Transparency Thickens the Skins

For years Daniel Snyder, owner of the NFL Washington Redskins team, has been absolutely loath by fans…well until recently. Seen by many as a well-off business man that knows little about football and more about ticket sales, sat down with Hogs Heaven blogger Ken Meringolo and Kevin Ewoldt for a tough Q&A. But can a Q&A restore a NFL owner’s image? Team Snyder is back in D.C.

After the first part of the interview with HH, I started asking myself: Is Dan Snyder actually like us more than we thought. Is he an average joe, Redskin lover, Sunday tailgating-griller kind of guy? The recent interview reminded Redskin fans that he is human. Not a blood sucking biz man. The Snyder-opoly that is taking place with the lots of land around the FedEx Field are being used to maximize tailgating experience, one of Dan’s precious memories when he was young Redskin fan. The interview hit Snyder with all the hard questions that needed to be answered. Sounds like Snyder’s is keeping the Skin fans at heart and not the ROI sheet.

With his new coaching staff, veteran quarter back, and rejuvenated  spirits of the other players; Snyder’s smartest business decision for Washington Redskins is his new hands-off ownership approach. Being praised by his best additions to the roster, GM Bruce Allen and head coach Mike Shanahan, Snyder gains respect from all pigskin lovers. Owners of NFL team can cripple their chance of success. The perfect example of this toxic relationship is owner Al Davis and Oakland Raiders franchise. But that’s a different story. Now Snyder is letting the football experts do what they do best, lead their team to the playoffs and brings Lombardi trophies back to the District!

With heart-felt apologies, detailed explanations of past mistakes and short sight failures, the fans might actually start forgiving Snyder for the dismal football season last year. Snyder’s interview was just what he needed. A rally of fans for Team Snyder.  Through transparency came authenticity, the basic by-product of communication that can change the attitudes of worst disgruntled hog lovers.

For the past two months I have been asking myself, why do we use social media? The answer is to create conversation, and hopefully one that is transparent. Social media leader, Brian Solis and creative agency JESS3 have brilliantly created an improved version a Web 2.0 Conversation Prism. The Conversation Prism has several different layers to represent the “expansiveness of Social Web and the conversations that define it.”  Solis points out that transparency serves various forms of both genuine and hollow, which are separated by their purpose and impression. Relationships are measured in the value, action, and attitude that others take away from each conversation.  Transparency and authenticity of each conversation will ultimately bring information and solutions to others.

Maybe it was implied in Solis’ model, but what makes everything work together is trust. We trust that all users, companies, organizations, and bloggers, will “honor the trust they have been given.”  Web 2.0 needs a guide of ethics so what is published online can be seen as transparent, and making brands truly authentic.

We have become more trusting over time, relying on information based on relevance and how accessible they are to find instead of trustworthiness. The day we do not have to keep our guard up when entering a conversation is the day true transparency has arrived. We have learned through others that social media can be the breeding ground of truth or the contagious spreading area of lies and dishonesty. No, I haven’t become a pessimist of Web 2.0. I just think that before anyone enters a conversation we all should look at it with cautious eyes and hope what we see is the truth. Authenticity will follow right behind.

YouTube has become a huge part of media, especially social media. The average college student is overwhelmed with the amount of videos they can watch and can share with others. A normal class period conversation usually includes their most recent video findings on YouTube.  Users can use YouTube to share video, comment on videos, and share their stories to others. With interactive buttons like SHARE that allow users to share on social networks, websites, and even embed video into a post or comment is amazing. The YouTube community has sky-rocketed, with the sloan Broadcast Yourself  gives the idea that everyone can be a producer by uploading their videos for millions to watch. In fact, YouTube released a statistic stating that every minute, ten hours of video are uploaded to their site. A YouTube revolution has started and couldn’t be stopped.

Soon, individuals became YouTube celebrities as people around the world followed their posting like lonelygirl15.  She immediately became a YouTube star of reality entertainment. Lonelygirl15 was an home-schooled  16 year-old teenager girl with religious parents who secretly recorded all her videos in her bedroom. The long series of video started in June 2006 and ended in August 2008. Her followers quickly jumped to 2 million viewers and had one highest watched channels on YouTube. After more videos were posted, people began to grow suspicious  if she was real.  Later, actress Jessica Rose and her filmmaker, screenwriter, and photographer were discovered to be a fake.  Everyone was fooled and not too happy. Below is a video of die-hart explaining why YouTubers were so upset of the scam.

We all know that YouTube is flooded with pointless videos and that’s why we love it. But when this micro-soap hoax was uncovered, we saw YouTubers truly get pissed that people would post non-authentic material the site. Even YouTubers had an expectation of truth and honesty.

Recently, we have discussed the shift to secrecy to radical transparency. I usually think of large corporations and brands to be transparent and authentic, but what about the government. Government can be transparent and authentic?  Government has also made the transition to new social media communication. During the presidential election of 2004, Howard Dean did one right thing before his infamous “Whoo!” that destroyed his campaign. Dean was one of the first to use social media tools in the political arena to communicate to the American people. This opened a huge advantage on the blogosphere by communicating his ideas to the masses. Social media plays an important part in the realm of politics, more than we think. Below is a video that explains the how new social media has impacted politics.

 

 

Today, the use of social media outlets has become normal in politics, especially elections. President Obama has mastered the art of communicating through social media tools like Facebook, Tweeter, and his campaign blog. I mean President Obama does have the most popular Facebook profile with 5,998,801 supporters. He just might have this “social media thing” down. President Obama has brought Web 2.0 into the White House. With the nickname White House 2.0, transparency and authenticity have become key concepts to the new administration. Ellen Miller, executive director of Sunlight Foundation, discusses how government should be open and governments’ responsibility. Below are some of her suggestions about government use of social media.

 

 

This idea of a transparent and authentic government relates back to the core beliefs of the social contract, where the government and citizens have a mutual relationship to inform and education the people on issues of politics. It’s our civic duty to stay educated on political issues but government has to supply the venue to enlighten the people.

Michael Bailey, creator of future MobaTalk Conversation Studio, has put together a great checklist in warning others of how users of social media tools, such as blogs, microblogs, presence, wikis, and social networks, fake transparency and authenticity on the Web.

We all know it takes time and energy to have a transparent and authentic site. Today, most presence, miniature blogs, have easy interactive tools that allowsa  person or company to automate the process.

Here are my comments to his 10 ways to fake transparency

1. Using Twitter is great to message people and keep them updated. But like mass-texting, no one likes to receive the same general message your automated follow-bot that send a (Direct Message (DM) to new followers.

2. Publishing goals are great but they should be realistic. Having super-optimistic goals can grow annoying and tiresome for others. 

3. I despise anything that pops up on my screen. Shiny distractions like “Win an iPod” and banner ads that take away for the content turn me off. Keep it simple and clear. I’m trying to focus!

4. This is just plain wrong for a company to do. Skewing facts for people to quickly believe is just unethical. They might as well be reciting their sales pitch to you instead.  

5. I’m not an expert and I try not to sound like one. Blogging is sharing ideas and expanding information. I try to comment back to create real conversation to others. Interactivity is essential to create dialogue. 

6. Again, I not an expert and to talk to users as if they are behind-in-the-times is condescending. I personally hate to be talk down to or as if I should have known the information already. It’s a continuing learning process for people online. Remember, we are expanding information and  so get off your high-horse.

7.  Exploiting the insecurities of others is one of the worst things you can do to hind your own insecurities. It shows that you don’t have any confidence in yourself or the company.

8. Looking like the hero might work once, if you are lucky. People will figure you out faster than you think. People are watching closer now than ever online. 

9. I like it when people agree with my ideas but to ignore or block those who don’t agree is limiting the different points of views and valid argues others could be making. This is a sharing process but also a listening and responding process too.  I think everyone has learned their lesson from Dell Hell fiasco about ignoring readers. It only backfires in the long run. Check out Alex’s blog for more information.

10. Companies should use these genius suggestions if they ask for them.  To never implement others ideas, the company might as well not have a outlet out all to submit them. Dell’s IdeaStrom is a great example of a company that has used many suggestions from people outside the company.

Bill Breen’s Who Do You Love? article, written back in December of 2007, perfectly highlights the appeals and risk of authenticity. He lists four primary strands that gives a brand or person a emotional connection to viewers that truly make them real. The four stands are:

A sense of place. Authenticity comes from a place we can connect with others and does not need to be literal.

A strong point of view. When people are passionate about what they are doing, they share it to others.

Serving a larger purpose.  Naturally, people tell the truth and others believe them until shown otherwise. A brands’ primary goal is to sell. But, when they can convinces you that the companies’ profit-making is for only a by-product of a larger purpose, then it’s authentic.

Integrity. Authenticity comes to a brand that is what it says it is. When a brand’s actions and the story being told  matches up, then it’s authentic. 

And if you’re still not certain on how to spot companies faking authenticity then take the Quiz.

 

 

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February 2005, McDonald paid an ad agency, TypePad, to create a fake blog to go along with their Super Bowl ad hoax that a French Fry was shaped as Lincoln. The commercials were a two part series, one commercial at kick off show and one in the first quarter. Below is a video that has combined the two commercials together. McDonald’s began their complementary blog shortly after the commercial aired.

To see the commercials in two parts, click here to see part 1 and here to see part 2.

Because the commercial was brilliantly put together in a two part series, it double the catastrophic effect of destroying McDonald’s name.  The commercials were affective and got people to link into McDonald’s fake blog. Shel Israel blog teaches us that good blogs have passion and authority. Companies that hire ad agencies to  get bloggers to be connected to the company are not confident about their products. Faking blogs are lose-lose situation and will only catch up with the company in the long run. When a company has their name on a product or any type social media outlet, the company reputation is attributed to it. Such damaging decisions, like creating a fake blog, can a be company Waterloo. The consequences of deceiving the public throws a companies credibility and reputation right out the window. 

Now, McDonald’s has setup pretty transparent  corporate social responsibility blog that has revamped their image to the public. Their blog mishap has taught them a lesson and now states on the site, “CSR is everyone’s business, and we should communicate with that idea in mind.” Hopefully, companies can learn from them that it doesn’t pay to be fake. 

 

 

 

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Corporations, organizations, and individuals have been doing this “social media” thing for a while now. It was just destined to happen sooner or later. I’m talking about faking transparency. What’s even worse, sometimes it’s not an employee that is doing the faking. Jeremiah Owyang’s blog post, A Chronology of Brands that Got Punk’d by Social Media, added Exxon Mobil to the list in August due to a Tweeter imposture. A “Janet” created and replying to messages on the Tweeter account for Exxon Mobil without their authorization. Here is an example of one Janet’s Tweets.

The imposture accumulated a large following on Tweeter before being caught. This unpaid fanatic showed how easy it is to “brand jack” from a successful business.  The spokesman for Exxon Mobil, Alan Jeffers, reported on the story to the Houston Chronicle article to clear up Exxon Mobil name. Alan Jeffers also admits that Exxon isn’t using any other social media outlets to communicate about its corporate operations. Biz Stone, the co-founder of Twitter, makes it clear that Twitter has polices that support company trademarks and brands. Since then, “Janet” has turned over the rights to Exxon. 

Being laggards in the online world doesn’t cut it in today’s society. Not monitoring the Web for how a brand is being used or talked about will cost you. Shel Holtz was one of the first to recognize the copycat and believes this should be a “wake-up call” for organizations that are slow to pay attention to the social media space. For more on Holtz ideas on Exxon incident, click here.