The Recommendation Age (Part Three): Law of Transparency

| April 6, 2014

law_of_transparencyThe Recommendation Age is the natural follow-up to the Information Age. Instead of letting brands tell them what to think and choose, consumers are going to friends, family, online reviewers, social media, and thousands of other outlets for a recommendation. Past articles have covered the Law of Consumer Confidence and the Law of Authenticity. The third law is The Law of Transparency.

In today’s consumer-powered marketplace, transparency isn’t just a “best practice.” It’s essential if you want to stay in business. On the tails of Consumer Confidence and Authenticity, Transparency is the third Law of the Recommendation Age.

If authenticity is how you communicate, then transparency is what you communicate – and to what depth of detail.

Three Degrees of Transparency
Marketing veteran and educator Beth Harte explains the three degrees of transparency, according to the simple gradients of light transmission.

• Transparency. Letting all the light through unfiltered. These companies may leverage customer service training to limit mishaps and maximize results. But a transparent company won’t script interactions or restrict conversations to problem relevance only.

• Opacity. Blocking off transmission of light. These companies strictly limit disclosure and personal engagement with customers to problem solving and scripted replies.

• Translucency. Letting filtered or diffused light through. These companies toe the line between transparent and opaque, installing limits and filters as deemed appropriate for the goals and nature of the business.

The Hallmarks of Transparency
Transparency in social media doesn’t have to be heavy and deep; it just needs to be genuine, spontaneous, and human enough to impact another person. We all know that on the other end of that AT&T customer service line, there is a real human being. Somewhere behind that Bank of America Twitter account, there’s somebody with family, stress, joy, worries, and passion. But most of the time, we never have interactions real enough to make us consciously aware of these facts.

Am I asking AT&T or Bank of America employees to “be transparent” by sharing all about their personal lives? Definitely not. As I said, transparency isn’t about being deep, sentimental, or mushy. It’s simply about being genuine and spontaneous – saying something that other real people can relate to!

Taco Bell probably understands transparency better than any other mega-corporate brand out there. I could cherry pick a few of their Tweets, but the steady stream of genuine, spontaneous, and human Tweets that fill their page is what really makes Taco Bell such a transparent company on social media.

Why Choose Transparency?
From a numbers perspective, transparency builds strong customer relations. And, if done right, transparency is the super food of relationships. It helps encourage feelings of connection and long-term commitment between your brand and your customers.

If you need any proof of the fact that retaining customers is profitable, just see what management consultants Frederick Reichheld and Earl Sasser found in a 1990 Harvard Business Review paper:

Companies can boost profits by almost 100 percent by retaining just five percent more of their customers, whether you are a Big Six accounting firm, Microsoft, or Olga’s Blintz and Borscht Parlor.

From the human side, being transparent is so much more enjoyable and freeing than being just another social media drone!

How Should You Be Transparent?
Choose a level of transparency that works for you and your brand. How far beyond your product or service will you go? Will you discuss strategy? Your side projects? Your personal life? How deep into your personal life – kids’ names? vacation spots? Keep in mind that you don’t have to pick a single “transparency level” that applies to every situation. Just stick to your main objective:

Be genuine. Be spontaneous. Be human.

Category: Management

About the Author ()

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Email | Website | Bob Hutchins (Franklin, TN) runs Buzzplant (, A 12+ year old Internet marketing agency targeting the faith/family market. His team was an integral part of the online campaign for Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, The Chronicles of Narnia, Soul Surfer, and many other movies, books, music releases, and events. His client/partner roster includes Time-Life, Sony Pictures, General Motors, Twentieth Century Fox, Disney, Warner Brothers, Thomas Nelson Publishers and Zondervan. He is co-founder of The Faith-Based Marketing Association and Ground Force Network, and has been featured on Fox News, MSNBC, in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, INC Magazine, Fortune Magazine, MarketingVOX, American City Business Journals, Dallas Morning News, and on various television/radio media. He is also the co-author of Faith Based Marketing, published by John Wiley and Sons, and his second book- The Recommendation Age. He also teaches Social Media Marketing to MBA students at Belmont University in Nashville, TN.