Web Communities and Social Networks Need Transparency

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I need you all to think about your answer to this question I received in an email: “What would be the one fundamental principle every social networking community must have for maintaining its integrity to the people who are using that site?”. To me… the answer is simple. Say it with me: Transparency.

Transparency is the number one underlying principle for any website or network that plans to connect people together. It’s about transparency between the network and the people using the network. There’s nothing special there. It’s open, and it’s honest. If you’re not open with your audience… what are you? If you decide to make a change and your audience isn’t up to speed, they may not like it. However, if you’re open about the entire thing from start to finish, your audience will certainly be much more receptive.

There is such a thing as a degree of transparency. Too much isn’t a good thing. You need to be open just enough. If you aren’t, people will think of you as dishonest or hiding something from them. There are a million and one social networks out there. What’s the value of one over another? That’s up to each individual who uses them. The more transparent you are, the better off you’ll be. The people who will disagree are the one who are used to dealing with public relations’ spins. They tend to deal with creating the illusion of transparency. They always seem to forget how much we can all see right through the illusions.

I’ve been a community leader on the Internet for many years now. I’ve been as open about the process as I possibly could’ve been. It’s difficult to be transparent – make no mistake about it. It’s hard to make mistakes and deal with problems out in the open, and hope that everyone understands. However, it’s usually easier to deal with imperfections when you do so openly. People will realize you’re human, and they’ll open up to you and connect with you on a much higher level.

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