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transparency important for brandsConsumers place greater priority on transparency then ever when considering what companies and brands to patronize.

An overwhelming 86 percent of consumers say transparency from businesses is more important than ever before, and more than half say they want brands to be most transparent on social media, a new Sprout Social survey of 1,000 consumers reports.

Social media creates opportunities for brands to develop relationships with consumers and transform them into loyal customers. The key is constant communication that is open, honest and empathetic. Despite the growing recognition of the power of social media, there’s a large gap between consumer expectations and brands’ practices. “Many stakeholders fail to connect how transparency communicates authenticity to consumers,” the report states.

Key findings include:

  • Forty percent of people who say brand transparency is more important than ever before attribute it to social media.
  • More than half of consumers (53 percent) are likely to consider brands that are transparent on social media for their next purchase. Conversely, 86 percent of people are likely to take their business to a competitor if they perceive a lack of transparency.
  • Eighty-one percent believe businesses have a responsibility to be transparent when posting on social media. That’s a higher standard than they set for politicians, nonprofits, friends/family and even themselves.
  • Only 15 percent of consumers believe brands are currently “very transparent” on social.
  • One third of consumers say they would purchase more from brands whose CEOs demonstrate transparency on social, and 63 percent say CEOs with their own social profiles better represent their companies.

Here’s the most important finding:

  • When brands develop a history of transparency, nearly nine in 10 people are more likely to give them a second chance after a bad experience and 85 percent are more likely to stick with them during crises.

“Our data shows that transparency truly makes the difference in forming lasting connections between businesses and consumers,” says Jamie Gilpin, chief marketing officer at Sprout Social. “But being a transparent brand is much more than a singular campaign or announcement. It’s an ongoing practice that showcases the humanity of a brand and builds a relationship that’s rooted in authenticity and honesty.”

Other Research Finds Brand Transparency is Key

A previous survey by Label Insight also found that transparency is instrumental to improving a brand’s reputation – and sales. Main lessons from the research are:

Consumers want detailed information about product, such as where the company sourced materials, how the product was made, and what values guided its production.

Consumers want to know more about the cultures and values of companies and how they do business.

If companies lack transparency, consumers turn to third-party sources to learn about companies and their products. Companies that don’t release information risk losing control of their reputations.

Mothers ages 18 to 34 emphasize brand transparency more than any other demographic. Many research information online and are willing to pay more for products from transparent brands.

“For brands — just as for celebrities, politicians and anyone else in the media spotlight — scandals, PR mishaps and social media slip ups are nearly impossible to keep off the connected consumer’s radar,” says Ashley Deibert, vice president of marketing at iQ Media, in Forbes. “As a result, brands no longer have an option other than representing themselves honestly and transparently. Authenticity is crucial to continued loyalty from fickle audiences.”

Bottom Line: Brands that communicate with the public openly and honestly build trust and deeper relationships with their audiences. That leads to loyal customers. Organizations that withhold information risk losing control of their reputations as consumers turn to other sources.