Posts tagged transparency

The Problem With Making Grandiose Statements

There’s a popular method of content creation, and it’s primarily centred around making grandiose statements to make a point.

These statements, and the blog posts around them, can range from the usual war cries of being more human in business, to posts on transparency and authenticity on the web, to how an “industry” – for want of a better term – like social media needs its proponents to apologize for all their wrong-doing.

While the messaging of these types of posts may mean well, they only truly mean well if they come with no baggage.

The problem is, many don’t. Instead, they’re temporary soundbites, catharsis, or premises of something the author(s) miss in the bigger picture, that purport to be or do something that rarely continues after the original piece of content has been forgotten.

Words – or whatever shape the content takes, be it a podcast or video instead – are easy to create. And they may even sound good while creating them, and look great when the positive comments and affirmation starts rolling in.

But the real meat is in how the creators are making these things happen continuously, or whether they’ve been – and continue to be – part of the malaise they reside over, and their own previous behaviour and actions lives up to these grandiose statements.

Hindsight is easy; current thinking based on hindsight, just as easy. Grandiose is the easiest of all, because it validates hindsight with a moment of clarity.

Except it doesn’t.

Consistent action validates and clarifies. Grandiose is merely its noisy neighbour.

The Fallacy of Transparency in Social Media

Video and social media

Spend any amount of time around social media conversations, and one word usually pops up more than any other – transparency.

People talk about social media empowering consumers, because now brands have to be “transparent” in every communication.

People talk about social media sorting the wheat from the chaff, because Google is their friend and ideas can be challenged.

People talk about snake oil salesmen losing their grip because transparency (or lack of) will eventually show the frauds from the real deal.

All good ideals. All good hopes. If it were really true.

Transparent Only If We’re Allowed to Be

The thing is, this whole “transparency thing” in social media isn’t actually happening, because we’re essentially not allowing it to happen.

There’s this unwritten rule in social media that it’s best to focus on what you can achieve versus calling out fakes and bad practices. It’s the way the social web works best, folks say.

And that may be true – but then that approach also dilutes the whole transparency argument too.

For example, there’s a very well-known blogger-turned-author in the U.S. that talks a lot about community and how humble he is to have one of the best. Yet the same blogger is quick to send nasty emails to people who don’t offer anything but platitudes for his book(s).

Then there’s the Canadian social media guy who talks a lot about how to be active online, but – much like his American counterpart – sends rather nasty emails and direct messages on Twitter to folks who dare to question his approach.

You’ll notice I didn’t refer to these two people by names (and there are many more like them). Because, as I mentioned earlier, it’s just not done in social media. People call you a hater, and you’re seen as unprofessional.

Transparency, indeed.

Rewarding Silence

Yet should we really care? After all, as so many people say, we should concentrate on what we do, right, not what others do?

The thing is, if we do that when the behaviour of some people verges on bullying, by staying silent we’re encouraging this behaviour. We’re essentially saying, “You know what, you continue to show one face in public and a completely different one in private, because it doesn’t affect us.”

But it does affect us.

It’s our friends that are being picked on. It’s our colleagues that are being affected. And, most importantly, it’s our morals that are being compromised by staying silent.

So what do we do? Do we do anything? Do we contact these people directly and say we know what’s happening and try stop it? Do we publicly question them? Or do we continue with this idea that social media has made everything transparent, so leave the status quo as it is?

The decision is yours.

Can You Have Too Much Disclosure?

45 Fremont, #3If you’re speaking with a friend about something you like do you also say, “I use it myself – I can vouch for it”?

Probably.

But if you’re speaking to that same friend a few days later and you ask how he/she got on with that product, do you again say that you use it yourself? No. Because obviously they know that from your first recommendation.

So how much disclosure is needed when you recommend something online?

Last night Chris Brogan posted a link to his blog post about Hubspot’s new Twitter report. I half-jokingly asked him whether that tweet should mention disclosure, since Hubspot sponsors Chris’s Inbound Marketing Summit.

Chris, being the open guy he is, replied that it was a good question and so went and edited his blog post to mention the sponsorship. It also opened up a good little conversation on Twitter about how much disclosure is needed.

The fact that people joined in the conversation and offered their views on disclosure policies shows that it’s an important topic. People and companies obviously need to be transparent about their dealings, or else it could lead to a slippery slope later on.

Yet there is also the danger that we get sucked in to the whole “disclose, disclose, disclose!” mindset. Yes, we all need to be clear about who our partners or sponsors are. But we also need to temper that with common sense.

If it’s the first mention of a company or sponsor that you work with or have as a client then, yes, full disclosure is needed. But I don’t think you need to keep mentioning it in every single conversation you have from thereon in. You’ve already disclosed and you’re not hiding anything, so you’re good to go (as long as you’re not blatantly pitching something).

You could go one step further and have either a Disclosure page on your blog or website, or a Partners With page. This can then be updated with each new announcement or partnership and keeps everything in the open (thanks to Heather Allard for the hat tip).

The main thing is, disclosure is important and you need to make sure that you’ve covered yourself from any potential backlash. But I don’t think you need to mention relationships in every single thing you mention about that person or company.

How about you? Do you disclose every time, or just initially? Can there be too much disclosure or never enough?

Creative Commons License photo credit: Thomas Hawk

Picture Perfect (Or The Power Of The Avatar)

I CAN HAS SPACENAVIGATOR?There’s a saying that a picture paints a thousand words – but can it also create a thousand questions?

For anyone that’s connected to me on Twitter or Facebook, you’ll have probably noticed that my profile avatar for both sites is blacked out.

Far from being the results of a broken browser, it’s blacked out for a reason (the basic gist is a week-long protest at planned Internet laws in New Zealand). It’s led to questions why it’s blacked out, which has led to more knowledge about the cause it’s in support of – so, that’s good, right?

Not necessarily, it would seem.

One of the reactions my avatar received today was the suggestion of a principle-based unfollow on Twitter because my face wasn’t on show. Ari Herzog, someone I have shared numerous great conversations with, mentioned that I wasn’t being transparent or authentic. My avatar being black meant I was hiding. Does an avatar say all that?

One look at my Twitter profile shows you all the main information you need to know. Name, company, what I do, contact details, blog, website – basically the works. So that should cover the transparency angle. As far as authenticity goes, I’d hope that this would be down to people’s opinions through their interactions with me, rather than an avatar.

But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the real power is in the avatar? Certainly, my blacked out one has raised many questions so people obviously notice any changes. So what’s your take?

Is the power in the picture, or the words behind the picture?

Creative Commons License photo credit: Torley