“Transparency may be the most disruptive and far-reaching innovation to come out of social media.”
- The New Influencers by Paul Gillin
Transparency on social media is no longer a choice.
Just like a few years ago, we were saying that social media for businesses was no longer a choice. Nowadays, it’s not even something we blink our eyes at or think twice about. Especially for business-to-consumer (B2C) businesses, but also for business-to-business (B2B) companies. While the difference between social media marketing for each differs, the importance does not.
And while we may not quite be there as a society for transparency on social media, we’re pretty dang close.
At one point in time, when we weren’t so uber-connected to the world and everything around us thanks to social media, people and businesses were not on display for everyone to see. Then, when social media started, people felt comfortable hiding behind online accounts and usernames, and transparency wasn’t a forethought. It wasn’t even a second thought.
It seemed almost disruptive and unthinkable that people or businesses would be exactly like they are in real life on social media.
But over time social media has changed that and, as stated above, social media transparency is no longer a choice for businesses. It’s a must.
Just look at the numbers…
(and learn a lesson about transparency from them because numbers don’t lie)
- 86% of Americans believe transparency from businesses is more important than ever before (Sprout Social)
- 85% of people say a business’ history of being transparent makes them more likely to give it a second chance after a bad experience (Sprout Social)
- Nearly nine in 10 people (85%) are more likely to stick by a business during a brand crisis if it has a history of being transparent (Sprout Social)
Consumers have spoken and now more than ever they are willing to reward brands and businesses that demonstrate their commitment to transparency. Be one of those brands!
It’s the way of the future, it’s the new business model. Heck, it’s the way of business’s success today.
Why Does It Matter?
Simply, it matters because it matters to consumers. And it matters for both small and large businesses. Here’s why.
Small businesses generally have been around for less time than large, corporate-esque businesses. Which means that small businesses likely do not have the backing, awards, history or years in business for the credibility component. Small businesses can also appear to be more reachable and “human” therefore making it easier to connect and interact with people on social media and build that strong trust between.
For large businesses, it’s the opposite. Consumers tend to view big businesses or corporations as only money-hungry giants. Using social media to humanize the brand and connect with consumers can really help larger businesses succeed.
What Is Transparency?
Either way, it’s all about providing maximum value to consumers. Providing value that consumers, well, value. Honesty, integrity, authenticity, openness. Aka transparency.
It can be difficult because every person and every business may have a different viewpoint on what transparency means to them. A study done by Sprout Social in 2018 provided this as a starting point:
And while this doesn’t cover the whole spectrum, it’s at least one part of it. Another huge part is being authentic and real on every social media account. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to share every bit of company news ever (although major secrets that aren’t for security, safety, or private information should not be kept).
But it does mean that who you or your brand is as a whole is who you should be on social media.
How you operate in real life is how you should operate on social media.
Your brand voice in other media or marketing should be the same as it is on social media.
In other words, just because the avenue changes, doesn’t mean your brand should.
Social media is a chance for you to connect with your audience. Transparency on social media is a chance for your audience to connect with the real you – and trust me, they will trust you and your brand way more because of it.
How Transparency Wins
Hopefully by now you can see that transparency wins on social media simply because it wins customers for you. If that is what people are wanting from you, why wouldn’t you follow through?
But it’s not all about the money, revenue, sales, or profit. Transparency also…
- Fosters happiness with employees and customers. To put it simply, transparency builds trust. And trust is important for every relationship to last long-term – no matter what. With this open reveal of information, people feel that businesses have nothing to hide and are more likely to stick with that business. Employees feel valued and more connected to doing great work for the business when it is transparent. Customers are more likely to favor a brand that is open over one that is closed on social media.
- Profitability. A study by Label Insight found that 73% of people would spend more if it meant buying from a transparent company. 94% said that transparency was the greatest factor in brand loyalty for them (Forbes). More loyal customers who are willing to pay more from a transparent brand equals a winning situation for brands to capitalize on.
Apart from that, you get to connect with consumers more. Whatever business you’re in, you started it to solve a real need for a real customer. To better serve them somehow and in some way.
You want to offer products or services that will best help them. Deliver experiences that excite people. Create and share content that will provide immense value to your audience.
An easy way to do all of that and more? Create strong connections and initiate cool interactions on social media. Through being transparent and open.
Tips for Being Transparent
There is not one right way nor a perfect formula for being transparent on social media. Just like with all aspects of marketing, every company, customer, and situation is different. With that said, here are 3 simple ways to boost your transparency and win on social media!
Consumers want to connect with people, not companies. Yes, of course people want to follow their favorite brands for updates on products, information, and overall company news. But the reason they connect with those brands is that those brands make it easy to connect with them. They relate to consumers and humanize their brand.
Whether that be a mascot such as the Geico Gecko or Flo from Progressive, or Wendy’s having personality in their tweets, or brands like Patagonia or Nike or Lululemon providing just what consumers want and need.
All of these brands speak to consumers and act like the humans that make up the brand—which then allows consumers to connect to brands because they appear more human. And most importantly, they’re not faking anything, it’s all real!
Real, authentic brand personality goes a long way in attracting consumers to connect, interact, and trust your brand!
Show, Don’t Just Tell
Humans are visual creatures. In fact, half of our human brain is either directly or indirectly devoted to processing visual information. You ever notice how quality visual aids always make a presentation better? It’s because as people, we like to see proof or facts indicated rather than just hearing words go through our ears.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. While that is a wise adage, when it comes to transparency, it takes on a different meaning. Brands can say any number of words about who they are, what they do, how they provide value, and how they give back.
And they certainly do.
But all the words in the world won’t mean anything if it’s not backed up by the company’s actions. People want to see businesses actually doing what they say—and social media is a perfect place to do that!
Share a photo of your company team volunteering at a cause that is important to the business. Be open in your pricing, product information to showcase integrity and demonstrate your accountability by sharing how your company is owning up to a mistake and making restitutions.
Anyone can say something, so instead be the brand that follows through and shows you mean what you say!
Not just Highlights
Social media is often seen as a “highlight reel” and it makes sense that people and companies alike want to present their best selves to attract and interest their followers. However, you don’t want just followers. You want to create meaningful connections and interactions with both current and potential customers.
And people can connect more to brands being real and open about challenges or hard stuff too. Sure, highlight reels are cool to see the victories of other companies or people. But being open about the hard times too allows more connection. Now you don’t need to be a Debbie Downer on your social accounts but showing both the highs and the lows shows that your brand is real.
Share mistakes you’ve learned from, challenges or obstacles your business faced and overcame, or a difficult story of your past. Choose to be real over a highlight reel.
Last, but not least, to bring this all together, here are case studies that showcase two incredible brands and how they are taking transparency on social media for the win! While you may not be in the exact same sphere as them, hopefully you can take insight and inspiration from the work they’re doing.
Southwest Airlines: Transfarency
I’m a sucker for a good pun, and one that takes their marketing to the next level? I’m a fan! I mean heck, transparency is practically in the name of Southwest’s Transfarency campaign: all regarding being open and transparent with their fare rates. The airline prides itself as the world’s largest low-cost carrier.
For Southwest, transfarency is a “philosophy in which Customers are treated honestly and fairly, and low fares actually stay low—no unexpected bag fees, change fees, or hidden fees.”
Panera Bread: Food As It Should Be
In May of 2015, Panera made a promise that it will stop using artificial ingredients by the end of 2016 – a huge deal to their customers! But executives didn’t just stop there. On a journey to achieve mega-transparency, Panera Bread launched its “Food As It Should Be” campaign along with a transparent menu that listed calories, nutrition, and ingredient information for every menu item.
Wrapping up, transparency is a huge deal to consumers across the board in today’s world of social media. People want to connect to brands that are authentic, genuine, real, open, honest, and communicate all of that. Not just in words, but in actions as well. Transparency on social media can and will take you far!
Just because transparency is no longer a choice doesn’t mean you can’t choose to innovate your brand’s transparency to win on social media!