According to social media lore, you can’t (forgive the jargon mother load) engage, connect, build community, or share without embracing transparency. But I’m wondering if professing transparency is a little like saying you recycle when asked on a phone survey. It’s what you’re supposed to say, so you say it.
And you can’t really swing a cat by tail without hitting a blog post touting transparency.
I recently found myself in a situation where transparency was tossed under the bus, and I’m still not sure I handled it well. I’d love your take.
Several months ago, I wrote about a website that helped entrepreneurs get their legal documents in order, particularly those around the intellectual property issues. I originally stumbled upon the site, wrote the owner with a few questions, and decided it was of benefit to my readers. I didn’t really “review” the site— it was more of an FYI. The comments section got pretty lively when a few IP attorneys jumped in and started asking some hard questions.
The site’s owner also engaged in the conversation, and everyone stayed civil. After a few days, the conversation trickled down, and new blog posts captured everyone’s interest. A couple weeks later, a new guy (who had clearly searched for this site owner’s name) hopped into the comments and said, in less polite terms, that he’d had a very bad experience with the site and that the owner had handled the problem poorly.
The comment wasn’t inappropriate or attacking, so I left it alone. But I chose not to fan the flames, and the guy’s comment went unanswered and unchallenged.
Now, fast forward a couple months. I get a phone call from some flunky at the website, asking me to delete the comment. He felt is was portraying the site’s owner in a bad light and apparently when you Googled the owner’s name, the post/comment showed up pretty high on page one. I explained that, since the commenter had not been inappropriate, I would not delete the comment. I didn’t censor the comments unless they got mean/personal.
Ten minutes later, I have the site’s owner on the phone. He is spouting off about slander, libel and how much trouble I could get into after reminding me that he was a practicing attorney. I reminded him that I didn’t actually write the comment and that, if he wanted to, he could respond to the man on the post and address the issue in plain sight, if he felt the guy’s facts were incorrect.
He told me that he had spoken to the man who left the comment and everything had been resolved. So, I suggested that he get the guy to come back into the comments section and update the readers on the problem and that it had been resolved to his satisfaction.
He didn’t like that idea because it left the original comment in place. He again pressed me to delete it. Again,I politely said no.
He ended our conversation rather abruptly, saying we would speak again. And 15 minutes later, I got another phone call. This time, it was from the commenter. Or so he said. I didn’t have any way to verify his identity. He said he’s just spoken with the site’s owner and at his request, was calling me to ask me to remove his comment.
By this time, I was sick of the whole game. I told him I would consider his request. And I did.
So everyone loves transparency when we’re driving traffic to their site but do we still love it when it splashes a little something on us?
I’m curious: H.ow would you have handled this situation? (I’ll tell you what I did after allowing you to weigh in) And what do you think it means in light of the common belief that transparency is vital to social media success?