On the Web, Honesty Is the Only Policy
If this presidential election season is teaching us anything, it is that candidates can no longer get away with keeping secrets, telling lies, or changing their message to suit their audience.
Those campaign advertisements, touting accomplishments or accusing opponents of personal and political failings, are debunked the day they are released. As soon as a candidate speaks a half-truth on the stump, a video appears on YouTube showing the same politician making a contradictory statement just a few weeks or months earlier.
Politics is the most blatant example, but business owners and service providers need to be just as careful to safeguard their integrity and reputation. The prevalence of dishonesty has become so grossly apparent to Internet users that tolerance for anything that feels like dishonest marketing is immediately rejected, particularly by younger audiences.
Rather than believing advertising and marketing, consumers now visit online review sites that make it very easy for consumers to compare prices and quality of service. Internet users can leave reviews for electronics, cell phone service, doctors, restaurants, health products – you name it. In some cities, you can even compare local "Mom and Pop" shops. At the very least, if you've angered your customers, there may be an unflattering blog post that comes up on Google anytime someone searches on the name of your company. Unhappy customers are much more inclined to leaving a review or comment than are satisfied customers, making the cost of bad business that much higher.
The availability of video, audio, and articles on the web for anyone to find within minutes on Google, has turned millions of Internet users into the most effective fact-checking team in history. Because so many people are now online, a good video or blog post showing deception or hypocrisy can make the rounds through email in a matter of days. All this information remains online indefinitely and is sure to resurface any time an individual or company becomes a topic of conversation, even if several years have passed.
In the world of traditional marketing, duping the public is rewarded. On the Internet, the best strategy is to be honest and deliver value. Lying is expensive when you get caught. It destroys your brand and turns you into an un-trusted source. Once lost, gaining back trust is a long and costly process.
The Internet is providing more transparency, more honesty, and more accountability. If you are honest in your business practices, it will pay off in the long run.