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Why Is Transparency So Hard?

By John Joyce on February 23, 2010 - Comments 0

Small Business trust and transparencyIt’s really not that complicated.  Our parents taught us growing up that honesty and respect breed trust, right?  Those two simple core values are vital components to success in any aspect of your life.  Chris Brogan, blogger extraordinaire and author of Trust Agents, says, “Today, the most valuable online currency isn’t the dollar, but trust itself.”  So, why do so many forget this simple fact?

President Obama offered “total transparency” during his campaign for the office he now holds.  It sounded simple enough.  “The system is broken and we need to involve the people we represent in the legislative process.”  That’s what I heard.  That’s what I expected.  Boy was I wrong.  Not even translucency.

Toyota is the number one auto maker in the world and has enjoyed a spotless reputation for decades.  I had a Toyota Camry for five years and never spent an extra penny for anything beyond scheduled maintenance costs.  I think Toyota is one of the best (tied with Honda) at listening to their customers, turning that feedback into action and delivering a reliable product at a reasonable price.  But, they recently strayed from their core values.  They had enormous goodwill (trust equity) in the bank and all they needed to do was tell the truth about faulty gas pedals, fix the problem and move on.  Their lack of transparency, however,  will now cost them much more than replacement parts and labor.

Now, if you would like to see the antithesis of the previous examples I’ll turn my attention to Hubspot.  Hubspot recently schooled us all on operating transparently and protecting the trust of customers and supporters.  If you’re not familiar with Hubspot, check out the book Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media, and Blogs (The New Rules of Social Media).  Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah, co-founders of Hubspot, have created an entire platform to help businesses transition from outbound marketing (interruption marketing) to “getting found” with inbound marketing strategies.

There is no better free marketing information available online than the quality content that’s available from Hubspot.  That’s right, I said FREE.  Blog posts, video content, white papers, and a suite of “grader” applications that allow you to gauge the effectiveness of your online marketing efforts.  I love the knowledge and insight these guys share on a regular basis.  They’re really smart and I trust what they’re saying because it works.

Rewind to February 11, 2010.  Blog posts start popping up alerting readers that Twitter.Grader has been hacked and “Twitter users who have granted access to their accounts to Twitter.Grader have all begun tweeting a bizarre and unauthorized message.”  Holy crap!  What do you do?  Pretend it didn’t happen?  Blame someone else?  Nope.  You fix the issue and immediately address your customers in a blog post.

Not only did Dharmesh co-author a great book on inbound marketing but he also wrote a primer on “Transparency 101″ – condensed below:

Honesty: “#1.  It was my fault.  I developed Twitter Grader — and I’m the one that developed this particular feature that ended up getting hacked.  I should have known better.  I was an idiot.”

Respect Customer Fears/Needs: “#2.  HubSpot is being super-paranoid about how we deal with the issue.  We’re shutting down several of the grader.com applications (not just Twitter Grader) and will be reactivating them on completely new servers with increased security.  This level of caution is likely overkill (and expensive), but it’s the least we can do.”

Keep/Build the Trust: “#3. OAuth is a very good thing. For those of you that don’t know what OAuth is, it’s what allows users to grant access to specific applications without revealing their username/password. Twitter supports OAuth. As such, Twitter Grader allowed users to “authorize” access. This is much better than asking users for their user name and password. Because of OAuth, although the malicious user was able to post to people’s twitter accounts, they never had access to the user’s account credentials. Given that many people use the same username/password on multiple websites, this could have been very dangerous. But, OAuth ensured that the problem was much more contained.

Kudos to Dharmesh and the rest of the team at Hubspot!

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