Social Brand Humanization: Transparency vs Authenticity


As many marketers and business owners are challenged to make their brands become human a few of the questions we hear most are:

What do I talk about?

How do I know how much is too much?

What do I share?

What if my competition is watching me?

What if my boss is listening?

What if our board of directors is watching us?

Do people really want to know what I ate for lunch?


No, not all people want to know what you ate for lunch. Some may but most don't. Depending on how connected you are with your community they may be interested in what you eat, where you go for breakfast.

However, fortunately, they aren't going to determine if they follow you, like you or buy from you based upon if you ate a croissant or an egg sandwich.

If you take a look at the questions above, the root of them is “how much do I share and with who?”

To understand this, let's first dig into the definition of authenticity and transparency.


authentic — adj
1. not false or copied; genuine; real: an authentic antique.
2. having the origin supported by unquestionable evidence authenticated; verified: an authentic document ofo the Middle ages; an authentic work of the old master.
3. entitled to acceptance or belief because of agreement with known facts or experience; reliable; trustworthy


transparency — adj
1. easily detected or seen thru. 
2. readily understood. 
3. characterized by visibility or accessibility of information, especially concerning business practices. 

Transparency is how much you share and authenticity is the truth of your words and actions.

social brand humanization authenticity transparencyThe biggest mistake people make when it comes to  building their social brand is blurring these two words. They often end up in a social brand cycle where they never feel comfortable sharing so they sound like corporate speak 24/7. Or they may do the opposite and share everything including where they buy their toilet paper!

Many confuse transparency with authenticity and think that if they don't share the same thing with everyone then they are not authentic or real. This couldn't be further from the truth.

Authenticity does not require same level of transparency with every relationship.

The truth is you will and should have different relationships with different people. Relationships are human to human and are not based on cookie cutter conversations or content frameworks.

It is this uniqueness that makes relationships so special and unique. It's the type and varying level of information shared between two human beings that builds trust and enables us to nurture real relationships. Relationships that bring both personal and professional benefit.

Because we have unique relationship with each person, doesn't mean it's a fake or that either one of us is not being authentic. We all connect in different ways.

We share different details about our brands, our personal lives with one another, different layers of transparency depending on who we are, industry norms, who is in our community and most importantly who the recipient / person is on the other end. How much we share may very well determine over time how the relationship is nurtured, how close it becomes and the benefits achieved.

Know Yourself. Know Your Audience.

social business social media auditTo understand this and truly inspire and connect with the people within your communities, you must both know yourself as well as your audience.

Who is in your community? Who is your audience and why they should give a rip about what you have to say. What do they need, want? What keeps them up at night? What problems do they have in business and life? Where do they hang out online and offline? What do they talk about? What tones are they talking in? Why are they hanging out where they hang out? What do they want you to talk about?

To connect with them you must also know who you are, what you have to offer them and how you can help them solve problems? Becoming a human brand isn't going to happen overnight. It demands investment in time, resources, people, planning and nurturing of real and authentic relationships.

social brand humanization transparencyTransparency Varies by Brand and By Person.

The answers to these questions above will help determine what you are comfortable sharing. I always tell our clients that we can't determine for them what authenticity means or how transparent they should be. We can guide them to the answers.

However, each brand and person has unique dials and thresholds for authenticity and transparency. What you are comfortable with sharing, the next person isn't. How your audience will react to what you share also differs by brand and persona.

Therefore, this is why you must know yourself and know your audience. There is no way around it. You can never go wrong by investing in people, period.

Don't Complain That the Word Authenticity Is Overrated

Although the word authenticity may be over used in the social ecosystem, it is still highly mis-understood. It's a foundation for social business success. I don't care if you are tired of hearing about it.

The truth is most brands don't understand what it is or what they should share when online. They are confusing these two words every day. The more we can talk about these topics openly and help one another, the more we will all grow and learn.

I encourage you to be a healthy part of the ecosystem, not one that complains and rants about if a word should be used or not.

What You Say? 

Do you struggle with how much of what to share on the social networks? Before now did you truly understand the difference between authenticity and transparency? Has your organization seen success by digging deep into who and what you are? Taking time to develop a plan and get to know your audience?

In this episode of the Social Zoom Factor podcast I explain the difference between authenticity and transparency and why it is important that you focus on the right level of transparency to earn trust and build relationships with your audiences online.

Episode highlights: 

  • Difference between authenticity and transparency
  • Building an authentic brand online
  • Nurturing relationships
  • How much is too much?
  • The importance of authenticity and transparency in earning trust and nurturing relationships
  • 13 characteristics of human brands

Resources mentioned: 

How to Subscribe to Social Zoom Factor Podcast 

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