MAD Perspectives Blog

 Transparency & Authenticity

Peggy Dau - Monday, July 27, 2009


Tranparent.  Authentic.  These may be the two most overused terms in social media. 

Every social media pundit emphasizes the importance of transparency and authenticity. 


Whether we are communicating as an individual or as an organization or company, we are encouraged to be transparent.  What does this mean?  The dictionary definition states “easily seen through, open, frank, candid”.  It means to be clear.  Clarity is often in the eyes of the beholder to adapt a well known phrase.  While the communicator may feel they are being clear, the listeners may not agree.  The evolution of social media is challenging organizations to be very clear in their intent and in their communication.  It also allows the listeners to emphatically state when communication is not clear. 


Hand in hand with transparency is authenticity.

The dictionary states “not false or copied, trustworthy, valid”.   It means to be honest.  There is an interesting paradox that states that perception is reality.  However, this does not mean perception is honest or authentic, yet the internet provides a forum for information exchange that is not always true.  Fortunately the increased level of interaction via various customer forums encourages reality checks.  A company can make claims to the value of its products.  However, if even one customer is unhappy there is a chance that they will express their dissatisfaction online, thus disruption the chain of communication promoted by the company.



Transparency and authenticity.

With the advance of social media, companies are being held to different standards.  Before the internet companies pushed information to their customers.  They created campaigns and messaging to position their products and services in the most positive light.  They were honest, to a point.  They did not have to worry about the viral nature of the internet where one unfavorable comment can mushroom into a perception that takes both time and money to reverse.  The messaging was, sometimes, overly positive.  It focused on the positive and on the benefit to consumers or businesses. 



Companies are learning to listen.

As they become more transparent (i.e., Dell asking for advice on how to improve its customer service) and authentic (i.e., Zappos) they are understanding that they have an opportunity to create much tighter customer relationships.  They have the ability to understand the needs and demands of their customers better than ever before.  However, they must open themselves up to this interaction by becoming more transparent and more authentic.

So, yes these terms are overused, but they are the keys to success in implementing a social media strategy, internally or externally!

What's your perspective?