Social media giant Facebook has a user base of over 2.01 billion monthly active users, sharing baby snaps, throwback school photographs, and daily updates. The buzzword for Facebook has always been connection.
But after the Cambridge Analytica scandal earlier this year, the negative connotations are growing. Facebook is no longer seen as a friendly company that allows you to connect with old school friends, colleagues and potential new friends. It’s seen as a global conglomerate that we no longer put our faith or trust into.
In fact, in a recent poll by The Atlantic, a whopping 57.9% of the platform’s users said they “mostly distrusted” Facebook or had “no trust” in it to keep their personal information private and secure.
The dust from the Cambridge Analytica fallout is still settling, and while Facebook has retained most of its original user base it’s changed the way internet users not only see the social media platform but how we act online in general.
The keyword is quickly becoming transparency. We’re living in an age where trust in big brands and faceless corporations is at an all-time low. We’re now more wary with our personal data and with which brands we trust. A recent survey by Martech has revealed, the perhaps inevitable information that in a poll of 1000 people, 86% think it’s more important than ever for businesses to be transparent.
So, let’s explore this a little deeper.
What IS Transparency?
We all know the definition of transparency as a noun — but what does it mean in a business sense? Business Dictionary offers the following:
A “lack of hidden agendas or conditions, accompanied by the availability of full information required for collaboration, cooperation, and collective decision making.”
The Martech survey asked their consumers to define what transparency means to them:
“These consumers define transparency as being open (59%), clear (53%) and honest (49%).”
In a nutshell, it’s the full, accurate and timely disclosure of information. But don’t panic. That doesn’t mean you need to reveal vital trade secrets, such as the recipe for your secret bolognese sauce, or your Granny’s treasured bobble hat pattern. It’s about being honest about your business practices — sharing key points of information such as the brand goals, history, performance, and operations.
Think of it like being on Dragon’s Den, but sharing with the world rather than the somewhat scary panel of Deborah Meaden, Peter Jones, and co.
Why Is Transparency Important?
Let’s face it, the Cambridge Analytica scandal rocked the world. In an age when we’re all used to the internet, and think nothing of doing our socialising, shopping and appointment booking online, it’s a shock when we discover our data isn’t as secure as we thought.
Consumers are starting to take more control over who they trust, and what they do with their precious personal data now. Martech’s poll revealed that a massive 86% of customers would take their business elsewhere if they didn’t perceive the brand as transparent. And perhaps more surprisingly, over 80% of the people asked said they would stand by a business through a crisis as long as they were transparent about it.
Transparency within a business not only serves as a demonstration that the company is on the level, but can help build up a loyal fanbase.
In an age of spambots, fake social media accounts, and sham ICOs — we reward authenticity. We like it when things get real, even if that means that we see the bad sides next to the good.
Earlier this year Salt Publishing sent out an SOS on their Twitter feed that they were struggling with overhead costs and not making enough sales to balance the books. Rather than being put off by this honesty, consumers rewarded the transparency of this act and bought books in droves, allowing Salt Publishing to stay in business.
In the wake of shady data misuse and hush-hush business practices, we like truth, we like honesty, we like transparency. And that level of genuineness is often rewarded with fierce loyalty.
How Can We Be More Transparent?
The online world is almost certainly moving towards full transparency — from businesses distancing themselves from data misuse scandals to the internet itself starting to move towards blockchain storage and crypto solutions.
A transparent future is a more secure future.
So, what steps can you take to become more transparent?
Transparency should start from within. Being honest and open about your company’s operations, mission and goals is a good basis to start from. It sets down clear guidelines for your staff, allows for open communication and builds trust in your brand from the inside out. A transparent business also benefits from raised employee morale — they believe in the brand, they trust in the brand, and so they want it to succeed.
Having an active social media presence is also useful — it not only adds a visible human face to your business but allows you to engage with your customer base in an open manner. But be careful to keep things honest and authentic, customers are turned off by disingenuous exchanges. Honesty is always the best policy, forget all you were told about faking it to make it.
81% of consumers polled by Martech believe businesses have a responsibility to be transparent on social media — this is a much higher standard than they set for themselves, friends and even politicians.
Cosmetics company Lush recently faced a backlash after they deleted social media posts on their business’ Facebook page. They had been receiving a number of negative reviews and comments following an anti-spy cops campaign which appeared to negatively criticise the police force. Lush denied deleting the comments, but the damage had already been done, with many customers insisting they would boycott the brand for a lack of transparency in both the marketing campaign and the subsequent social media crisis.
A Transparent Future
Transparency has never been more important to a successful business model. The withholding or restructuring of information is deeply unappealing to an internet savvy generation — who spend more than ever before on researching brands before using them.
As a small business your biggest asset is the trust and loyalty you can build up with your fanbase. But a lack of transparency can severely damage this relationship, leaving users feeling misled or conned.
Large businesses are starting to take notice too, with social media hub Buffer maintaining an open salary list, with clear and transparent information about how they calculate salaries, or internet bank Nordnet’s extremely transparent and extremely funny advert explaining their views on transparency and banking.
The rising wave of fintech and blockchain-based businesses are also adopting extremely open and honest business practices in keeping with the safe, secure and transparent nature of blockchain. Social Ink client MEDIA Protocol are at the forefront of this, developing a blockchain protocol that will create a more transparent digital content distribution ecosystem. They regularly share honest and regular updates across their social channels, hosting AMA (Ask Me Anything) sessions about blockchain, their partnerships and collaborations with their CryptoCatnip app — which is itself transparent via the open source nature of the protocol it is built upon.
So, why not make your business transparent and see the manifold benefits in opening up clear and authentic lines of communication with your customers?
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