. Younger generations look more to the character of a company or brand vs their products.
How to Look the Part
Ensure your brand does not appear as lacking in transparency. Do so by being open, active, and responsive. For example, don’t avoid tough questions from within and outside your organization. Instead, make it a priority to answer them swiftly.
Adapt the following to promote transparency:
- Foster a culture of providing honest responses to inquiries and addressing situations on time. Starbucks has earned a reputation for doing these well.
- Open up about your company values and product or service details. Things like core motives, updates, price changes, the reason for specific decisions etc.
- Use more video content. The same Sprout Social study found the following. 67 percent of consumers see video content as more transparent on social media.
- Communicate concisely at all times. Skip the jargon.
- Try to make announcements through all social portals. Currently, dark social sharing makes up a large portion of content distribution. So make sure your message gets across to all of your followers and to those who may come across it and share it with their friends privately. Get in touch with a company that offers small business marketing services to help with distribution.
“Whoever has the gold makes the rules” and your customers arguably do in this case. Time to cash-in by giving the people what they really want. Get gutsy. Be transparent.