Social Media FAQ #2: What does it mean to be Authentic, Transparent, or Human?

I’m starting a new series, called Social Media Frequently Asked Questions. It’s a collection of the top asked questions I hear over and over. I’m putting them here on my blog is a great place to help everyone quickly get educated, convince their boss, or be able to help their clients get over these hurdles, pass them around.

Social Media FAQ #2: What does it mean to be Authentic, Transparent, or Human?


First, understand the fear of most companies ‘hide’ behind their brand. This means that the collective of all employee contrabiutions are often behind the shield, crest, or banner of a symbol. This is nothing new and goes back to the most primitive of cultures where bands and fiefdoms would form –in nearly every culture.

Things are different now, the internet allows for real people to connect with other real people and have discussions about anything that interests them –void of any shield, crest, or banner. Well to be specific, some people start creating their own individual brands (we see this on many blogs), but it’s at the core individual level.

I’m often asked by clients (part of my role as an analyst is to answer social media questions in what we call ‘advisory sessions’) how far they need to take this notion of transparency. “Can I build a community but outsource moderation?” or “Can I write a team blog but have it created by corporate communications?” or “Can I create podcasts but repurpose brochure content?” The answer I give them for all is “yes, you can…but it won’t be living up to your full potential”.

What does Authentic, Transparent, or being Human look like?

  • Training and entrusting employees to build real relationships using these tools
  • Admitting when you’re wrong
  • Asking the community for help, working with the community to build better products
  • Showing your strengths –and weaknesses –in a public forum
  • Showing more of unique side of the employees (that you invested in) in addition to your products, technology, and services
  • Realizing the brand is actually owned by the community and not just the MarCom brand police
  • Sadly, in most cases, many brands will not go the full distance to show their transparency and humanside –despite that customers are doing this –and will continue to hide behind the crest. But for those that go the full distance and trust employees to build real human relationships, they won’t achieve their full potential.


    Now back to you all, I know there’s a lot of Social Media Strategists that are wrestling with this internally or working with a client: How do you advise your stakeholders to be Authentic, Transparent, or Human?