Are you as transparent offline as you are online?
Image: Courtney Murray Rhodes, Creative Commons
If you’ve embraced social media, you’ve embraced its call for transparency.
But has transparency seeped its way into your business? Are you just as open with your customers, staff and vendors in person as you are online?
It used to be that business leaders held their cards close to their chest. But now tactical transparency is the name of the game.
“Tactical Transparency” is what John C. Havens, co-author of the book by the same name, calls the “use of social media tools to let brands talk authentically about their products and services to their community.” Havens says “it’s a behavior as well as a philosophy.”
Of course we all know that if you’re not engaged online, whether it’s a blog, social media platform or website, your business is missing out on valuable face time with consumers and marketers. You might as well not exist.
Yet once you’re connected online, what can you do to make sure you’re staying connected on the ground?
Be Open. Be Honest.
Small businesses can be better suited for change than large companies, but change can still be abrupt and cause some disruption.
Maybe a vendor goes out of business. Maybe someone quits unexpectedly. These things can shift the focus away from work and cause distractions. No need to be shy about it.
By letting your customers know that deliveries might be delayed or that there’s a shift in organization, you can alleviate concerns before they escalate. In addition, by letting people know that you need a new printer, for example, will most likely bring in recommendations and other options.
Don’t Pretend You’re Invincible
You’re a small business and proud of it, so why are you pretending that you’re bigger or more financially secure than you are?
Celebrate the fact that being small makes you unique. And, as a result, it requires that invoices are to be paid and that meeting deadlines on time means that you can move onto the next project.
Your customers need to know that while you’re able to provide them a product that others can’t, money does in fact help the lights stay on and keep your employees paid.
Stand up for yourself and your business in a way that makes it clear that you can separate the personal from the professional.
Talk the Talk, Walk the Walk
Don’t just read books about cultivating your employees’ energy or attend conferences about facilitating change; take the steps to implement activities and initiatives that motivate, inspire and invigorate your company to do great things.
As a small business, we have the freedom to play.
So take a walk in the woods. Take your staff out for pedicures. Go to the movies.
Not only will taking a break show your employees that you care not only about the end product, but about their well being. As well, taking a break can bring new perspectives and ideas, which can help build and grow your company, while building trust and loyalty among your employees.
Tactical transparency doesn’t mean baring all. But it does require that you practice what you preach. A business that spends time reaching out online needs to invest equally offline.
- How to handle sudden bad news, from BusinessWeek
- An older but still relevant interview with John C. Havens on building trust with transparency from Fast Company
- Tinu Abayomi-Paul on the limits of social networking surrogacy
Regular contributor Melanie Spring is the principal and project director at Sisarina Inc., and an avid reader of Women Grow Business. An expert networker, Melanie and Sisarina connect individuals and companies with the tools they need to market and promote their brand successfully and efficiently. Connect with her on Twitter where she’s @sisarina.