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December 31, 2009

New Wave of Transparency: Will Your Business Be a Window or a Wall in 2010

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Business-TransparencyI was a teenager who kept a journal.

Hiding the journal was essential to keeping it. After all, it kept my thoughts safe from the prying eyes of my mother and sister.  

Over the years, nurtured by the sharing capabilities of the internet, I became less concerned that my parents and sister were going to read my journal. In fact, I left many of them at my house when I went away to college.

What changed? Well, the web allowed me to have more two-way conversations with my family and friends. Plus, by the time I left for college, much of that information in the journal was now grossly out of date or practically public knowledge anyway -- why was I working so hard before to keep it safe? I benefited more by sharing than I ever did by holding my cards close to my chest.

In 2010, Public is the New Default

If you’re company is entering 2010 with the same mentality as a teenager protecting her diary, you’ve come to the wrong decade. I know for some businesses, fear of losing an edge over the competition or fear of backlash prevents them truly embracing the spirit of the age. Earlier today, Eric Schonfield of TechCrunch wrote about this change saying it “represents a major shift in the social fabric, and it is only now just getting started. If you thought there was a lot of hair-pulling over privacy in 2009, just wait until 2010. Facebook’s new privacy policies which favor more public sharing, will be a big driver of this shift, as will the continued adoption of Twitter, which by its very design makes personal utterances public. Then there are startups like Blippy that go even further by turning every single purchase into a public statement."

Though Eric (and Techcrunch) have a tendency to makes this shift sound a massive headache, I am optimistic about the evolution of the web. It's transformed from a dark, Batcave like lair where you weren’t sure who Batman really is or what side he works for – into a transparent universe where information flows more freely. On the 2010 web, we know who Batman is – he’s Bruce Wayne - and he blogs and tweets about his adventures daily.

Become a Leader in Business Transparency in Your Industry

As your business enters the new decade, consider your options. Instead of simply following along, work on becoming the leader in business transparency for your industry. You could encourage customers to share their ideas and write about their experience with your brand in a public forum. Shoot videos that give an intimate glimpse into the way your company operates like this video about the importance of gluten-free equipment by allergen-free food maker Kinnikinnick Foods. Allow your employees to blog, build public relationships, and share their ideas about your industry with the world. Provide a way for your customers (and everyone, really) to peek in and see how your software is performing. You can even keep a Twitter list of your employees and encourage them to share their personality and represent your brand daily.
 
Or, you could continue to wait for a different world. Either way, we are definitely headed toward a new wave of transparency in 2010 –  many of the social networks we’ve talked about this year have moved far and away from a private default (choosing to make some things public) to a public default (pre-selecting the things we want to make private).

Will your business be a window or a wall in 2010?  One thing I do know – it’s way easier for your prospects to climb in through a window. 

photo by phil h

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