Many of today’s social media marketing trends center on highly engaging content and topics likely to go viral, and those popular techniques have merit. Sometimes, though, it’s best to get back to basics and focus on a factor that could build trust and loyalty: honesty.

Is your next marketing campaign missing honesty?

What does that even mean?

What does an honest marketing campaign look like?

Why is this important?

Well, statistics revealed 81 percent of consumers polled thought brands should be transparent on social media.

What should you do to authentically focus on transparency in a social media campaign? Today I’m going to show you some key examples of social media marketing campaigns that hit the nail on the head (or sorely missed it), so you can successfully integrate honesty into your next campaign.

Help the Audience Feel Informed

Over the past several years, people have become increasingly interested in knowing precisely what comprises the foods they eat. They often shy away from products with ingredients they can’t pronounce and dislike examining labels and finding that seemingly simple consumables contain dozens of strange components.

Chipotle capitalized on honesty with its food by launching the “For Real” campaign.

Advertisements for Chipotle "For Real" campaign

Part of the social media strategy for that effort involved mentioning how Chipotle’s products feature 51 possible ingredients, but they’re all things people have heard of, such as black beans and avocados. The brand’s separate Instagram feed for the campaign also features supplier information.

McDonald’s tried the same approach with its “Our Food, Your Questions” campaign.

However, it didn’t provide the profit boost the brand hoped to get, in part because although it invited people to ask questions about the brand’s menu, it did not remove most of the ingredients causing concerns.

When using social media to bring information to consumers, it's crucial to examine how that approach might backfire. Click To Tweet

When using social media to bring information to consumers, it’s crucial to examine how that approach might backfire.

For example, is the campaign showing a relatively complete picture of a brand, or just the parts that appear favorable?

Recognize That Customers Have Diverse Reasons for Choosing Brands

There is a known lack of price transparency in the airline industry, and analysts say government advertising rules are exacerbating the problem.

Some forward-thinking airlines see the prominent issue as an opportunity to win over customers. Southwest Airlines launched a dedicated “Transfarency” website to emphasize how its tickets offer upfront costs with no hidden fees.

As part of the Transfarency campaign, the company featured nearly 200 stories from customers that detail why those people chose to fly. The idea is that in every occupied airline seat, a person is depending on the brand for various reasons, such as to fly to meet newborn babies in their families or to attend client meetings that could make long-held dreams come true.

"Your Seat, Your Story" ad from Southwest Airlines' "Transfarency" campaign

However, not long ago British Airways (another well-known airline) stumbled. It canceled thousands of extremely cheap flights shown as available due to a pricing error.

Although that issue wasn’t directly part of a social media campaign, word of the inexpensive trips quickly spread on social media, helping drive demand.

It’s often difficult to determine if honesty really is the best policy for brands to follow, especially after they make mistakes. The customer feedback following the British Airways debacle showed many people thought the company should have made the low fares stand and showed honesty by keeping the rates valid.

When highlighting the diversity of a target market, brands can succeed on social media channels and elsewhere by realizing that authenticity can help people relate to a brand and feel eager to support it. Click To Tweet

However, when companies aren’t willing to own up to mistakes, they could push customers to do business with other brands.

Make Sure Bringing up Sensitive Topics Fits With the Brand

Heineken earned widespread admiration for its “Open Your World” campaign. It featured people with differing opinions come together to find common ground.

In the advertising spots (which were shown heavily on social media) participants showed honesty and transparency by admitting their often-controversial beliefs about tough topics like race and gender identity.

Heineken's "Open Your World" campaign advertisement

The theme of the campaign was to show that even though people have differences, common things bring individuals together.

Heineken also incorporated its product by positioning beer as the aspect that made people open up and feel willing to chat. That association makes sense, since people often take their time to drink beer and do so while talking with friends.

Starbucks tried a similar kind of cause marketing with its “Race Together” initiative, whereby baristas wrote that phrase on customers’ coffee cups to spark dialogue about race.

Dina Pomeranz tweet about Starbucks "Race Together" campaign

The approach generated a social media uproar when critics insisted that people come into Starbucks to get efficiently concocted coffee on their way to work, not dive into well-thought-out conversations.

Many people agreed that Starbucks’ attempt was good-hearted but misguided, because it didn’t match the brand’s products and clientele. On the other hand, there was no disconnect with Heineken’s campaign, and that’s a substantial reason why it took off.

When launching campaigns on social media that are likely to start debates, always ensure the tactic complements the brand's image and values. Click To Tweet

When launching campaigns on social media that are likely to start debates, always ensure the tactic complements the brand’s image and values.

It’s also crucial that such plans don’t appear to be capitalizing on a topic merely because it’s currently generating buzz.

Focus on Honesty and Transparency to Help a Business Thrive

Modern society is one where people often doubt the things they see on social media instead of quickly assuming they’re true. If a brand has lost consumer trust due to missteps, it could get back on track by emphasizing honesty and transparency.

Any efforts to capitalize on the transparency trend should be extremely well-thought-out and researched through various channels.

The fast-paced nature of social media means brands can gain praise or receive scorn overnight for hastily created campaigns.

When applied correctly, honesty and transparency can help a business compete in a crowded marketplace but those ideals should never be targeted for profits alone.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR, Kayla Matthews

I’m a digital tech journalist and marketing writer whose work has been featured on Contently, Convince and Convert, Marketing Dive and PR Newswire. In the past, I’ve also been a staff writer for MakeUseOf and a regular contributor to The Next Web. Connect with me on Linkedin or shoot me an email!

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