Developing Transparency in a Digital Age

Transparency is the thing that can separate a successful company from the ones that end up quietly disappearing off the radar. However, waking up one day and

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Even though we’re all adults here, let’s be honest; talking to strangers is sometimes awkward and uncomfortable. This is especially true when you have to contact a company that seems like a faceless organization out to get your hard-earned money. You can prevent this from happening to your company, though!

When Dorothy and the rest of the gang saw the man behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz, their fears were instantly calmed. They were no longer staring at an intimidating face, but just a regular guy. Similarly, your customers sometimes view your company as the wizard, meaning an almost non-human entity that just “is.” By showing your customers the employees you have working behind the curtain, also known as being “transparent,” you’re sure to remind them that you’re a down-to-earth company.

Transparency is the thing that can separate a successful company from the ones that end up quietly disappearing off the radar. However, waking up one day and declaring, “our company is going to be as transparent as cellophane,” isn’t how it’s done. Well, not exactly. Thankfully, there are some new tools out there that will make your declaration easier to achieve!


Although the two social media kingpins (Facebook and Twitter) are important, customers today want a lot more communication from their favorite companies. They want to know about new products, company news, and anything else that may impact them. Fill them in on everything by showing them the human side of your company with pictures. Taking pictures with a digital camera and then loading them onto a computer can be time consuming, so instead use this handy app called Instagram and tell your employees to say, “Cheese!” What sets this app apart from traditional ways of taking pictures is that you can add a filter to change the look and feel you want to portray to your customers. Get artsy!

For example, if you have a new product to show off, include one of your buyers in the picture so customers can see the face behind the product. If you’re celebrating a holiday or just a random Friday, then include a picture of your marketing department having fun. Any moment can be a way to build a stronger connection with your customers. They’ll appreciate knowing that they’re not just working with a faceless organization, but that instead they’re working with Jim in accounting or Kate in orders.


Chances are, by now you’ve read how everyone and their grandmother are “pinning” recipes, home decorating tips, or wedding ideas. However, this site is growing in popularity every day and not just by grandmothers but by people of all ages – especially the female demographic aged 13 and up.

You can get your customers’ attention on this popular site by doing a variety of things. While Pinterest does not allow for “self-promotion” by companies (believe me, they’re a stickler on this), you can still do some things to attract attention.

1. Show Off New Products: Post that new product (or the proposed one you’re thinking about) on Pinterest and think of your followers as a captive focus group. If the product image is re-pinned by your followers, then you know it’s something that could be a success. If it’s not as popular as you thought, then make any necessary tweaks and try again until something sticks (or pins, in this case).

2. Show Off Your Brand’s Unique Personality: What books are your employees currently reading, or what are they obsessing over currently? Show off the quirkiness of your company and the people you have working for you and you’ll come across as down-to-earth and easy to interact with. Strengthen your community of loyal customers by showing them your personality and you’ll win them over!

While there’s no denying that the majority of Pinterest users are women, men are taking notice of this site as well. is a very similar site, with the exception of the content being more masculine, and it is still growing every day. These two websites allow you to interact with customers who you would perhaps otherwise miss out on by only using the social network kingpins.


While Tumblr isn’t exactly a new or up-and-coming site, it’s one that should still be utilized in order to gain a stronger following with your customers. It’s an easy way to blog and share information or tidbits with your audience via text, photos, quotes, videos, music, links, or anything else you deem worthy!

Several large brands are using Tumblr to interact with customers, such as Huggies, Elle magazine, Life magazine, Ann Taylor, Comedy Central, NPR, and Mashable. All it takes is a quick picture or video (posted every day) to really get people hooked and coming back to visit your Tumblr page and your website as a result.

Now What?

Your customers will love to peek behind the curtain of your company and see how the inner workings unfold, and they’ll feel more comfortable working with your company knowing that it isn’t some faceless corporation only interested in money. Instead, show that you’re a company where Jill takes an interest in selecting the best products for the company and where Steve runs the order department to make sure that your purchase is delivered to you on time!

After playing with these tools for a bit, you’ll notice patterns regarding effective or ineffective strategies and gauge if your customers interact more seamlessly with you. While Instagram, Pinterest, or Tumblr shouldn’t completely replace any of your current social media marketing efforts, they’re a great addition to add further transparency and communication with them.

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Amy Swanson

Amy Swanson is a part of the marketing/content department at Quality Logo Products and regularly contributes to their promotional products blog. She is a self-professed newspaper nerd, business buff, and TV enthusiast who cites 'Parks and Recreation' as one of her favorites. But don’t ask her to put in a good word with Ron Swanson – she unfortunately can’t help you there.

Reader Interactions


  1. Jeff says

    I guess I never really thought about it, but sometimes expect that a certain company works in a huge sterile white office building that looks like a cubicle farm and personality is discouraged. But then you see pics of it and there’s color, people having fun, and it just looks so inviting. And from then it’s a completely different experience interacting with that company. What excellent points Amy!

    • amy swanson says

      Thanks so much, Jeff for stopping by and commenting! I love seeing pictures from my favorite companies show up on my Facebook news feed or Twitter feed. I do feel a real connection to them as a result of seeing behind the scenes and will choose to purchase from them over another competitor. It sounds silly, but it goes a long way with me 🙂

  2. Mandy Kilinskis says

    Great post, Amy!

    Pandora recently started using Instagram, and I thought, “Why is an audio-based company on a picture sharing app?” But I followed them anyway, and I really like seeing the sneak peak inside of their office. And for Pandora fans, it’s like extra bonus content!

    • amy swanson says

      I thought the same thing, Mandy! However, it’s really cool now to see pictures of Pandora employees working hard to bring me my favorite tunes 🙂 ‘Knock Knock’ is a really fun company that always posts pictures of upcoming products and what’s going on in their office that day. I feel like I could strike up a conversation with any of their employees any time. Thanks for the comment!!

  3. Jen says

    What an interesting post Amy! I would love to see “behind the scenes” of some of my favorite companies! I think it’s really important to show your customers who you really are and they will be more likely to give you their business.

    • amy swanson says

      Thanks so much, Jen 🙂 I agree with you 100%, it’s great to see the inner workings of companies. I realize that humans are actually working there, not robots- haha.

  4. JillTooley says

    Transparency is SOOO crucial for companies these days. I used to just look for the BBB (Better Business Bureau) logo to verify sites, but now that’s easy to fake. Plus, it means much more if I can see that there are people standing behind a company! I’m always relieved when I see employee profiles or pictures on a business website or social media page. All of the sites you mentioned are perfect for getting a brand’s personality out into the open. 🙂

    • amy swanson says

      When you introduced me to, I thought the products were cool. However, what really impressed me is how down to earth and cool they are. I love seeing pictures of their crazy employees running around their office playing with the products. It always makes my day 🙂

  5. Bret Bonnet says

    Just because I LOVE playing the roll of Devil’s Advocate… I’d argue that while ALL these websites are GREAT for marketing and promotional purposes, I have to admit there are some companies that I’d rather NOT get to know better or see more of what is behind the curtain as you so elegantly put it.

    I mean, lets face it… Do you really want to get to meet/know more about Chester from over at Valtrex who packaged your order today? I sure as hell don’t.

    SIDE NOTE: Pinterest is on FIRE. Rumor has it though that Google wants to buy them BAD, but they are “not for sale”. Here’s hoping Google doesn’t go DESTROYING such a cool product/website (again)!

    • amy swanson says

      Hahaha, you would play Devil’s Advocate Bret 😉 You’re totally right though. Do I necessarily want to see behind the scenes of every single company? No. However, for companies that are internet based I think it’s a great way to make new customers feeling comfortable with working with you.

      I know when I go into brick and mortar stores the sales people working there are a huge factor for whether I’ll return or not. So, when I shop online it’s great to get that same feeling 🙂 Thanks so much for commenting, Bret!

  6. Joseph G. says

    I keep seeing more and more headlines referencing Pinterest. I even saw one that said it was the most promising social destination to look out for in 2012 — or something to that effect. Thanks so much for the rundown on how it can benefit brands! Seems like a great tool for engaging with customers and, of course, enhancing transparency.

    • amy swanson says

      Thanks Joe! I resisted as long as I could from personally using Pinterest because of all the hype. However, after using it for a few weeks I love it! The companies I engage with on it are great and I’m much more willing to purchase from them because of it.

      Thanks so much for stopping by!!

  7. Sire says

    Hey Amy, getting personal with your customers can have a very positive effect.

    There is a sit that I’ve come across recently that may come in handy for certain companies called kondoot. It would allow them to post live feeds of them online. Customers could even interact by directly chatting with them during their live feed. They would really see how things worked behind the scenes 😉

    • amy swanson says

      Wow, thanks Sire for that awesome website! I think you’re right, certain companies could benefit from having customers interact with them in real time. Thanks so much!!

  8. Adrienne says

    Thanks Amy for sharing this.

    I have a question about Instagram. Is this app also for iPods? I have an iPod touch that I use for taking pictures so this would be a cool feature to have as well.

    I’m already using Pinterest but not as much as I should and I’ve never used Tumblr. I’m hearing a lot more about it though so I guess it’s time to start doing a little more research.

    Thanks for sharing this, great tips.

    • amy swanson says

      Hey Adrienne!

      Yes, Instagram is available on your iPod Touch, that’s actually where I use it. It’s free in the app store (can’t beat that, right?) It’s a lot of fun to just play with, so I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!

      I just recently got invited to Pinterest and I’m sadly already addicted to it. I love the recipes, crafts, and decorating tips that are on it. And, confession time, I love looking at all the cool wedding ideas too. It’s probably not the most productive way to spend free time, but it’s fun- haha. Tumblr is awesome too, a great place to spend some time too!

      Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting! Hope you enjoy Instagram 🙂

  9. JadeDragon says

    I looked at Pinkerest and I gotta say that I’m NOT the target market. Too artsy for me. I gotta agree that women seem to love the site. You nicely highlighted a use for it though. I’ll take a look at Gentlemint but that sounds a little goofy for a site name too.

  10. rinnai tankless reviews says

    Instagram is really trending these days, and I even heard that the Facebook maker Mr. Zuckerberg is buying it. But thanks for this post Amy since there are certain things that I’ve known by here only.

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