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Posted on Aug 18, 2010 in Business 2.0, Reframing Social Media | 8 comments

Why do we preach authenticity and transparency? What’s all this really about?

Warm hug

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All this talk about Twitter and Facebook engagement, how you need to be authentic and transparent, let people behind the scenes, tell stories.  This is all well and good, and enough (some might say too much) has been written about the what and the how.

We should talk more about the why.  Not the why in the “so we can help make you money” sense (I would file that squarely in the ‘results of efforts’ column, on the other side of the equals sign).  The why in the “what are the bigger forces we are aligning ourselves with by taking your advice on communications” sense.

Here’s why (I think).  We are all working to dissolve adversarial relationships between people.

We realize that working together toward a common goal is more powerful than any positioning based on “what do I have to give you so that you do what I want”.

We notice this every day in our lives, when we reach out for help, or give a hug to a friend or a smile on the street or put a dollar in a homeless person’s hand, or tell our kids that we love them.

Many of us don’t think that this kind of interaction doesn’t scale to the world of business, where people inside the company are responsible for doing whatever is necessary to get people outside of the company to part with their money.

This is crap.  Not only is it adversarial, but it’s bad business.  People know when your intent is not pure, even subconsciously.  The more strategic you come off, the more adversarial the relationship between you and not-you becomes.

There are so many examples lately of companies and industries that find themselves in a spiral of adversity-based business decisions (see: music business).  Just today I was reading on the elevator (thanks captivate.com) that airlines are beginning to charge for seats with leg room.  My reptile brain takes this to mean that this airline doesn’t want anyone to have a good experience flying with them unless we’re willing to pay extra for it.

So why do we say ‘be authentic and transparent’?  Because when we dissolve the ‘us vs them’ mentality, we can get down to the business of creating and awesome experience for everyone who interacts with us.  If you’re in a business situation, the perception around the exchange of funds shifts from ‘I guess I can part with my money because I need or want this” to “I’m excited to be a part of what this purchase makes possible”.   If you’re in a personal situation, you get that good feeling that connecting can bring.  You make a new friend, or lover, or contact.

This is the position we’re in.  Our job isn’t really to recommend a digital strategy for people.  That’s just a trojan horse.  Our jobs, our passion as communicators (whether we’re conscious of it or not) is dissolving adversity, one communication point at a time.

It’s the most important thing we can do as people, for the health of the world.

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  • Tess The Bold Life

    My daughter flies for Southwest there is a reason they are no.1 in the biz. Great insights here.

  • http://ronamok.com ronploof

    Focusing on the one-word question of “Why?” is the most important thing that businesses can do.

    Because customers are people first.
    Because people have great BS detectors
    Because people now have unprecedented access to both information AND their personal networks.
    Because they no longer need to listen to marketers…TiVo has a very popular feature called the “fast-forward” button.

    I love the question, Jeremy. Great post.

  • Anonymous

    Great post, Jeremy! I love the idea of breaking down the us vs them aspect that is so prevalent in our businesses. Of course, it’s hard to do, but as you point out, if you want to create transformative momentum, then you have to focus on the vision and not the barriers.

  • http://www.conversationagent.com ConversationAgent

    Lead by example comes to mind. As well as Randy Pausch head fake. Good food for thought here, Jeremy.

  • http://www.jeremymeyers.com/ Jeremy Meyers

    Lots of great stuff in this reply. Thanks, Gregory.

  • http://www.jeremymeyers.com/ Jeremy Meyers

    Thanks, Amanda. I’ms o glad you found it resonant!

  • http://spiralout.posterous.com/ GregoryJRader

    Great post Jeremy,
    I think there is a corollary to these comments in the evolving structure of the market. Traditional economics textbook competition is becoming less relevant as markets broaden. In innovative sectors it is becoming much less common to see multiple companies producing very similar or substitute-able products. Instead it is the dual threats of competitive entry into the market and leapfrog innovation that force companies to continue progressing. For example, we might say that Bing is a competitor to Google, but few people believe that Google is seriously threatened by that challenge because Bing offers no serious innovation over Google. The true challenge to Google is from Facebook, a new market entrant that would be competing with a leapfrog innovation (social search) rather than an equivalent traditional search offering.

    I think this trend encourages the type of behavior that you are promoting. In many areas, markets now demand that companies collaborate with their competitors, developing standards, interoperability, facilitating communication and connections between platforms, etc. Likewise, competition against potential market entrants rather than traditional competitors encourages more innovation, more seizing of opportunities, and less cut-throat profit maximization. It is fitting that the examples you cite (airlines, music) are among those industries where competing firms are essentially interchangeable and therefore can only increase or maintain returns by pinching pennies.

  • http://www.amandalee.org amandalee

    What a great post. I’m going to forward this to everyone I know that works online.