Note: This post is longer than my usual but if you read it all, you'd learn a lot! :)
Last week, my neighbour told me she was duped by someone on the online dating service Plenty of Fish (POF). The story goes like this:
Met this guy a month ago who’s also a graphic designer. We’ve been chatting almost nightly on Skype. Finally, he asks me out on a date so we make plans on where to meet! Anyway, we were chatting on Facebook and I asked him when/where he went to design school.
She finds out that the guy isn’t really a graphic designer
After skirting around the question, he eventually admitted he only helped design part of a project for the landscaping company he works for. He did volunteer work for them. He was employed as a gardener: as such, he was paid only for that type of work. In fact, he said he’s never taken any courses in graphic design or have worked as a graphic artist! To top it off, he wasn’t single: he was currently married!
My friend is a single, young, successful graphic designer
She’s looking for someone to settle down and start a family with. This is not the 1st, 2nd or 3rd horror story she’s told me about guys she meets online. To be honest, I lost track already cause there have been too many! I was getting frustrated for her and I seriously don’t wanna hear any more stories like this so I told her to stop using these dating websites.
Why am I telling you this story?
Honesty is a valued, appreciated and sought-after trait in both individuals and companies. Unless you are a skilled liar or worse (a sociopath/psychopath), trying to hide who you are or outright lying about who you are is not desirable to anyone.
Would you condemn my friend from wanting to get away (and fast!) from the guy who says one thing but is really another person? She made her intentions clear early on when they met online and it’s even mentioned on her POF profile that she’s “looking for a serious relationship …. ” Perhaps the guy didn’t even read her profile and just talked to her, maybe he doesn’t even care!
If you try to mislead, misinform your audience or misrepresent yourself …
… eventually the truth has a way of coming out and you will look stupid! Just like the guy in this story, you will not score any sympathy points or get a date with a really awesome graphic designer friend I know.
If you are on a dating site, I hope you find someone who is honest, open and trustworthy, otherwise you would feel betrayed! I hope you find someone transparent. I also hope that you are an honest/transparent individual yourself!
Context is important
I define transparency as being able to build consumer trust through honest and open communication.
- As a blogger, publicist, writer, teacher, company CEO (or whatever title you may have), being transparent means you are open with your information.
- You don’t withhold information or purposely mislead or misinform a client/customer in order to profit from them or make sales.
- You have integrity, ethics and the intention of making a profit through honest and professional means!
Appropriate limits to transparency
Let’s say you own a sportswear company and you tweet your own stuff on Twitter. One day, you have had more than a few drinks and you are composing a tweet mentioning you “are going to a strip club tonight!” I hope if you do end up doing that, you come to your senses and delete it quickly especially when your consumer base is comprised of mostly females belonging to the teen to young adult age group. Not only would this tweet be TMI (too much information), it would also be inappropriate!
If a parent/guardian of your customer reads your crass tweet, you bet your sweet apple pie that you lose that customer’s business! They may even tell their friends that you’re a perv and suggest they spend their money elsewhere! The responsible adult would not want their child/family member to shop from a guy who has no apparent filter on what he says to the public. Herein lies the limit to transparency: the importance of context. I will clarify below.
If it’s not helpful to your business or if it doesn’t provide useful info for your consumers, DO NOT POST IT!
Obviously, you can keep your personal life separate from your professional life. There is no need to broadcast your activities at a strip club when it does not help promote the clean, wholesome image of your sportswear brand. I would hope that if you do post information, it is for the benefit of consumers. It better be something that makes you look good; something based on honesty! It is admirable to post something like:
For those who ordered online, sorry the cycling shorts are delayed for another week. We offer you a 25% coupon to our store or a straight refund no questions asked!
If I was one of those customers eagerly waiting for my shorts to ship on-time because I need another new pair for spin class, you bet that I’d be happy to know ASAP that my order is delayed and that the vendor is offering something good for the inconvenience. He may not have mentioned why the shipment is delayed (it may not be important) but I do appreciate him telling me when I can expect my package to arrive!
Why being transparent is important to organizations in social media
In the sportswear shipping delay example above, the vendor is honest and has told me my shipment is delayed by a week. This is important because he has given me a heads-up; in turn, after a week of my shipment not showing up on the original date it was supposed to get to me, I will not be angry because I knew beforehand that there was a delay.
I would gladly order from this vendor again …
… because he is pro-active and informed me of what was happening. In my eyes, he is reliable. I like reliable. I trust reliable. I would order from Mr. Honest and Reliable again! In fact, I would promote his services, refer him to my family and friends simply because he is a responsible vendor. Transparency is a win-win situation on social media!
Being in Integrity
Lida Citroen wrote an online article Social Media Transparency: You are what you post in which she mentions:
Years ago, I had a client who cancelled our meeting the morning of an important deliverable. I’d worked hours to prepare the materials and presentation to her senior executive team, and first thing in the morning I received this email: “Hi Lida. I’m so sorry to cancel, but I think I have food poisoning and am home in bed….” I understood her circumstances and wished her a speedy recovery. Imagine my surprise when I then log in to Facebook to find this post from her: “Decided to play hooky today! Hello spa pedicure…” accompanied by a photo of her soaking feet.
I would think the client Lida gave as an example was just an inconsiderate individual but the more I think about it, this client is just not integrity. For me, being in integrity means to follow through on your actions and say what you mean. If you made an appointment with me, I expect you to respect my time and be there when you said you would be there. Also, let me know if you’re going to be late to our meeting. I prefer to know, you were stuck in traffic or you had to clean-up after your dog before you were able to head out the door today.
Don’t leave me waiting!
Why couldn’t the client just have said, “Lida, I am really needing a personal day today. Would I be able to reschedule with you at a later time so I can give you the time and attention you deserve?”
If I were in Lida’s shoes …
… and someone made this request to me, I would be disappointed because I spent so much time and effort on working on that important deliverable BUT I would not be angry if I logged into facebook and saw a picture of my client’s spa pedicure post there! She was honest with me and I appreciate that.
Lida’s client could have just asked Linda to present to the Senior Executive team without her. The client may not have needed to give a reason for her absence. The client could also inform Lida she has the option of presenting as originally planned OR be able to re-schedule a presentation with this client and the Exec. team for a later time. Either way, if Lida did see that foot soak picture on facebook, she is not angry or disappointed for being lied to.
Make Them Pay
I suppose it is possible that the client could just be a spoiled individual who is just used to being inconsiderate and that Lida was meant to see this woman play hooky by posting on facebook. Perhaps this was a sign for Lida to ensure she has a clause in her contract to potential/existing customers that cancelling out at the last hour incurs you a non-refundable fee.
How my chiropractor had low cancellation rates at his practice
My chiropractor was smart and had this clinic policy: $85 fine for cancelling any appointments. Of course, he would make concessions for those who would cancel within 48-hours notice i.e. they could cancel for no cost/fee, no questions asked! Obviously, they could re-book for a later time. Unless it was an emergency, they were politely reminded that the Dr. had any patients who would have appreciated taking an appointment with him!
Take Away Message
I titled this blog post “You are what you post” because it is true for me and I choose to believe it. If you mislead or misrepresent yourself: what you are is a liar. You post lies = you are a liar. If you don’t do this lying purposely, yet still manage to end up lying, perhaps you are confused, delusional or both. It is analogous to the saying: “you are what you eat.” If you eat cheap and easy food like McDonald’s hamburgers with cardboard filler, then that’s what you are i.e. cheap and easy! Is that what you want to be? Or would you rather be straight-forward, honest, sincere and approachable? I would hope you choose the latter.
The gist of this blog
No matter what you say about who you are and what you’ve done, you are what you post.
You make a reputation based on your words, actions, intentions and follow-through!
Final Note: To the guy on POF, you messed up, big-time. You could have admitted you are a gardener who is going through a painful divorce, and a potential mid-life crisis (except you don’t know it); perhaps if you were transparent early on, my friend would not have run away from you so fast.