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Importance of transparency in blogging

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January 14th, 2007
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Blogging Essays, General

This is the Twenty Fifth entry in The Blogging Essay Contest from WeblogToolsCollection.com If you would like to participate, please email me your entry at mark at wltc dot net. Please rate this article using the star system below. The competition will be judged primarily on the input from readers like you. Thank you.

This is written by Bes Zain

Online users prefer sticking around sites which are written by people with clear intentions. Online users also like it when blog authors express things transparently. Being transparent on the web is vital for a site to succeed. When you are open to your users about yourself and your site, you will gain more trust from people visiting your site compared to if you made yourself and your site anonymous. You must practise and master the art of transparency in some area of your choice on your site if you want your site and your blogging to succeed.

What does practicing transparency mean?

Being transparent on the web is the same as being transparent regarding certain things with people in real life. Tony Hung on Problogger says that transparency “means that no matter what the blog is about, the readers know what they’re getting into.” Mentioning your personal details on the web is still considered a taboo by most people. While personal information should be kept private in many cases, giving users extra information that lets them know who they are indirectly interacting with is an excellent step towards establishing your credibility and making your blog better. Here I present to you some explanation of transparency by showing you how a company and an individual deal with transparency through a site and a blog respectively, and how I try to deal with transparency through different ways.

How a company website can show transparency

Any site on the internet can use the power of transparency to gain loyalty and trust. Whatever a site maybe about, the more information it gives to readers about the nature of the content offered, the better. Take Agloco as an example. It is run by the same founders who ran AllAdvantage. AllAdvantage became popular in 1999 because it paid online users to view ads. It closed in 2001 because of not earning enough money. Agloco explains this on its new site with details about the past and how the new model is more stable. This comparison is a form of transparency, where a company mentions the bad things that happened before and explains the current plans in order to regain any broken trust from previous users. This way, users can know about the risks involved when using such a service. Simply visit http://www.Agloco.com directly.

How individuals can practise transparency on blogs

In addition to content, it is sometimes important to make the online personality of an author transparent. When people read great content, they wonder about the author. The author, whether a single person or a company, becomes associated with the content in the minds of the readers. If users can trust the author, they will try to read more things written by that author. Darren Rowse is an example of presenting yourself transparently. The ProBlogger author talks about how much he earns from different advertising mediums and also about his personal life from time to time on his website. Users see Darren as someone who is willing to share something personal from his life which results in users associating his site with quality content and Darren himself with credibility. Because of this, Darren is trusted since users know who and what they are dealing with when they visit his blog.

John Chow recently launched a linkback campaign where a MiniTV USB was offered as a prize along with a linkback to anyone writing a review of his site. The review could be either good or back, and John explained in his post how this would benefit both his site and the site of the reviewer. This is transparency, where the users know exactly what the blogger aims to gain from the blog and what the blogger aims to give back to the users via the blog. The contest is now over at JohnChow.com and John is still offering linkbacks, so I thought of using this as an opportunity to use his site as an example of transparency on blogs and as a small review also.

My attempt at transparency

When you are doing something via your site that the users may not be aware of, it is best to explain things that may not be obvious. Take the Amazon links on my site as an example. Almost all of my Amazon.com links [except the one mentioned in this paragraph] have a referral id in them which allows me to earn referral commission from Amazon purchases by readers like you. This is stated in my About page also. Take this very post as a second example for this. I stated clearly earlier in this post how one of the links contained a referral id for Agloco while the other did not, and I did that on purpose to convey this example. Similarly, stating my intentions behind reviewing John Chow’s site while using it as an example for my post at the same time is my attempt at making this very post as much transparent as possible.

Just like in real life, when people know more details about a person online, they tend to interact with that person more comfortably. I have noticed on my site that people contact me more when they know something about my site or myself compared to when they do not know anything about me or my site. Being anonymous is nice, but just like in real life, you must open up some part of yourself, directly or indirectly, or else risk alienating yourself from the world. Am I good at being transparent? No. I am still learning everyday on how to be more transparent and how to open up some parts of my personal life for the benefit of my site readers, and how to keep certain parts only to myself as I do in real life.

My conclusion : be transparent about relevant things

You do not have to be completely transparent on your site about everything related to you, specially when some things are not related to your site. While a reader may be interested in knowing who a site owner is, they will not be expecting to know everything there is to know about that site owner. Be transparent and be mysterious. Refrain from mentioning unnecessary details. Stick to the point and convey the point so well that the users know everything that is to know about the nature your site and the message conveyed through it.

Regardless of the nature of your site, users will trust you if they notice that you are willing to share something interesting with them. The more open you are about relevant things, the more trust you will get from your users. Transparency online is a good thing. The more transparent you are about yourself and your intentions on the web, the more respect and loyalty you will gain from your fellow blog visitors.

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Comments

  1. Charles Nicholls (1 comments.) says:

    Love the post. Being transparent to me is about like being funny, there’s a fine line between transparent and too transparent just as there is between funny and too funny.

  2. Mig (1 comments.) says:

    Transfarency for me is not lying in your posts. Is being honest to our readers and you.

  3. Sunspel (2 comments.) says:

    That’s true! you gain the confidence of the visitors by being transparent to them. I just can’t find a single good reason for not being transparent to the users.



Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] I will try to participate in the different topics available here. Also, I entered my article “Importance of transparency in blogging” into the WTLC Blogging Essay Competiton. Please go ahead and read the entry and rate it depending on whether you like it or not. I would really appreciate it. [...]

  2. [...] This article was entered in the WTLC Blogging Essay Competition, turning out to be the 25th entry. If possible, please rate and vote for the article on WTLC and let others know what you think of this article. [...]

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