Your social media efforts are intertwined with your business practices and the values of which your brand stands for. Never before have the consumers held the power to disseminate information (good or bad) about your product or service to such a huge audience. Values, the core of any good business, must include a transparency aspect, a promise to honestly disclose the action and practices of your business. Relationship building is the key to fostering a healthy online following, and the key to any good relationship is open communication. Gone are the days when “no comment,” was good enough. Consumers now have the power and they will hold you to account.
A great example of an IMC campaign that includes a highly interactive website is the award winning McDonald’s “Our food. Your questions.” In my mind there probably isn’t a company that had more rumors and misconceptions surrounding their product offerings than McDonald’s did. In the world of faceless mega corporation’s McDonald’s opaqueness, and secretive practice’s were on par with most tobacco companies. Opening their doors to the public, and engaging with consumer’s questions directly is a huge change for them, and ultimately culminated in a change in public perception. Rumors of pink goo, chicken feet, and unseemly beef parts were put to rest. Lets be honest, everyone knows that McDonald’s isn’t good for you, but by being transparent about what’s in their products, I feel a little less guilty about eating their food.
The McDonald’s example is a huge campaign that cost millions to produce, and was meant for a global audience to change global opinions. Small businesses can take warning of the lessons presented in the McDonald’s case by being proactive about their transparency. This article by Mark Sickles has a great info graphic that shows how transparency affect’s you, and your business in the social media medium. The “bones,” of your business are open for the world to see through social media, and business owners need to take care to show their businesses values to the world. Being proactive about their brand starts with creating an honest dialogue with the consumer. Where the McDonald’s campaign was created to address negative PR, businesses owners need to be on top of transparency from the get go. Today consumers are going to expect communication via their favorite mediums, and honest, entertaining, and relevant content from their favorite brands. Starting the conversation gives you some semblance of control over at least the initial content, and this is where you can showcase your businesses values.
Is there a thing as too much transparency you ask? I believe that this is the wrong question to be asking. Social media for a business should represent first and foremost the business itself. If your brand is you, then personalize, and share your opinions. If you work for a business, the values of the brand come first when creating social media content.
The important thing to remember is that you’re under a microscope; every tweet you send or blog post you write will have an effect on your business. In the old school business world you were to keep personal opinions, out of the work place, now a days as you build your brands identity your personal values should be part of your business. If you care about the environment, and your business takes a stance on environmental issues then donate to help the environment. This kind of positive action, is a much better idea than writing an inflaming rant directed at environmentally harmful products. Stick to your morals, and values above all but find positive ways to further them. You don’t always have to be completely clear with your opinion on every subject. Sometimes a little opacity is ok; nothing is ever black or white, its ok to live in the grey, as long as your actions are based on honest values.
McDonalds (Our food. Your questions):
Mark sickles (social media transparency):