Tweet with integrity: disclose your interest.

Since moving from London to Suffolk I have used Twitter to meet people, consume local products and services and help out where I can.

One of the reasons I rate Twitter so highly is the positive impact it has on our family life through the “Word of Mouth” (WOM) recommendations and advice we continue to receive from our network of followers.

However, as I’ve seen Twitter grow and as I’ve become more acquainted with my Twitter community, I am increasingly concerned that the integrity of the WOM value may be under threat.

The internet in general relies on openness and transparency. Twitter is no different and these two qualities are the bedrock of Trust and Credibility on which the value of WOM depends. The internet has given us a tremendously powerful platform and most would advise to make full and clear disclosure of who you are and who you work for before using it to communicate with any audience.

I’ve found several “Power-Users” in my Tweetstream who understand how to use Twitter and they have a good following because their tweet stream is a combination of useful content/conversation, personal anecdotes, good advice and sage recommendations. Lets call them the influencers.

Influence is a valuable commodity but, I fear, its value is being eroded by some careless and sloppy practice. This erosion of trust isn’t a sinister thing and it’s easily cured. In a call for increased openness and transparency, there is a requirement for all of us (influencers or not) to declare our interest when promoting people and products on Twitter (and the same applies to levying criticism)

Declaration of interest cannot dilute influence; its the non-disclosure that erodes it. I am just as likely to follow a recommendation from someone I already trust knowing that they’ve just punted a client’s product. However, trust will be threatened if I later discover a client relationship or other self-interest motivating a tweet. That said,on the whole, I believe there’s nothing sinister about the practice of non-declaration. All I’m suggesting is that we sharpen-up our disclosures.

I have record of several tweets by repeat offenders entering into the “disclosure-omission” game. In most instances, a simple declaration could have helped maintain the tweet’s credibility and more importantly preserved my trust in that person’s WOM stream. At this stage, I’m not brave enough to single any out! Instead, I thought I’d encourage a debate on how best to achieve openness and transparency. I’ll initiate with three pointers:

  1. Try and incorporate a clear disclosure of interest into a tweet. If you’re promoting a friend say so. If the promotion is connected to your employer, your business or a client, say so. Self promotion is usually evident but make it clear if it isn’t.
  2. If you repeatedly promote someone or something try and have an area on your website or blog where you disclose your interests.
  3. Understand your own motives before tweeting: If you think people may be confused or question your motives behind a tweet , ensure you offer clarity there and then.

Can you think of any other ways of promoting transparency?

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