Humans have a natural instinct to protect themselves and their privacy. Some more than others [Silent nod to my introverts out there!]. Many of us are naturally hesitant to put our lives on the line or online as it were, but with social media becoming such a rampant necessity, it’s becoming less of an issue.
In fact I would go so far as to say, there’s probably too much information on people’s lives out there on the social web. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cringed when someone has started a conversation on facebook about what they would like to have for lunch. Really? A vegemite sandwich is conversation-worthy?
Or those people that feel the need to announce to the world on facebook, that they’re bored. When did posting about our lives take over living them? Get off your phone and live life people!
The opposite is true for businesses however. They are generally more opaque, ambiguous, obscure. Businesses are not transparent enough these days. Too much is hidden.
Before you know it, the business has gone bankrupt or gone into liquidation and you’re left with a warranty promise that will never get filled. Or maybe they’re afraid to reveal too much about how they do things in case their competitors take their ideas and run with them faster. Or better.
Both these extremes can be detrimental to our success. So how do we find the balance?
The Pros, Cons and Degrees of Transparency
When we are transparent, we appear more open, honest and trustworthy. We attract more of our tribe, our ideal clients and customers and connect with them on a human level. When we are opaque and withholding, we in turn lose our authority.
On one hand we may be more intriguing and mysterious, but we also disconnect from people and society. In terms of business, intriguing and mysterious isn’t something people generally want.
I think there are degrees of transparency. From a scale of completely secretive and elusive to TMI. Go as far as you are comfortable. But don’t withhold too much or reveal too much.
You need to find that balance. Give people something to be intrigued by. Give some suspense about a new product launch. Build hype. But when the product is out, be as transparent as you can.
The Business Approach
If you’re an online business that is not on social media, then well, you may as well pack it in now. You’re not a contender. You’re not in the game or considered serious enough. You can’t compete. Out of sight really is out of mind. Even all you bricks and mortars out there, should be on SM.
You need to take full advantage of what social media can do for your business. You need to connect with your target audience. Taco bell is a great example of social media done right.
We don’t even have taco bell here in Oz and I’m not currently following them, and yet I’ve known for years about their great social media presence. They’re ‘killing it on twitter’ according to Huffpost’s article “Whoever Runs Taco Bell’s Twitter Account Deserves a Raise” and have 1.85M followers at the time of this post.
They know how to speak and respond to their target audience in a fun, sassy, playful way that creates viral content that people want to share and follow. The more they do that, the more they stay in the minds of their potential or return customers.
And even deprived foreign entrepreneurs with a love for cheap tacos and interesting marketing tactics – I’m primed and prepped. You can be sure the minute Taco Bell opens in my city, I’m going to be all up in that.
It’s marketing 101 or even business 101 – know your target audience. You can’t have a business without knowing who your customers are. What’s their age? What are they into? What are their likes/dislikes? How much do they earn? Where do they shop? What do they buy? Where do they hang out SM wise? etc. Stalk them as much as legally possible and then speak directly to them – just to them – through their platform of choice.
If you’re a business, you can be more transparent by showing the behind the scenes look at how your business is run or how your products are made. Take a leaf from the businesses that are getting started on Kickstarter and Indiegogo and other popular crowd funding platforms.
Many fundees feel they owe it to their backers to show them what stage they’re at, how they are making their products or how they are spending the money that backed them.
If people didn’t buy your products, you wouldn’t have a business. So, similarly, you should look to your customers and clients as supporters of your business or future business and be as forthcoming as possible about what they would be interested in.
You don’t need to broadcast your earnings or vent about your bad-blood business associates. Keep it professional. Keep them in the loop of the business direction, news, new products, creation processes or brand image and do it in the tone of voice that speaks to them. It just makes good business sense.
And don’t constantly sell. No one chooses to watch advertisements. Take a leaf out of Gary Vaynerchuk’s Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook book on social media marketing. Jab them with engagement and interaction; Attempt to trigger an emotional response from them through your communication, through your story.
A hook alternatively is about selling your product or promoting your business. So don’t be afraid to give them a few jabs before you offer up a right hook.
Make sure your content has value and doesn’t ask for anything in return. Then, when the time is right and you have a new product or offering, by all means, tell them about it.
If you’re confident in your business and your products, and confident you’re doing everything right, then let your competitors see. A little competition is good for business.
The Personal Brand Approach
If you are your brand, then the same goes. Be discreet. Don’t reveal things that will haunt you for the rest of your life or that would have repercussions for your children. Be honest in what people should know. As the military or spy agencies would say put them on a ‘Need to Know Basis’. The world doesn’t need to know that you have a toothache, what colour your underwear is or what you had for lunch (unless you have a health, lingerie or food blog perchance).
Some things are just drivel. There. I said it. I’m sorry, but some things may be important to you, but not to others. You want to give good content and value, so make your words worth saying or displaying. Don’t add filler to your content, just to make it longer. Don’t bore people with the obvious, repetitive or irrelevant.
And don’t be negative or depressing. You don’t want to be in the lonely hearts business for misery. That’s not the company that you want to keep (pun intended). And besides, Moxie girls don’t prey off the emotionally weak by playing the victim card.
It’s important to be able to relate to your audience. If you have a topic that you can give a personal account of that is relevant, then by all means, express yourself. Tell your story.
But if it is not relevant and you’re just looking for a chance to vent about something, then do it on your personal account or restrain from online at all and go and hit up your bff. But don’t do it, in your business. This is not the medium or audience for it.
It’s like having one of those people who talk incessantly in front of you. You’re going to get bored by them easily. Only maybe 5% of what they are saying is interesting and the rest of the time you’re just smiling and nodding.
The Internet Trawler Can Be Superficial B*tch
On the internet, things are a little different. People don’t have to smile and nod or be polite. Our attention spans are super short. More so than IRL. Think, a teething toddler. We want information or entertainment quickly. We want good content, now. Or yesterday.
We don’t want to have to wade through hundreds of words just to find it. We scan through and click away fast. Any excuse to leave and we take it. Don’t give people a reason to click away.
I know within the first 5 seconds, sometimes sooner, whether the site I’m on is worth investing my time on. We all know instinctively. A lot of it has to do with how it looks.
If you’re site doesn’t look professional, there are spelling errors or it’s difficult to navigate, things are hidden, there’s too much irrelevant images or ads, you’re just constantly asking people to buy without giving any good content or you start each article with what your cat is currently doing, then sorry, but I’m going to click away. I myself, am a dog person.
Granted, I may not be your target audience, but you need to consider whether the ones you are attracting are die hard fans or at least “convert”.
If you haven’t taken the time or didn’t care enough to create a good first impression on your site, then it figures that you probably haven’t taken the time or put much effort in it’s content either. With so many professional, good looking and modern templates out there, there really is no excuse for not looking pro. It’s sounds superficial, but time is valuable.
The internet is a huge place. There is so much information out there. Why waste 20 min sifting through a site that is poorly designed and has little to offer, when you can get the same information from somewhere else.
Create your business the way you would like other businesses to be – open, transparent, honest. Put yourself in the mind of your customer and see yourself from the perspective of your ideal client and think about the things they would want to know and what they wouldn’t.
Put yourself out there. Lay your cards on the table. You won’t be able to please everyone all of the time, but you’ll be able to please those that count.