Tag Archives: transparency

faith, trust, and charity

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about what we mean when we talk about the importance of transparency and authenticity, as organizations doing business in social media space. Jeremiah Owyang just gave this question prominence on his web strategist blog, as part of his Social Media FAQ series.

He lists these signs that an organization is being authentic, transparent, or human in their social media:

  • Training and entrusting employees to build real relationships using these tools
  • Admitting when you’re wrong
  • Asking the community for help, working with the community to build better products
  • Showing your strengths –and weaknesses –in a public forum
  • Showing more of unique side of the employees (that you invested in) in addition to your products, technology, and services
  • Realizing the brand is actually owned by the community and not just the MarCom brand police
  • Excellent points — and a lot of these points boil right down to trust and honesty. It’s not really much more complicated than the Golden Rule. If you treat your community online with respect, you are likely to be treated with respect in return. If you provide your community with value, they will see value in your brand.

    If, however, you try to “game” the system, you will in turn be gamed.

    In this new world of conversational media, trust between an organization and its community is paramount.

    Here are some great ways to violate that trust before you’re even out of the starting gate:

    Alternatively, you can choose to engender trust in your online community:

    • Write with a human voice – preferably, your own.
    • Listen to negative comments, thank them for constructive criticism, and respond thoughtfully and respectfully.
    • Have faith that your employees will behave like adults and act with discretion in their social media space*
    • Trust your customers/members/community to respect you for being open and for showing your weaknesses
    • Be honest when you make a mistake or need to correct an omission

    Shel Israel and Robert Scoble’s book Naked Conversations offers several instructive examples of organizations who acted deceptively, or sometimes just too slowly, to respond to negative reactions in their social media space. If you haven’t read it, consider doing so soon. Remember that you are always free to learn from other people’s mistakes, and can thus (hopefully) avoid making them yourself altogether.

    As we are witnessing right now with baseball players handling — or mishandling — charges of steroid use, it isn’t so much the crime that does you in, it’s the cover-up.

    Jeremiah also brought my attention today to a great post by Bokardo about what happens when you get involved in social media with your brand, and with your organization:

    Giving people a platform for expression doesn’t necessarily create buzz and demand. It only amplifies what the opinion was in the first place.

    In other words, if you give people a platform for expression and:

    • If your product sucks, the resulting conversation will be about how much it sucks.
    • If your product is great, the resulting conversation will be about how great it is.

    In other words, it’s better to think of social media tools as amplifying customer opinion rather than improving it.

    How do you show your community, your employees, your online folks that you trust them? How has that worked for you?

    *Trust, but verify. It’s a good idea to show your employees what’s expected of them by setting up blog or social media guidelines before setting them loose.

    Ceci n’est pas une pipe

    One of the news articles I tagged for re-reading last week was this one from the Wall Street Journal — it’s from August 2007, but was recently tagged by somebody with the nptech tag.

    The article includes a nice round-up of online places — social networks and other tools — that young people have been using for charitable and philanthropic endeavors. I’m especially interested in the evolution of sites like DonorsChoose.org and Kiva.org, because I think these person-to-person charity and micro-loan networks are among the most compelling new developments in philanthropy in a long time.

    Because I work so much with artists and cultural organizations, I’m naturally curious about how this type of philanthropy could be tweaked to benefit these groups.

    Sure, you can donate art supplies directly to an art teacher on DonorsChoose.org. But what about a new fire escape to the children’s theater down the road? Or framing and mounting supplies to the new artists’ co-op downtown?

    I’d love to see something that connected donors and individual artists and smaller cultural organizations like this. Bigger cultural organizations have online donation systems, capital fund drives, and special earmarking funds. But a lot of small nonprofit arts organizations just know that their pipes just burst, and if they don’t fix them stat, they’ll have to cancel the next five months’ worth of children’s music/dance/drama classes.

    For example.

    The other thing that jumped out at me in the WSJ article was the bit at the end about the Salvation Army’s attempt to join the fray on MySpace, with a profile page for a character/personification of the brand called “Red Kettle.”

    It so happens that I am reading Naked Conversations right now (finally), so this reminded me right away of the case study they made of Claire, the brand-personification of Vichy (L’Oreal) that “wrote” a blog for a brief, ill-fated time. Here’s the section of the book that talks about Claire.

    Notice that it’s in the chapter entitled “Doing It Wrong.”

    If there’s one thing that’s true about the new media, it’s that truthfulness and transparency are paramount. Even if you’re transparently personifying a brand, as with a cartoon character or whatnot, and you expect everyone to be in on the joke, it just doesn’t ring true.

    A brand isn’t a person. I know it’s a standard marketing exercise to figure out what kind of person a product would be if it were a person, but that’s exactly where it should end: as an exercise. At least where social media are concerned.

    The interwebs are now populated by People. Real, living, breathing people who, more and more, use their real names and faces and interact as real people. With other real people.

    A brand isn’t my friend (or fan) on FaceBook. A brand isn’t someone I will follow on Twitter. A brand isn’t, in short, a person. It’s an abstract idea. Same goes for a product. A car is a car. A pipe is a pipe. A cigar is, in fact, just a cigar.

    What doesn’t work in blogging also doesn’t work on social networking sites. If you want to promote your product, or your brand, you, or your CEO, or the guy in the cubicle down the hall who helped develop it, should write a blog, should build a profile, should twitter. As yourself/himself/herself.

    Be who you are. Authenticity is legal tender.