We learned in kindergarten that honesty is the best policy but how many of us actually apply this advice on a daily basis? In a culture that’s increasingly driven by countless forms of communication resulting in 24-hour access with fewer and fewer chances to be ‘off the grid,’ has it become easier to stretch the truth, feign ignorance or simply lie? According to Jeffrey Hancock, associate professor of communication and information science at Cornell University, being perceived as deceptive can seriously harm reputations and relationships, regardless of the medium. His studies have also shown [surprisingly] that we tend to lie less online than in person or over the telephone; perhaps it’s because our online, documented posts, comments, status updates, and pictures will be around for a long time. As a business owner, the type of communication you put in front of your audience adds up – and honesty is a big part of tipping the scales in your favor.
Enter social media.
Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn for business or Pinterest, Instgram or YouTube for pleasure, have you thought about how you are representing yourself online? The first thing to do is learn how to engage online responsibly and assume you are speaking in public at all times. We’ll say it again: the internet is not forgiving; posts, comments, status updates, and pictures will live on for the foreseeable future. Make sure your professional social presence is one you are proud of now and will be in years to come.
Also, be yourself – honest and open communication is the cornerstone of social messaging. Customers, or potential customers, will respect genuine communication that matters to them. For instance, use the 4-1-1 rule; post 4 interesting, funny or informational ideas, 1 promotional post and 1 re-post [share with a friend, answer a question, hit the ‘like’ button, etc.], all of which need to be relevant to your audience. Regardless of whether you post a few times daily or a few times per month, follow the rule above for a targeted strategy that will resonate with your audience. And as a general rule, before posting on any social medium, ask yourself if the information is honest and relevant.
The review sites.
Here’s where honesty may be most beneficial. What happens when online reviews about your business begin popping up via Yelp and Google? If they are positive, great! But what about the other side of that coin? We’d all like to think that we give 100% all day every day, but the reality is that sometimes we fall short. It’s inevitable that you’ll see a less than stellar business review at some point. When confronted with this ‘bad’ review, it’s how you handle this perceived setback that can set you apart.
Be courageous in the face of bad news, honorably standing tall despite conflict [even if you suspect the negative review is the handiwork of your competitor down the street]. If tempted to avoid the issue, or to make an excuse, think of how you’d feel if a comment you made went unaddressed or simply ignored. Not pleased, right? Human beings are deeply attracted to courageous honesty, but sometimes when we are on the other side of the complaint it’s difficult not to be defensive. It’s best to apologize and do everything we can to make things right — right away. A February 2014 study by the Social Media Marketing University found that 52% of US marketers respond to negative online comments within 24 hours. That means responding diplomatically to the comment online, calling the customer [if you can] and remedying the situation ASAP! The Retail Consumer Report found that of consumers who received a reply in response to their negative review, 33% posted a positive review and 34% deleted their original negative review. That means by handling the issue, you might even get that nasty, negative comment retracted!
It will work. Honest.
If you believe in what you are doing and are passionate about why you get up every day, this honesty task will be a piece of cake. Communicating with a broader audience is easier today than ever before, but remember, your message needs to be relevant, timely and genuine.