Random Thoughts: Transparency

We talk a lot on the Travel 2.0 blog about, well, blogs, twitter, social networking, etc., all with an obvious undertone of transparency.  Participation is social media demands it.  Being open and honest about who you are and why you are involved in any social network is what allows other people to understand your position and then determine if they want to communicate with you.

For many of us, and many of the people throughout all industries, transparency is a difficult concept to accept.  Transparency means consumers know who you are.  They know how to contact you.  Heaven forbid you actually talk with one.  It means a whole range of questions from the HR or Legal department.  What you are talking about online. Perceptions.  What about negative comments?  What if someone disagrees with us?  We have to maintain a brand image where everyone thinks we are perfect.

Ah, transparency.

A case study in the rapid adoption of transparency has been the online shoe retailer Zappos.com.  They have a blog, including one for the CEO and COO, what seems like half of the company is on twitter, again, including the CEO and enjoy a tremendous reputation for their customer service because of transparency.

Earlier today, like so many organizations of late, Zappos.com had to lay off some of its workforce.  Typically, the most hush-hush, quiet, don’t tell anyone process that any company goes through.  Except they believe in transparency and more specifically: Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication.

That means that the CEO is twittering about it and posting his internal email to employees on his blog.  Plus, having a good percentage of your workforce on Twitter and advertising that fact, means that the general public could literally follow the firings in real-time.

And contrary to the incorrectly assumed thought in most people’s minds, the mood from those tweets was not angry or overly negative.  Somber, sure and a few really negative comments here and there, but those were certainly not the majority.

Not to mention the praise from the public side on Zappos handling of the situation:

@zappos I applaud your honesty and transparency in these tough times. If only more leaders could run their companies the way you seem to…

When will other CEOs be this smart? RT @zappos: Update on today: Here’s the email I just sent to our employees – http://tinyurl.com/5hp9sf

RT @zappos: Email I sent to employees – http://tinyurl.com/5hp9sf. This is a killer example of how to own the message at a difficult time.

Will consumers continue to demand this type of transparency from all organizations they interact with?  The trend is certainly headed in that direction, but what that means for each of us is still to be determined.  Those who offer transparency will thrive and use it as a competitive advantage.  Those who ignore it, or are not listening to the social communication, will only realize the damage being inflicted to their brand after it is too late.

The true worry for brands in terms of social media should not be negative comments, but rather no comments at all.

Comment? @travel2dot0 or email.