Social media gives a brand life. It gives a brand the ability to embody an artfully crafted persona, letting its voice flourish and appeal to consumers. It also provides the most publicly accessible, closely-watched window into a brand. With little room for secrets or privacy.
In 2017, the world finally began to realize the integral role social media plays in creating a more transparent society. We’ve seen social media get called out for influencing public opinion with recent election turmoil. We’ve also seen social media used to put brands on blast when mistakes are made at the local level (think how many people would have actually known about the “United incident” if social media didn’t exist). Regardless of the scenario, consumers and advertisers alike are demanding more transparency in how platforms and brands conduct business.
A need for transparency
This is all part of a growing desire to increase corporate transparency. According to Warren Bennis, author of Transparency: How Leaders Create a Culture of Candor, transparency in business is defined as the free flow of information within an organization and between the organization and its many stakeholders, including the public.
Transparent companies adopt honest, open, and clear communication as a corporate philosophy. They implement their beliefs from the top down with strong organizational support. They understand that whether it’s in success or failure, business practices must be communicated through all of the appropriate channels, knowing that transparency in only one outlet is not enough.
That being said, to exist in a medium that is constantly under the microscope, brands must understand what it means to be transparent on social media.
Successfully transparent brands on social media have these three qualities:
- Open & honest communication
- Easy to access & understandable
- Timely responses
It all begins with honest communication
Social media’s public nature allows consumers to directly confront brands like no other medium. As an underlying truth, if a company is withholding information, pacifying consumers with legal jargon, not directly addressing concerns, or offering inconsistent remedies, they are likely to be vilified by unhappy customers – easily turning one flustered individual into an angry mob of trolls in a single refresh.
Brands can minimize these effects with open and honest communication. This means being forthcoming with their shortcomings and owning up to mistakes when they arise. It also means using empathy with consumers in a time of duress, knowing that one desperate tweet could be a consumer’s last hope before they give up on a brand. Finally, it’s having consistency in the frequency of replies and which problems get solved via social. The reality is: replies are public. Brands cannot afford to be caught treating customers differently.
Information should be easily accessible and understandable
“Google it” is in our cultural lexicon because the search engine perfected a way to easily surface the world’s information. Currently, brand social pages appear in the Knowledge Graph and are being included in top search results. Additionally, nearly 55% of consumers follow a brand on social media before purchasing their product. Brands need to capitalize on social discovery by publishing and organizing their content in a way that is easy-to-find and easy-to-understand— allowing the brand to become a sought after subject matter expert.
In an effort to avoid creating extra work for potentially distressed customers, support content should follow the basic tenets of social by being optimized to the platform it is on, having a short and singular focus, and being relevant to the situation at hand. It’s always important to provide valuable assistance and helpful information in the social feed.
Respond often, respond rapidly
89% of tweets at brands go unanswered, leaving a large disparity between the pace of social media and high consumer expectations. Depending on the study, consumers expect responses anywhere between 30 minutes to 24 hours (at the latest). One study by Twitter showed that 72 percent of those who complain via Twitter expect a brand to respond within one hour. Consumers are impatient. The harder a consumer has to work or the longer they have to wait, the more their opinion of the brand will fall.
Brands can prevent these declines by leveraging the right tools. Most top-tier social media management software centralizes community management and measures responsiveness. Brands should use their functionality to streamline processes and improve timeliness. Beyond the software tools, ensuring that the right team is in place is essential. Every brand should have dedicated staff for customer support on social media. Brands should also consider an increase in staffing for large scale events, campaign launches or other busy periods.
Why transparency matters
Many consumers believe that they should be able to know what’s going on behind a brand’s “closed doors.” Social media is a personal, interactive and consumer-driven medium that provides flexible formats for brands to give immediate and personal conversations – further humanizing the brand, building trust and creating critical personal connections with your company.