It turns out that consumers want you to give it to them straight. A recent study found that consumers expect brands to be transparent on social media. Study participants said that brands have more responsibility to be open and honest than anyone else on social platforms.
A Sprout Social study found that 81 percent of consumers believe brands must be transparent on social media, according to the Emarketer article. The term “transparency” encompasses the characteristics of honesty, openness, clarity, and authenticity. Interestingly, only 71 percent of consumers hold themselves to the same standard, and only 57 percent said they also expect celebrities to be transparent.
According to the study, participants considered withholding information, ignoring customer questions, and ignoring employee questions as lack of transparency. More than 34 percent said dodging political or social issues also indicates a lack of transparency.
Topics participants want brands to be transparent about are the following:
- Product/service changes: 53 percent
- Company values: 53 percent
- Business practices: 50 percent
- Company policy changes: 49 percent
- Employment practices: 46 percent
- Pricing decisions: 43 percent
- Marketing practices: 41 percent
- Diversity and inclusion: 40 percent
- Financial performance: 38 percent
Additional findings showed that consumers believe
- A brand’s social media candor can positively influence future purchases: 53 percent
- A brand’s social media candor can influence purchase frequency: 37 percent
- They’d recommend a transparent brand to family and friends: 42 percent
These findings indicate that consumers see social media as a major representation of brands. So much so, in fact, that they believe brands should be beacons of transparency over individual users. It all boils down to trust. The more open and honest a brand, the more consumers are likely to trust it. Since brands are seen as incentivized by money, consumers want to know for certain that they can be trusted before buying from brands.
Transparency vs. Product Quality
Despite the weight consumers place on transparency in this particular study, Emarketer says other studies suggest an attitude-behavior gap. Specifically, although consumers expect brands to be transparent at all times, product quality and cost are ultimately the biggest influences in purchase decisions. A Cone Communications and Porter Novelli survey revealed that 41 percent of participants considered product quality to be the primary influence in their purchase decisions. Thirty-nine percent said cost was the leading factor. Similarly, in a Morning Consult survey, 90 percent of the Millennial respondents said price and quality were top influencing factors.
Taking these conflicting findings into consideration, you may wonder where you should primarily focus your energy when maintaining your brand presence on social media. The answer is simple: offer high-quality products at decent prices while being fully transparent. In other words, focusing on product quality and price should not negate transparency. They are not mutually exclusive. It’s that simple.
You also want to take into account the ways social media platforms are increasing their measures to ensure brand transparency. For example, Facebook now offers an Info and Ads tab on business pages that allows users to view every active ad the page has published. Additionally, all electoral or issue ads are now labeled “Political Ad.” These types of measures help prevent platform abuse while also improving the overall user experience. If you fail to comply with a platform’s transparency measures, you are not going to fair well with your target audiences.
Don’t let the dog-eat-dog world of advertising get in the way of your ethics and integrity. If the people want transparency from your brand, there’s nothing to suggest they shouldn’t get it. To ensure you’re being fully transparent on social media, diligently manage your social media accounts so you don’t run the risk of becoming negligent. Otherwise, consumers may call you out on it.