Transparency in Social Media

Transparency is very often talked about in the context of social media but rarely is it present in brand activity and community management. 

So what is the right level of transparency? That has been the big question lately. In the beginning of social, brands ignored the bad chatter and unwanted questions. Now that is not acceptable. There are too many ways for that message to be found. You all have been there or, at least, seen it happen.

Take a look at a service-industry brand’s Twitter feed. It is nauseating how many times they say “sorry.” But that doesn’t correct the problem or make the consumer feel better.

True transparency is telling them exactly what happened and then working towards a solution that works for both sides. Rarely will you get perfection but most every time you will get respect. Respect of the consumer as a person is the critical concept here. The consumer understands that perfection is not an option. They want to be heard and feel they are important enough to engage in conversation. Also, consider the idea that if one person has this problem odds are that hundreds of others have too. You addressing it with them shows the others you are a responsive and “human” brand. This, over time, creates advocates that will come to your defense in the social world.

Brands too often act as if they are perfect. We know this is never the case. They are assembled with humans and in that humans trying to impress their boss and make everything seem perfect. So for them to suggest guilt or fault is tough.

There are brands who use transparency as a core value. One of them is Zappos.com. The concept comes easy to them. Company culture facilitates honesty and human relationships. They are a customer-service brand that happens to sell shoes and apparel. If you are ever in Downtown Las Vegas you need to take the cultural tour. I say it’s worth planning a trip specifically for it if you are a manager of people or a brand.

At the end of my rant I am not suggesting we can all be 100% transparent right now. There are business situations where this will not be possible. However, small steps now can lead to that potential catastrophe being dealt with in a different way a year or 2 from now. And those small steps without a doubt will build customer loyalty now.

Transparency in Social Media

Social Media is like a Dinner Party

Imagine finding a new friend at work. This friend is excited to add you to their list for an upcoming dinner party. You can’t imagine the people you will meet. Your new friend seems like she has an interesting background. Maybe has similar hobbies or maybe her partner does. So you mark it on your calendar, buy a bottle of wine or small gift and look forward to the night.

The night of the party arrives. You knock on the door. She opens. There’s smiles around. Maybe a hug or a handshake. Others are mingling and laughing. You walk in the middle and up to a group and say, “Don’t you like my brand and wouldn’t you like to buy my widget right now? Or can I show you the new TV spot we finished on YouTube? Or you should sign up for this email list.” Come on. Imagine if you did that. Better yet, imagine if someone did that to you. You would find every way to talk to someone else and likely about that person. So don’t do that in social media.

Social media is an already-active community that has billions of people with hundreds of times that number of topics. Engage with those people and understand they are not there because they are dying to consume your message. Create interesting content that will give them a smirk or a piece of information. Engage in small conversations that over time “build a friendship.” They know you are posting on this platform, and others, because you have a product or service to sell.

The long play will be far more fruitful and actually open you up to so many more social stories and types of content you can engage in. And hopefully, you have friends who, through social media, invite their friends to your dinner party.

Social Media is like a Dinner Party

Is Failure An Option?

I have been reading so many social posts and articles saying, “Fail hard and fail fast” and every time I scratch my head.

I work in advertising. Failure is not easily digested. Even when a client suggests we “test and learn” we all know we must test something that has a great probability of succeeding. With this the upside isn’t as high as if we take an idea with huge upside and really put effort behind it. That effort includes finding the right place on the calendar, the right partners and a fair amount of budget for production and amplification.

I have engaged on Twitter with many people on this topic. It seems to me this “rebellious” concept is better suited for the startup and inventor world. There you need to get to proof of concept and raise funds to take it to scale. Failure there seems to be black and white. Your concept is a game changer or it’s an also ran. Marketing has so much grey area.

In the agency world is is difficult reporting a “fail” to a client. But no more that a client has presenting up the ladder. So maybe we reset this thought. Maybe it’s one of those passing fads that agency people grabbed onto for a while and will let it go. I have.

Is Failure An Option?

Storytelling in Social Media

Since the beginning of time stories have been part of human’s lives. I imagine a good hunting story around the fire about how that Giant Mammoth got away was commonplace. Religious beliefs were passed along through stories before being written down. Every time friends and family get together there are stories told.

So why is it most brands have issue when it comes to telling stories in social media? It happens all the time in “traditional media.” Why is it that the series of Facebook posts for a month can be so scattered? Or an under-performing product post is dropped in the calendar? Because it’s easy to say “why not?” if you don’t know what your voice is and what story you are trying to tell.

To be specific, one doesn’t need to tell one story at a time. You can have different things going on and should. We don’t appreciate that aunt that says the same thing every time you see her and we won’t appreciate if a brand does it. Stories do need to be tied into an overall goal of the brand. This is how we define “The Role of Social”. The role of social can be as simple as making the brand cooler. It can be specific to an audience. It can be anything that is tied into ROI set for social.

The easiest way to decide on what stories to tell happens best at a dry-erase board. Start by writing things down that your brand should and can own. Overall thoughts and insights from knowledge of your consumer. Is it that they have an affinity for your brand because it reminds them of their childhood? Or even better, does it remind them of their childhood and their grandparents? Work that. Give them content that can take them to that place for even a minute. A series of these posts over time will put a smile on their face and likely a deeper affinity to your product or service. Build on the story and see where it goes. Are you getting engagement? If so, keep it going. If not, add in another story. We have clients with 5 stories going at one time. We, also, have clients with a couple.

When you have the stories decided the next thing is the story arc. Where are you in the beginning and where do you want to be in a few weeks or a month? Outline it or even write a brief so you can have it in hand and introduce it to anyone that wants to contribute content. In our case that’s a creative person. In another case it could be a product manager down the hall that wants to add in content.

As you launch this story keep an eye on the performance and be critical. If it doesn’t “work” kill it and go another direction. We need to provide content in an already-active social world. Consumers don’t care what we want to tell them. They want something to make their day easier, better or more fun.

In the end, consider your social media as a dinner party. You want to meet the people around you and have small engagements that build over time into a friendship. You don’t want to shake their hand and immediately ask them to buy something. Well, at least you shouldn’t. Tell them a story and make them smile or think about something in a different way.

 

Storytelling in Social Media