Transparency is King

It never fails: as soon as a company decides they need a blog, online profile, or heavy online presence, the first question they ask is: how much do I have to share?

Without a doubt, the response they’ll typically get is: As much as you can.

This gradual shepherding of information into the mainstream is part of what makes sites like Dell’s IdeaStorm a success– the ability to listen and respond is becoming more and more valuable. But just how transparent do you have to be? Naturally, you shouldn’t share anything that is considered a “company secret” or the “secret sauce”– you want to set yourself apart from the competitors, not give your competitors an unnecessary edge.

Open source products only work when the focus is continual collaboration, like freeware or shareware, so unless that’s your goal, it’s best to keep it under your hat.

However, the best things to communicate openly about are bugs, issues, site outages, or the inability to meet a specific deadline. Today, bloggers all over are praising BrightKite for wearing their heart on their sleeve, and essentially enabling users to laugh while being frustrated. Rather than shrinking behind the “its coming soon” moniker like so many large companies, BrightKite acknowledged that yes, they’re behind, and they haven’t released a product they said they would.

The amazing thing about the internet is that it’s powered by people– so when you treat users as people, instead of numbers or earnings, the response is astounding. People are much more tolerant of delays when their patience is acknowledged. Just read some of BrightKite’s user comments, if you don’t believe me:

KJB: Awww… not going to throw the little red fruits… but I am glad there’s an update. Gracias.. gracias.. gracias..
chartier: I’ll second Robb’s comment. Transparency is much appreciated, and the sense of humor is a nice touch. I would much rather wait for good software than download a 1.0 that barely works. Keep up the great work guys!

By addressing the issue up front, BrightKite removed the fuel from the fire, and made way for a different kind of complaint: Did anyone else notice that there’s mo variation in the size of the tomato splatters? Shame. 🙂



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