HollyToday is the continuation of my 6 Days of Christmas for Managing Digital Communications! For the next 3 Days I’ll be recommending what I feel are the most valuable tools or concepts for social media and digital campaigns.

On this third day of Christmas I recommend to you: Be transparent

Marines FB Note

Above is a Facebook note the Social Media team for the Marine Corps used to help clarify who runs the Marines' Facebook page and how it is managed daily. This note is one example of practicing transparency in Social Media.

Transparency is one of your most valuable tools when managing an online campaign. Transparency is about trust and with all the different venues and outlets available to consumers, being transparent will help build relationships far more than simple spitting out of facts or sales pitches. Authenticity is what’s important. Much like in advertising, people will not appreciate egregious claims. If you’re a critic, new source, blogger, etc. transparency could be as easy as telling your opinions no holds-barred or letting consumers know where your sources came from. If you’re an organization, transparency takes on a whole new meaning.

There are many different ways to be transparent in social media, including:

  1. Let your consumers know who is running your social media program: This could mean you give out the name/names of the employee or employees running your campaign, or simply the department of your organization that is in charge. It also means if you’re a public person, you want to clarify if you send out your own tweets, your team does, or if it is a mix of both (a la John McCain incident in 2008).
  2. Be honest about the effect consumer’s comments or participation has in your business plan: I can list dozens of companies who pretend that the comments or concerns consumers voice over social media actually matters to the company. Let me just say this, if you’re not taking into account the feedback from your consumer via social media, you aren’t approaching it the right way. You’d be crazy not to analyze the free feedback you get from these outlets. If you thinking wisely and taking into account user’s feedbacks, you still should be forthright about how much the feedback is considered. This means that if only a few comments are passed to management, let your consumer know that due to high volumes of comments not every situation may be addressed. This also means, if you are not able to fix an issue raised on one of your sites (like American Airlines often does) that you shouldn’t let consumers believe that your social media program has clout in the organization to fix their issues.
  3. If you are a blogger and receive free products to promote organizations and services, let your readers be aware you received free goods: This should be a no-brainer, but many bloggers don’t participate in this practice. Organizations send free swag to bloggers all the time to promote their products, it’s a common marketing concept as many of you well know. Well, if your organization is a blogging/critic site, then you need this tip. Let readers know what inspired you to critique this service, and if you were paid or given incentives to do so. This of course shouldn’t hold you back from voicing your honest opinion. If you stick to this tip then your readers will appreciate your honesty, rather than think they cannot trust you because there might be ulterior motives behind your posts.
  4. If you allow members or your organization to participate in online communities, make it required they identify themselves: One example of this that I can think of is when you go to sites like Stumbleupon and it is obvious that people who work for the company’s sites that are recommended are leaving rave reviews without actually saying they work for the company. It’s tacky and underhanded to not represent yourself online. Not labeling yourself makes you anonymous and less trustworthy.
  5. Let consumers know when you’re wrong: Whether your organization did something wrong in the real world, or you sent out the wrong information virally, let users know you were wrong. Mistakes make us human. Making companies more human means developing relationships at a more basic, natural level.
  6. Communicate on a more personal level: NO more press releases, NO more news-like headlines, NO more confusing mumbo jumbo! If you think your product is the best, tell the world why. If you think there need to be some improvements, ask consumers what they would do to fix them. Relate your brand to things happening in the real world and subjects your consumer cares about, because they’re not thinking of your brand 24-7 no matter how good you are.
  7. Show your consumers behind the scenes: Whether it is the everyday life of a CEO, how your product is made in the production line, the companies you work with to develop your product, etc. Not only is it letting the consumer know more about how your product is developed, it’s just plain cool for them to see. (Trust me, I made sure I was home to see how Peeps were made when it was featured on Food Network)
  8. Allow Comments on your blog posts: People are talking about you all over, at least let them do it on your site where you can address it better if it does go negative.
  9. Let your consumer know how you monitor your social media sites: This is a throwback to yesterday’s recommendation. Make it clear how you monitor your sites and what kind of participation you will and will not allow.
  10. There is no hiding: This goes out to all of you without social media, there is no hiding. Start participating!

HollyStill feeling festive on this 3rd day of Christmas! Stay bundled up and don’t get too frustrated over all the travel delays!