Jeff Turner shared his thoughts on transparency this week, and spurred me to tackle a subject that I’ve been mulling over for a long while.
There’s a lot that’s been said about transparency, authenticity, honesty and being genuine. Social media experts will advise you that if you represent a company of any size, you can tweet, comment and post, but you need to do so with a personal voice. Generally, it’s true; people can smell bullshit from a mile away, especially the glossy, corporate marketing-speak kind.
What people respect and are attracted to is the real deal; people who are comfortable being themselves. So what does that mean.
Inevitably in these discussions about authenticity, someone will bring up a blogger like Dooce — aka Heather B. Armstrong. The New York Times declared Heather the “Queen of the Mommy Bloggers” for her ability to parlay her blog into a full-time business with three employees. Heather’s trademark style is brash. She lays it all out there, whatever is on her mind. You get profanity. Struggles with substances. Martial strife. And good stuff, too.
So should all bloggers should be similarly “transparent” about their lives? Hell no! But we must be genuine. What does that look like? It can be confusing, because people toss around these words as if they were interchangeable:
- Transparency implies openness, communication and accountability. It does not imply (ore require) that you share every little detail and thought that races around between your ears.
- Authenticity is the quality of being believable or trustworthy.
- Honesty is simply being truthful. As with transparency, you can be truthful without oversharing.
- Genuine means “possessing the claimed or attributed character, quality, or origin; not counterfeit.”
While they are all cousins, they are not the same.
Clearly (hah!) transparency involves being genuine, but the degree of transparency you is a factor of how comfortable you are sharing your innermost self. An obvious one: do you feel “safe” sharing your social security number on your blog? Most people will agree that is not a level of transparency they aspire to.
The goal then is not 100% transparency, but a comfortable degree of translucency.
Be genuine. Be yourself.
Over time, people will know who you are, what you really stand for, and whether they can really trust you.