How Transparent Should You Be?

Photo cred: Yohann Aberkane
Photo cred: Yohann Aberkane

Sonny Gill provides an insightful view on the matter of transparency in social media here.  He asks:

Do we need to be wary of what we post for sake that one of our hundreds or thousands of followers may find [it] disconcerting? We’re doing a disservice to our industry when we monitor and think twice about what we say and to whom, because of that fear, and not hold true to the core beliefs we ‘grew up’ on with Social Media…Is it getting to the point where transparency is becoming a bit too, um, transparent?

This is a great debate and possibly one that doesn’t have a definitive answer.  There are different situations that require different levels of transparency to be considered.  The main two situations to consider are whether you are  participating in social media to represent yourself or to represent a company.

If you are representing yourself, it is much easier to determine how transparent you can reasonably be.  If you’re trying to establish yourself as a branded professional however, then you should approach transparency the same way a company would.  You know what you’re willing to say and to what extent you are willing to express opinions that people may find to be offensive, and effect their connection with you.

I understand what many people say in that you can’t claim to be entirely transparent if you’re not completely open with your readers. I ask, is transparency expressing your views on who should be the U.S. president or your position on obesity in America? Or is transparency being honest and sincere in your communications with others, even if you have to respectfully deny someone a response on a touchy subject.  I would argue the latter.

It’s unreasonable to expect the same from a corporate blog or a CEO using twitter that you would expect from an individual.  Many things such as politics and other very segmented areas of interest can really offend people if you’re not careful.  A company should not have to lose business because their customers disagree with their personal views on matters that are not relevant to their line of business.  If it does relate directly to your line of business, then you must express your views respectfully and with justification.  If you are honest, and provide valid points, your customers will respect you that much more.

Michael Gray provides some good advice on this matter here.

He says, “Twitter is a social medium and occasionally the people you follow will have conversations about sensitive topics such as politics, religion, relationships, or who was the best Star Trek Captain. Unless it’s part of your organizations mission statement and goal (ie someone like Cato Institute or PETA ), it’s best to remain out of the debate.

I guess its a matter of your own interpretation of what transparent means, and how open one must be to be considered transparent.  In my interpretation, to be considered transparent in social media translates more to being honest with your community about situations relevant to you or your company, while being true to your personality, than providing your opinion on matters that will only hurt your connection with your community.

What’s your interpretation of transparency in social media?  How transparent are you?

2 thoughts on “How Transparent Should You Be?

  1. Even a deeper look into transparency. I would add that with personal and corporate accounts, even that is becoming to be one in the same as online personalities are representing their company on their own accounts as well. And you thought that line couldn’t get any finer? 😉

    It’s a tricky road and what I’ve realized from the discussions we all had is that just be yourself, honest and sincere, as you said, and all should be well. Trying to tread the waters even more is going to put us in an endless loop of arguments.

    Appreciate your extra thoughts here, David!

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