How honest can you be online? How honest should you be? Is transparency a good thing? How about authenticity? Is honesty and transparency the same thing? How do these come into play when you are marketing your business?
I discussed these very topics with the wonderful Ralph and Carol Lynn Rivera on their Web Search Social Podcast recently. If you haven’t checked out the Web Search Social podcast, then I definitely recommend it. Ralph and Carol Lynn like to (as they put it) challenge the status quo of marketing, and we certainly did that when I was a guest on their show!
If you get the chance to have a listen, please do (just click the play button below). We discussed:
- What is and isn’t ok to talk about online (politics, how your feeling etc)
- How to be authentic on your social networks- but learn to share different aspects of yourselves to different audiences and networks.
- Should you market your business on a Facebook profile or a page (or not on Facebook at all)? How does transparency come into all of this?
- Is marketing automation a roadblock to authenticity? We discuss the good and the dark side of automation
- Should you always be positive online?
Transparency – Honesty – Trust
It is important to be as transparent as you can online and to be honest. Being honest and transparent will build trust among your connections and people are far more likely to do business with you if they trust you.
I take being honest as given. You should avoid deception at all costs, but I’d also avoid ambiguity as well. It’s important to be clear and direct about your views and the way you do business online. Don’t be a social media guru!
But when it comes to transparency, how far should you go? One dictionary describes the word “authentic” as being “of undisputed origin and not a copy; genuine”. When you are being transparent you are being yourself- not trying to be someone or something that you are not. I don’t know about you, but there is a constant pressure to conform and to follow the herd. Some people find it difficult to openly disagree with others and end up warping their own points of view because they want to be “liked”.
I’m not going to tell you how to be authentic or how much you should share online, because that is going to be different for each person.
We are all individuals, but the truth is that we share different aspects of ourselves to different people and to different audiences. How would you describe yourself to a friend? Would that be different to a potential customer or to a competitor, to someone who shares the same interests as you?
Free your inner identities!
In my case I tend to share different aspects of myself to different people. With my “geeky” friends I won’t hold back on tech talk- I’ll talk openly and in a detailed way about different aspects of technology that I find interesting. However if I were to talk like that with a non-techie friend, I’d bore them to death.
We have different “identities” or aspects of ourselves: a father or mother, a husband or wife, a geek, a Christian/Jew/Muslim/Atheist…, a health food nut, a business owner, a social media enthusiast, a long distance runner and more. The question is should you share any of that on your social channels? There is no “one size fits all” answer to that question. However it is important to think this through and work out which aspects of yourselves you are going to share online. If you run a business, then people are going to see you and people like to do business with other people- not robots! I know that sounds obvious, but it’s easy for common sense to bounce out the window when we get behind a computer, tablet or smartphone!
Making yourself vulnerable isn’t something you’d normally equate with business strategy, but sharing more about yourself online not only builds trust, but connections with like minded people.
Work out where your line is
However, you need to work out where your line is! Are you happy to discuss politics or religion/faith online? It’s not as simple to say you shouldn’t, but you should be aware of the risks. People can be very dogmatic in their responses- even abusive. However it could be more likely that people silently “unfriend” or unfollow you if they see an update they didn’t want to see or found offensive. My recommendation is to be yourself, but to avoid being dogmatic- try and be respectful and listen to your audience.