Transparency means being open, honest and accountable. Learn why social media is a great tool for transparency.
Transparency means running your business in a way that makes it easy for the public to see what you are up to. There has been no better time, perhaps, then the Digital Era to showcase the activity of your organization. The public's interest in the Corporate Social Responsibility practices of businesses has grown immensely in recent years and the fact that most businesses have a presence on social media, platforms like Facebook, where over a billion people can be found, connected through their social networks.
Transparency means being open, honest and accountable. In many ways, social media is a tool for transparency. So many companies have taken the automated route to customer service. Creating a more human experience for customers via your social media channels leaves customers with a positive impression, when you do it right. Give your customers access to information, including your triumphs and mistakes as a brand. Think of your relationship with your customers like you would think of any relationship. In order for it to thrive and grow, you need to bond through honesty and sincerity, as well as shared experiences. The more you can show your fans your brand has a human side and the people behind the company have their best interests at heart, the better chance you have of keeping them around. People are more likely to support a brand they trust.
The following are a few ideas that will help your business maintain transparency:
Honesty is the Best Policy
Isn't it wonderful to have a community of Fans on Facebook? You can tell them about all the good things your company does and clue them into awesome products coming down the pipeline. This is also true when something goes wrong. Say you created an app. Something is not working correctly. People are getting annoyed and tweeting at you and writing on your Timeline..and you are panicking. This is not the time to go into hiding, rather this is the time you take advantage of the fact that so many of your customers are in this space, and the technology you have to communicate how very sorry you are that things aren't working but you are doing your very best to fix things in a timely manner. Besides dealing with the current bump in the road, your Timeline will leave a digital trail as to how you handle adversity and take care of your customers as well as showing the triumphs. Take responsibility and be honest.
Avoid Making Waves
If you work for a political organization, of course you are going to be communicating support for your side. In general, though, best practices call for neutrality. Take this tweet from Kenneth Cole, for example. This was tweeted during the uprising in Egypt, and while the brand thought they were leveraging the movement, it came across as tacky and damaged their brand equity. This is just one example of the need to be mindful – and neutral – with your communication.
You are trying to nurture a community via social media channels, and the last thing you want is to give a person or group of people the chance to feel slighted or not welcome by using derogatory language or remarks that could be taken the wrong way. Be welcoming with your language and the content you share. Don't stir up trouble. Most people will not find it amusing. In short, exercise the Golden Rule.
When someone leaves a post of praise or has a customer service inquiry, please respond in a timely manner. What is timely? We suggest a 24-hour time period for response, at most. Basically, respond as soon as you possibly can. You don't want to jump into the conversation after it's too late. It looks unprofessional and weakens the transparency and trust you have worked so hard to build. I have a great personal example of this. I rented a dress for a fancy event I had coming up. The day of the party came and I had not received the dress. I thought, for sure, it would arrive later in the day, just in time. Nope. The customer service line was closed, and I didn't think they could really save the day at that point anyway. I sent a tweet to them that I never got my dress and what should I do? This was a Sunday night. On Monday morning I had an email and a voicemail and a $200 credit. This was my first experience with the company, and while it wasn't a good one, they turned it around with their customer service, more than rewarding me for the trouble, and have kept my business ever since.
Transparency is an essential value in the today's world. It shouldn't be too painful to maintain an honest relationship with your customers, and even when it is at times, it's always the best policy. Conduct your business with grace and dignity and you will have the respect of your customers for years to come.