One of the biggest challenges companies face in the online world, with social media, blogging and content marketing in general, is knowing how much they should be revealing about themselves. Should you be hiding things? Or should you be exposing everything, warts and all?
Being honest with your audience, at first glance, appears counter-intuitive. After all, if your readers know everything about you – the good, the bad and the ugly – why should they keep reading your blog, share your content and buy your products or services? If they know about all the bad stuff, why would they still care about the good? Simply put, it’s because they will trust you more.
Striving for perfection is a great goal to have, and not just as a company; but, actually achieving perfection, particularly as a company, is just not a possibility. There will always be issues that need resolving, products that have flaws and days where nothing seems to be going how they are supposed to be going. The question is, should you be honest about these issues with your blog readers?
Company transparency, as a concept, has been gaining a lot of ground in recent years. Consumers are more interested than ever in knowing what’s behind the shiny façade of a company so that they can decide for themselves if they want to buy their products. And when it comes to blogging, they want to learn more about your company than how amazing it is, how great your products are and how well the business is doing.
While historically companies have never really been in such a position, with blogging (and the Internet in general, really) and social consciousness comes a certain need for transparency and honesty. But this doesn’t have to be a bad thing for your business ,and here’s why:
Building trust and loyalty
One of the biggest challenges that businesses face when they create a company blog is gaining their audiences’ trust.
Many companies tend to use their blogs as an advertising platform where they can talk about how great they are, what amazing products they have and how everyone loves them. The issue with that? Nobody will believe them or take their blogs seriously.
In order to build trust, just like with any relationship, you need honesty. When you show your audience that you are ready to expose any issues you might be facing, you take one more step towards building a stronger, more trusting relationship.
Transparency can also help you build more trust and loyalty with your audience. More and more companies are using this – just look at Buffer, which takes transparency to a new level. Not only are they making things like their salaries and their revenue public information, but they are even taking it so far as to publish each email sent between teammates and even the books they are reading.
People are becoming more socially conscious and these are the types of values that now appeal to them. Buffer is one of the mare radical cases of transparency but there are a lot that companies can learn from them.
Using this kind of transparency on your company blog invites more trust and loyalty from your audience. This doesn’t mean you need to publish your entire financial history or copies of each email you’ve ever sent; rather, use your blog to share anything relevant about your business, whether it be good or bad.
An engaging blog
I’ve talked earlier about how some companies use their blogs as a means to advertise their products and to talk about how great and amazing their products are; but not only does it not ring true to most readers, it also doesn’t make for a very engaging blog.
Instead, use your blog as a means to share more of yourself and your company. After all, that’s what blogging is about and it’s supposed to be more personal and revealing than other, more traditional media publications. It’s the small personal touches that can turn a blog from great to amazing, and personal details can turn a blog from boring to engaging.
Build a closer relationship with your audience
We are all imperfect, as human beings and companies. Exposing some of your companies’ flaws can actually endear you to your readers. After all, perfection is difficult to relate to for any one of us, simply because we are not, and can never be, perfect.
I think it’s also important to consider that flaws and other issues always seem to find a way to come to light; but if your readers find out about your flaws from some third party they could be, quite understandably, mad and see you as dishonest. But if they find about it from you, then they are more willing to understand.
Think about the people in your life and the mistakes they make: if you were to find about these mistakes from some third party, wouldn’t you be more upset than if they admitted the issues themselves?
Admitting you made a mistake, or that things aren’t going the way they are supposed to, inspires understanding; while if you don’t admit anything and your readers find out from a different source, then it will look as though you are hiding and, at the end of the day, lying, even if by omission.
Stand out from the crowd
Even though more and more companies are starting to employ transparency as a business tactic and trying to be as honest as possible, most of them still don’t. Being honest about your mistakes and shortcomings can actually help you grow your business and help you stand out from the crowd. Just look at the aforementioned Buffer; while there is no denying it is a great social media tool, that’s not the only reason why it got to be one of the top most successful tools. Their transparency policy and their very honest blog have definitely helped in not only making them one of the top social media tools, but also turned their blog into a go-to source for businesses and marketers looking for great social media advice. Not to mention, their radical transparency policy is what attracted a lot of attention to them by the media and consequently, by the public.
An honest attitude on your blog attracts more readers, more attention, more debates and ultimately, more engagement.
So, how much should you be exposing in your blog? There is no right answer to this question, in my opinion – but, I believe in most cases it helps to be as honest as possible, even with the bad stuff. As harmful and counter-intuitive it can seem to share too much, it can actually be hugely beneficial: it can help you stand out from the crowd, build a more trusting relationship with your audience and grow a more loyal reader base. What do you think? How much should you be sharing on your blog?