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Don’t Be Transparent, Be Authentic Instead

Some people tend to tweet, blog, post, and status-update their little hearts out. Be it on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, their own blog, or whatever. They say it's all about being “transparent,” and transparency is good.

But I think we need to be careful.

Transparency may seem trendy. It may seem noble or humble. But it's not necessarily wise. While we may be opening ourselves up for the world to see, we may be opening ourselves up a world of trouble, too.

In the mid-2000s and with the rise of social media, everybody and their dog seemed to be blurting out everything about everything. They were trying to “be transparent” without care or thought about the consequences.

Transparency Can Be Dangerous

Some dangers are obvious, like being robbed after publicizing you were out. Others are not as obvious, like being reprimanded for saying something you shouldn't have said, or even being fired for insulting your customers.

My contention is, too much transparency can come back and hurt you.

I agree that social media is a great place for developing and nurturing relationships, both with friends and clients. That's what the word “social” in social media means. Or what it should mean, anyway.

But as with all relationships, even when continuous, open communication is an important component, there should be a little mystique to “keep the flame alive.” A little room to allow for exploration and discovery over a period of time instead of all at once. Even in business.

In today's open world, privacy is more crucial than ever before. Why? Because transparent or not, everything you say online is permanent. It can be found and can be easily misinterpreted. Especially when taken out of context.

For example, I love Twitter's character limitations. But when a tweet is published as part of a succession of related tweets, as a response to another tweet, or as part of an ongoing conversation, a general search will turn up an incomplete message that may be misleading and counterproductive.

Candor and Honesty

The key is to know what to keep private and what to reveal. And whatever you do reveal, to think strategically so that what you say is properly said.

In short, it's knowing what to say and how to say it. To reveal the right things, in the right way. (Sounds a lot like copywriting, doesn't it?)

Do you need to tweet or blog about your failures? Not all of them, and not all the time either. Same thing with your successes. You don't want to give away the store — much less give away any ammunition that can be used against you.

Why is that? It's because, saying more than what you need to say makes you vulnerable and open to criticism, which in itself is not bad. But it may also communicate the wrong message to your audience.

There's a difference between authenticity and transparency.

Being transparent is fine. Being too transparent is not. Sure, go ahead and project trustworthiness, authority, and a willingness to share. Be candid and forthright. Be genuine and direct. Be humble and vulnerable.

But be strategic. Think twice about what you say. Because remember, scammers and competitors are watching you, too.

Perception of Transparency

Don't forget your clients, prospects, partners, and affiliates, too. If you're too open, you may be communicating you won't value their privacy, you can't keep secrets, and you're opening yourself up to abuse.

I call this an unconscious paralleled assumption. If you're too open with one thing, others might unconsciously assume you might be too open in other areas, too. You then seem like a greater risk to them.

Aaron Wall, author of The SEO Book, said it best: “Appearing transparent is profitable; being transparent is not.”

There's a difference between being open and being perceived as being open. Between being transparent and communicating a sense of transparency. Between being authoritative and being seen as defensive or self-absorbed.

Authenticity is saying things right. Authority is saying the right things. But transparency is saying everything. And saying nothing at the same time.

You don't need to say everything to be transparent, and you don't need to be transparent to be authentic and authoritative. Just say what you mean and mean what you say.

But don't say everything or else what you say will mean nothing.

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