As we journey farther into the age of new social media, individuals gain more and more power. Dialogue and feedback with peers is treasured like gold and companies have to constantly try to win us over to keep consumers in a relationship. Corporations are going as far as exposing their inter workings of the business. Editor-in-chief of Wired Magazine and author of The Long Tail, Chris Anderson has notice the “shift from secrecy to transparency.” Like I stated in an earlier post, the traditional model of communication has been literally turned upside down. Most businesses policy of information outside the company to non-employees is confidential. However, something radical has happen to transparency. Companies have created a venue for people inside and outside the company to know the detailed business scoop.
Companies like Dow Chemical have created intranet network using blogs for employees to discuss any business issue. These posts are unmonitored and unfiltered messages that never see communication person for tweaking. As a result, company’s communication and trust grow tremendously.
British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have used social networks as space for employees to communicate, but at a costly price. In The Economist, companies used Facebook and MySpace to reach a larger audience. Employees were using these forums to bash the safety standards and vent their frustrations about passengers on board. This immediately became a Public Relations disaster for the two companies. Companies learned from the event is to educate employees what’s appropriate online and follow company’s guidelines. The shift to radical transparency just came down a level. Companies are beginning to worry about the risk over the reward of social media. If companies are not ready for negative comments on issues, then companies are not ready for social media. Monitoring messages for “rouge employee” is understandable, but monitoring messages can dilute the raw feedback from others. Tim Leberecht says it perfectly in his article, Trends for 2009: Radical Transparency, when a company publicizes that they have nothing to hide, it highlights they have a lot to show. This is fundamental idea of corporations being authentic.
There are companies taking transparency to a whole other level. Marc Hedlund, CEO and co-founder of Wesabe, a web-based software company that gives financial advice, is taking transparency and authenticity to another level. Hedlund is taking calls from 12-4pm to hear what consumers have to say. We should applaud him for his company’s efforts in radical transparency. Others should follow in his footsteps.