The Myth of Social Media Transparency

What Does Social Media Transparency Even Mean?

Social media transparency is often cheered, but social media being a transparent platform is a myth.

Question: How on earth can a medium in which we have complete control over be transparent?

Over the weekend President Obama was asked about Twitter when talking with a group of Chinese students.  Obama was asked, “Do you know about the great firewall and should we be able to use Twitter?” His reply: “I have never used Twitter but I’m an advocate of technology and not restricting internet access.

Uh…what?  Never used Twitter?  WTF?  After all, it was Obama who was absolutely masterful in his presidential campaign’s use of social media…it’s one of the tools that helped propel him from unknown IL Senator to the presidential front-runner.  His 2.6 million twitter followers have cheered his campaign’s pledge of transparency for using Twitter.  So exactly how has someone with 2.6 million followers never used the service?

Social media allows for the ability to be open, but transparency implies I can see through the smoke.  Transparency assumes participants have more control.

But people and organizations still have complete control over their social media activities.  They control what is posted and projected.  They have control over the brand they wish to portray themselves.  They have control who is in their networks.  They have control over how accurate or inaccurate and genuine their information is.

The wizard behind the curtain is the one I want you to see.

So what exactly is transparent about calculated and strategized content?  In most cases with companies and brands…social media is no more transparent than a television or radio commercial.  You get no more understanding of who they are or what they’re like in a real person than you would with a print ad.  Brands generally do not address problems or gaffes or crises without the full sign off of a deep public relations team.

So just what is this transparency everyone is talking about?

It’s the potential.  And just as with anything, not everyone…in fact, most brands and companies do not live up or even acknowledge this potential.  Some do, and those companies are reaping big rewards and creating virtual armies of folks who not only loyally buy their products…but encourage others to do the same.

Transparency implies you can see through something.  What you should strive for in your business social media activities is not for us to see through you…but for people to see you as you are.

Commentators and marketers are correct in their understanding of the potential of social media…they’re just using the wrong terms.

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Scott S Bishop
Scott S. Bishop is editor for Real Time Marketer and a marketing strategist with a specialty in social media. He is an avid blogger and active across the net. He is @thescottbishop on Twitter
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