Social Media

Transparency and Integrity: Both Offline and Online

Transparency is something that we, not only as consumers, but also as human beings, value in every facet of our lives. Whether it be financial transactions, politics, traditional media or online media. Here’s a look at transparency from brick and mortar to online brands.
Chipotle Mexican Grill
If you look at the menu at Chipotle, they aren’t unique in the items they offer. But if you’re like most people, once you’ve eaten at Chipotle, you will probably never go to a similar restaurant over this establishment. Part of their charm and quality is their “Food With Integrity” mission statement. The mission statement states that they chain uses natural ingredients (i.e. chicken raised without antibiotics and on a vegetable diet, and naturally raised pork and beef) and that they suport family farms.
Here are two advertisements from their campaign:
msaleem chip2 Transparency and Integrity: Both Offline and Online
msaleem chip3 Transparency and Integrity: Both Offline and Online
While this “mission statement” sounds very good on paper, the skeptic cannot help but wonder if this isn’t simply a marketing gimmick and not actually true. And to supplement their campaign of “Food with Integrity” they include pictures such as the following in your bag when you make a purchase:
msaleem chip5 Transparency and Integrity: Both Offline and Online
If you click the image above, you can continue reading about Chipotle defending their campaign, which some find hard to believe because the industry itself is so tainted. At the same time, however, the advertisement campaign, the mission statement, and the pictures supplementing their actions help differentiate the restaurant from others in their transparency (regarding where the food comes from) and their integrity (because they use natural animals and help family farms.
Social Media
While the social media brands I am going to discuss aren’t nearly as mature, the same principles apply here and the community (the consumers/customers) is equally appreciative of transparency (and it has the same effects on your integrity). We don’t have to go far to find a most relevant example. Digg.com’s dubious stance on moderation (community versus their own moderators) have been the focus of much writing and provides us the first example of lack of transparency and its effects on brand integrity:
1. A Brief History of the Digg Controversy
2. Bet ya didn’t know: Digg.com uses moderators
3. Kevin Rose on Moderation Again
4. Are Digg Moderators Being Totally Honest
5. Digg’s Ninja Moderators
While I could fill countless pages with more links, those mentioned above sufficiently discuss the issue. Even Pronet Advertising has covered the issue countless times:
1. Digg, Cut the Bullshit – You Are Not Democratic
2. Digg is Censoring Content by Burying Stories Internally

And while Digg partially fails the transparency test, prompting users to create a petition, the site’s direct competitor, Reddit fails completely by offering no information what so ever. Netscape, on the other hand, which competes with both sites has also managed to solve both the transparency issues, ultimately gaining credibility in the eyes of its users. The site has moderators and they are clearly listed on the site’s about page, and the site allows you to bury (though the feature functions somewhat differently) content you don’t like, but does so with accountability for the users’ actions.
**Disclaimer: I am a top-ranked Digg user and a Netscape Scout.