Transparency – The Double-edged Sword

I had the pleasure to talk with Marc Meyer over the phone yesterday. We had a great chat as we talked about an issue that’s been on his mind of late – the lack of context on Twitter. He had some deep thoughts on the matter and got the perspectives of several other great people as well. The main thought I shared with him was that the minute we begin questioning what we tweet about because someone might not understand the context of it, is when we, and the industry, begin to take a step backwards in our growth. We were born into this Social Media world with this word tattooed on our foreheads:


I think we’ve used the word a gazillion times when explaining Twitter, Social Media, blogging, how companies should present themselves, etc. etc. We get it. We have to be ourselves and show our true colors when it comes to communication, but there’s seemingly another side to it – a side that, as mentioned by Marc, may be misconstrued, a side that companies are monitoring for current and prospective employees, a questionable side. Are we being too, dare I say, social?

Do we need to be wary of what we post for sake that one of our hundreds or thousands of followers may find disconcerting? We’re doing a disservice to our industry when we monitor and think twice about what we say and to whom, because of that fear, and not hold true to the core beliefs we ‘grew up’ on with Social Media.

I wholly agree that we should think before we tweet, but I wonder if people are getting to the point where they’re not sure if they should say certain things in fear of negative reactions or assumptions. We’re pushing the boundaries in this industry, one day at a time, which starts with our transparent personalities for the world to see. Is it getting to the point where transparency is becoming a bit too, um, transparent?

Thinking out loud here but would rather hear from you. What do you think?

photo credit: furiobrady

12 comments On Transparency – The Double-edged Sword

  • I think we can ALWAYS be who we are and STILL be respectful and courteous to others.

    Good post, Mr. Sonny G!

    Thanks for the post.

    Keep the faith and keep up the good.

    Signed your friend in Texas,

    True Believer & Hope Dealer

  • I’ve been thinking a lot about this. Since leaping in to social media about 2 years ago I’ve been all in, with two exceptions: I fence off parts of my personal life (kids etc.) and clients. My strategy is to be totally transparent about my thoughts, opinions, and hopefully how I help others … with a dose of caution. You obviously don’t want strangers cracking your bank codes, and I personally don’t want client influences to shift my thoughts.

    For example, if I blog about a client — am I doing that because I think they have a good marketing strategy, or because they pay my ad agency money? I did it once or twice early on and immediately regretted it, and the recent pay-per-post scandals such as the Nikon camera blogger outreach in 2007 or Chris Brogan’s $500 gift card for Kmart in 2008 show how even the perception of outside influence can erode an person’s credibility.

    So I suggest the rule is: Be totally transparent about what you write; but also be free to “wall off” private parts of our life, whether personal or business, that pose risk to your person or to your personal integrity.

    Thanks for the good post.

  • I wholeheartedly agree with Ronald. One of the many benefits of social media is the ability to discuss and debate ideas freely which can result in innovation, growth & education, and expanded thinking. Of course, we must treat one another with courtesy and respect as we would in any professional setting–seeking first to understand, assuming good intentions among our peers unless/until we can confirm otherwise, and asking for clarification when we read something that appears to be a little off-beat and may require further explanation.

  • Sonny, Hi
    Interesting post. I am become more confused by some of these posts and think folks are nearing fear, and I don’t mean to start a rant like we had over on Beth Harte’s blog, but the question that comes up for me is, What are folks afraid of? It reminds me the phrase, If They Really Knew Me, They wouldn’t Like Me.

    Transparency is Transparency, There is no in between is there? You simply cannot hide anymore if you participate. What if you do upset someone, what if you do offend someone, you may get fired from your job, SO WHAT, Because if you are open and out there long enough, it will happen, but it is just opportunity shifting around and opening up in different places. This Social Media space we are playing in could use some diversity anyway

    I believe that as an executive or a small business choosing a Social Media Marketer or Consultant (I now folks don’t like the term) I want to know what you are made of, what have you screwed up and how did you fix it. Who fired you, and why. Who did you fire and why, then, we can make a pretty informed buying decision. Your best customers and evangelist come from your reactions and actions and how you handle things didn’t go well.

    In closing, I will be honest with you, that I assume I am offending folks with my last few comments, and I would much rather not do that, I could be silent and still “Friend” everyone, BUT, I believe some of these things need to be said.

    2009 will separate folks into camps here in this space and begin to define each camps strengths and weakness, which I suspect will make lots of folks uncomfortable,

  • @Ronald – Thanks for your thoughts and well wishes!

    @Ben – I’m with you on what you’re saying. Having your own strategy and separating a few things out definitely is a route many go. With what Chris went through, I wouldn’t change one bit. I was vocal about that whole situation and people’s lack of sense and just wanting to jump on a bandwagon. I understand people can influence, it was evident there, but he was truthful and others felt because they had the free reign of transparency, they could start bashing him. There comes a responsibility too.

    @Sarah – Great point. Courtesy and respect is definitely something people tend to lack because they think transparency means they can act like jackasses. I’ve honestly seen it a lot but it’s easy to see who they are and let them be.

    @Eric – That’s exactly it. People are afraid of public confrontation. Having it all aired out if someone disagrees with you. I definitely agree that those types of situations are needed – it’s life, it allows you to learn and understand how to handle certain scenarios and I think when people see that, they will respect you that much more.

    Appreciate your view on this topic and definitely am not offended by your comments.

  • Sonny,

    This is a great debate and one may not have a definitive universal answer.

    It’s unreasonable to expect the same from a corporate blog that you would from an individual. Many topics can really offend people and lose your company’s business if you’re not careful.

    Eric, I disagree, respectfully of course, that “Transparency is Transparency, There is no in between” as I believe there are different levels of transparency. I consider it transparent to be true to your personality by being honest and sincere without having to express all your views and lifestyles.

    I’m going to have ramble on about this more on my own blog ^_^


  • Sonny thank you for continuing to dig. One thought just occurred to me. Do we have a strategy every day when we engage in any conversation? It depends on the dare I say..the context or the situation…But heres the subtle difference. Amongst friends we let down our guard either a little or a lot on what we say, why? Because they “know” us..In business, we all are a little bit more reserved, perhaps respectful, for fear of losing the gig…It is a double edged sword. I’d love to look at context on a case by case basis but what we fail to realize is when you have hundreds or thousands of followers. The following applies: “one man’s ceiling is another man’s floor”…..

  • Great discussion point. My two sense is that there are two issues about transparency. One is personal and the other is business. On a personal basis sharing our thoughts about whatever issues helps push the edge of business transparency since business is made up of people. However, corporations fear employees sharing too much laundry about business issues espcially public companies.

    I just finished a study about “corporate policies concerning social media” and found some interesting paradox’s. You can’t control freedom of speech but you can set borders around business freedom of speech and the relations wit employees, customers and suppliers. The irony is that a business with a bad cultural is most at risk since the culture will be exposed to the world regardless of how many policies a business will create and try and control.

    Corporate transparency because of social media puts more pressure on “managing effectively” and creating a productive culture that focuses on the “quality” internally and externally. I can sahre part of the paper to those interest. Simply email me at for a copy if interested

  • Pingback: How Transparent Should You Be? « The Spinks Blog ()

  • I am with Ben Kunz … wall off the things that you don’t want to share; and then be up-front about the other stuff. But the double edged sword is a great metaphor — sometimes it cuts through, other times is just cuts. But then, that is what conversation is for – clarification and context.

  • I used to be a 10 but I am moving to being a 1 real quick. I find that most people really don’t seem to care. If I am superficial no problem but as soon as I share a personal thought or feeling or struggle or experience then I become the “weird” guy. So I am no longer sharing anything ever again but the gospel of Christ. I don’t even email or text news of tornado warnings anymore. As you can see I have grown disillusioned with being transparent and sharing. I gave up facebook and twitter yesterday.

  • Clarification: When I said I used to be a 10 but I am moving to being a 1 real quick. I was answering a question from another site…hahaha. I just copied and pasted my entire answer here also without thinking. Sorry. See…thats why I don’t share anymore….haha…it gets screwed up.

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