The Tough Part of Transparency
Phew! We just closed out Underground 6 this past weekend with 460+ attendees from all corners of the globe. I truly believe it was THE best event we’ve done yet. Especially if my car loaded up with thank you gifts, wine and food was any indication from the attendees. (Note: If you missed it we’re holding a “biggest takeaways” call this Monday)
One of the trends I’ve been seeing and paying attention to is ‘transparency’. It’s certainly one of the Web 2.0 buzzwords but something I believe is actually shifting the playing field. I asked Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com, once during a Maverick adventure if he was ever worried about going out and having so many digital cameras, video, etc. around him as CEO of a $1B company. He replied that he wasn’t since he wouldn’t do anything out that he’d be worried would come back. Zappos is a big believer in transparency since they have an always-on stream of public mentions, employee tweets, etc right here.
Having transparency means you cannot simply broadcast your message anymore but anyone can have their own voice and ‘interact’ with your brand. That’s the good, bad and sometimes ugly.
This year we added even more transparency to our event with a live tweetstream of the hashtag #UG6. Mari Smith, one of our speakers from last year, gave me the idea and I thought it was great until about 15 minutes into the conference we had a heckler. This anonymous guy or gal decided he would harass, belittle and spout inappropriate tweets using our hashtag. I hate to admit, it really bothered me at first. In fact, I asked our tech guy if there was a way to simply remove this one person from our stream but they said no. I asked Derek Johnson, one of our Young Mogul speakers and a big social media power user, for any tips and he said the community will take care of it.
So I let it go and actually journaled about it at night.
I came to the simple realization that I could only control one thing – and that’s how great of a “product” I put out there. That’s it. It always comes down to personal responsibility and what we can and cannot control. I had dozens and dozens of attendees gushing to me about the event and I decided I’d let the community police itself as Derek suggested. And that’s exactly what happened with a few people deciding to interact with our nameless friend. It just amazes me the kind of energy someone like this would expend to simply bring others down but that’s their own situation.
The next morning, I told the entire audience exactly what happened and my feelings on the matter. In fact, it turned out to be a great lesson in transparency and where things are headed (or have already arrived). Because frankly anyone with a gripe gets a voice and if there is a legitimate reason for his gripe others will band together.
In fact, you might remember the recent situation with a band called ‘Sons of Maxwell’ and lead singer Dave Carroll who had his guitar broken by United. He didn’t get any help or compensation and decided to create a YouTube video about it. Well this attracted major PR coverage and United looked pretty bad. United probably would have loved to be able to put a lid on this story and their own spin on it but not in 2010.