By Emma Fitzpatrick
Openness, honesty, clarity and authenticity are all traits you’d surely want in a Valentine. But if you can believe it, research shows customers are the ones pining for more of the above from the businesses they follow on social media.
That’s because Americans used all the above phrases to define transparency. While the term isn’t new, the concept is trending.
Most Americans (86 percent) say transparency from companies is more important to them than ever before. Plus, the banking/finance sector ranked in the top three industries from which people demand transparency on social media. However, only 15 percent of people think companies are currently very open on social media.
In short, there’s a big gap between the transparency levels people want and what they’re getting. Read on to learn more about the data-backed benefits of transparent communications—and what exactly that means to your customers, as measured by a 2018 study by Sprout Social.
To be clear, what exactly is transparency?
Business transparency is all about telling it like it is. People want businesses to share the truth without sugarcoating it and own up to mistakes when they’re made.
Again, it’s about embodying those four simple characteristics mentioned above. Be open, honest, clear and authentic. Those characteristics don’t just help you achieve transparency in your social media communications. They also serve as building blocks for the type of brand personality that customers say they prefer. Survey data indicate that these traits, along with friendly helpfulness and an appropriate level of humor, are what make consumers feel connected to a brand.
Why consumers are craving transparency.
From 2017 to 2018, there was an 11-point drop in the percentage of Americans who trusted social media. People listed identify scams, cyberbullying/hate speech, fake news, clickbait and bots as the top five concerns that damaged their trust in social media.
While people may trust social media less, they also know it can be a force for good. Forty percent of people who say brand transparency is more important than ever credit social media as the reason why. Consumers now have multiple public social channels to contact companies, and that’s powerful. Plus, social media makes it easy to monitor digital reactions and hold companies accountable.
Still, none of those motives fully explain why consumers demand transparency. Instead, the most common reason—cited by more than half of respondents in the Sprout Social study—was that companies are morally obligated to be transparent.
Here are four more potential benefits for transparent brands.
- Nearly 90 percent of people will give transparent brands a second chance after a bad experience.
- Forty-two percent of customers will recommend transparent brands to their friends and family.
- Thirty-one percent of people will share something positive about transparent brands.
- Eighteen percent of people—and 22 percent of millennials—would consider a career with a brand that has a transparent CEO on social media.
Data-driven tips for being a transparent brand.
To increase a sense of transparency in your communications, Sprout Social research makes the following recommendations.
- Start with social. This is the top channel where transparency is expected, followed by TV/radio ads and media interviews.
- Post often. People want you to keep them updated with posts on a regular basis—20 percent of people consider not posting very often a form of opacity.
- Opt for the best format. Social media followers rank video, specifically live video, as the most transparent form of content.
- Admit mistakes. It’s hard to do, but it’s the best way to handle a bad situation. It’s also the top way you can demonstrate transparency to your followers.
- Answer customer questions honestly. Don’t skirt the topic, fudge the facts or dance around the matter.
- Talk about the hard stuff. If you’re going to change your service or major company policy, let people know. Describe why you’re making the change and how it will affect them. This is among the top subjects people want brands to be transparent about.
- Get your CEO on board. Consider creating a social account for your CEO. People will find them more accessible, approachable, human, honest, trustworthy and authentic—regardless of the content they post.
Emma Fitzpatrick is a San Francisco-based freelance writer and marketer, whose specialties include content marketing, social media marketing and short, snappy writing. Pick her brain at email@example.com.