5 Ways Leaders and Companies Can Use Transparency to Win

After my Transparency Favors the Strong post, I got several requests to share ways that companies and leaders could win the race to transparency.

Smart leaders realize that hiding relevant information is just not a good idea anymore.

Customers, employees, shareholders, board members, and other stakeholders in your organization are okay with mistakes. They’re not okay with dishonesty or shady practices.

We live in a world dominated by social media, which allows people to share, discuss, and learn about you, your company, it’s products, and the way you do business.

Even if you wanted to, you can’t hide the truth without actually kidnapping, killing people or turning off the internet. Regardless, if you have to hide it, you probably should change business models or jobs.

Here are five ways your company can win the race to transparency:

1) Blog about what you do

Be honest.  Be open.  Be vulnerable.  Share your feelings.  Companies should act like people so that people can relate to them.  No one relates to perfection.

Here are two examples of transparency in action:

Michael D. Harris Jr. at Ardynn PR is writing 365 posts this year while sharing the wins, losses, and ideas coming out of his growing real estate PR firm.  He’s even gone so far as to discuss his own foreclosure crisis.  Here’s one example of his blog posts.

Mike Cox does a daily video blog every business day where he blows the lid off the secretive mortgage industry and it’s pricing.  Since he leads a group of mortgage loan officers, you’d think giving away pricing info would hurt him, right?  Wrong.  He’s building trust and an avid subscriber base that is hungry for honesty and transparency. Check out Rates in Motion.

2) Be transparent on your “About Us” page

Take advantage of the times when people want to learn more about your company. Write something personal, warm, and right to the point of why you’re in business.

People don’t care about stats until they understand your spirit, goals, and direction.

Robert Jones is writing a series of blog posts about successful “About Us” pages and I highly recommend you read some of his stuff.  It’s amazing.  Here’s the first one in the series, and it features 8pmWarrior.com.

Here’s another example of a fairly transparent “About Us” page.

3) Monitor social media platforms

Monitoring what people say about you should be automated.

The first thing you should do is set up Google Alerts for your brand, company name, and yourself.  Then, when you notice someone is talking about you, move to step 4 below.

Besides Google Alerts, here are some other monitoring tools I use:

4) Interact on social media platforms

Once you know where you’re being talked about, it’s time to engage.

I highly recommend you follow the lead of the Klout.com team and take a candid approach to responding.  Don’t ignore the obvious.  Answer questions and keep it pleasant.  People will say a lot of dumb things, but it’s your job to engage them in a way that makes friends out of skeptics.

Here’s a case where Joe Fernandez (Klout.com CEO) and Megan Berry (Marketing) are monitored and engaged in an intelligent way on a fairly negative blog post.  Check it this blog post.

Other examples of transparent interaction on social media:

One note on Engagement (more to come in a future post)…don’t automatically reply to anyone for any reason unless you are transparent about the fact that it is automated.  It will kill your ability to truly connect.

5) Admit mistakes and offer to fix them first

This is one of the reasons that transparency favors the strong.

The better you are at doing your job, the less expensive transparency is.  This is why some companies face an almost impossible task.  They can’t sell their flawed services in a transparent way, so they get less sales to improve their flawed services.

It’s a death spiral.

I’ll never forget when Best Buy gave me a $100 gift card when Blu Ray officially beat out HD-DVD and my new player from Best Buy was rendered obsolete.  They didn’t have to do anything.  However, they invested some money and made a friend for life.  It’s always worth it to deal with negative situations proactively.

On the other hand, you probably remember when Apple’s iPhone 4 came out with reception issues because our hands were interfering with the antenna (the death grip problem).  I couldn’t believe that they denied the issue when almost everyone I know said there were issues.  Finally, after a media circus, Apple finally gave us iPhone cases to fix the issue they denied having.  This was my first negative experience with Apple and one that killed the myth that they were somehow superhuman.

Summary

Transparency is the new Quality.  Everyone expects it.  If your industry or company is not usually transparent, you may want to be like Mike Cox or consider trying a different line of work.  If you plan on truly leading people, you must be human.  You must be transparent.

If you believe in yourself, this shouldn’t be a problem.  Transparency favors the strong.

Have a transparent night,

Aaron@Biebert

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3 Behaviors that are “Social Selfish”

Yesterday I wrote that “Caring is Sharing” on the social web.

But what about someone who doesn’t share, like, or add to the discussions we all depend on?  What do you call it when someone takes in everything on the web, but doesn’t give back?

I call it being “Social Selfish” and I believe that it hurts everyone.

For the record, I think that we are all self centered sometimes when it comes to social media.  With too much to do and too little time to do it, something must get pushed to the side.  

Sometimes that means less give, and more take.

This post is not about those situations, but rather for those who have never commented or appropriately shared anything that someone else created.

Even though I believe that being “Social Selfish” is bad for everyone, I’m not convinced that people know that they’re doing it.  After all, Web 2.0 and Social Media are still gaining mainstream usage, and people may not truly understand what they’re doing.

To help explain these behaviors and how they hurt us all, here are three “Social Selfish” actions to think about:

1)      They see something amazing and don’t comment.

By not commenting or adding anything, they’re also not helping the material develop.

If a person doesn’t have anything great to add, a simple encouragement or acknowledgement is nearly as helpful.  It takes a lot of time to prepare material, and it’s nice to have encouragement.

For those of us who don’t advertise or promote products on our blogs, these thoughts we write or record are not-for-profit.  We’re spending our time sharing thoughts and ideas for different reasons.

For me, I love hearing new ideas, growing, sharing, and learning.  This community was built for that.  Your comments are payment for the hours I spend each week doing this.

2)      They see something amazing and don’t “Like” or share it (assuming it’s easy to share).

By not sharing, liking, retweeting, or similar action (validating what they think is great), they’re not helping it spread.

Not helping a great idea spread hurts everyone.  In many ways, Web 2.0 is like an information democracy where the best ideas are identified by how many times people share, like, or comment on the idea.  Not liking or sharing is similar to not voting for a leader you believe in.

If you like it, “Like” it!

3)      They take someone’s material and use it without giving others a chance to find the originator.

I frequently see people quoting other people in tweets or emails without crediting the originator’s name.  This hurts the advancement of good ideas and great thinkers, and makes it hard for people to collaborate with the originator.

One of the ways great ideas (and thinkers) advance is through discussions and interaction amongst those “in the room”.  Sharing a great idea allows that idea to gain momentum.  However, sharing the idea without giving credit makes it hard for real collaboration to take place.

We are all pioneers in the Web 2.0 world, and I humbly submit these thoughts for your consideration.  Since I personally have a lot to learn, I welcome any suggested additions or subtractions for the list (let’s discuss below).

Have a selfless night,

Aaron@Biebert

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