Blog Startup Journey

Why Transparency is NOT the Key to Content Marketing Success

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More and more blogs are adopting transparency as a content strategy. Here’s what to know before you do the same.

A couple of weeks ago, I got this email from a blogger:

My comments should appear online soon, but the question isn’t really relevant.

What’s important to me is the use of the term “transparency blog” (which we didn’t invent, by the way).

We’ve certainly seen more and more blogs pop up that focus on transparency as an editorial strategy. They see the success that others have with transparent blogs, and they emulate.

Don’t get me wrong; more companies investing energy and resources into content marketing is a very good thing.

I’d love for every single one of them to succeed.

I’m rooting for everyone in our community to succeed. Truly.

But transparency alone isn’t enough.

Transparency Is More Than Sharing Numbers

Why is transparency effective?

Because it makes your content more useful and relatable.

As a reader, if I read a post about marketing strategy, it’s far more valuable to me if I can:

  1. See examples of the strategies in action, along with results.
  2. Understand the tips in the context of the writer’s metrics, so that I can better apply them to our own situation.

That’s one of the things that makes transparency so valuable: it makes great content better.

For example, Buffer shares their numbers:

Transparency Transparency

But they often add really valuable commentary that gives us insight into how they think about their business:

Value Value

That, to me, is where transparency wins.

What transparency is not, however, is a substitute for great content.

When I see blogs dedicated to nothing more than simply sharing metrics without context, I can’t help but think that they’re self-indulgent.

Posting a screenshot of your metrics isn’t really transparency. It’s just laziness.

Numbers alone help nobody.

Transparency Is About Value

A good marketer approaches content development with the goal of delivering something that’s ridiculously valuable to their readers.

Does your blog deliver value? Does your blog deliver value?

We try really hard to accomplish that with every post, and while not every single one ends up connecting as well as we’d hope, I like to think that they can all be valuable to someone.

In Groove’s case, we try to be transparent when it helps add valuable context to the takeaways in our posts.

Yes, this blog is about our journey. And if all we did was post our metrics each week, it’d still technically be about our journey.

But the value simply wouldn’t be there.

4 Questions to Ask Before Using Transparency as a Content Strategy

I hope this post doesn’t make me sound like I’m against other companies pursuing transparency as a content strategy.

I’m not. I think it can help others produce valuable content, and more valuable content helps us all. I’m 100% for it.

But don’t just “do” transparency because you see others doing it.

That’s like buying Lebron’s sneakers and expecting to become a great basketball player.

Now I’m not comparing myself, Groove or our blog to Lebron (nor am I saying that we’re great), but I do think it’s a helpful analogy to think about where transparency lies in the realm of marketing: it’s a single tool of many.

Before you decide to harness that tool, here are a few things to think about:

1) What’s My Motivation?

No, you don’t have to justify yourself to your readers, and you certainly don’t have to justify yourself to me.

But having a clear why for your content gives you an invaluable north star for the content decisions that you make.

Why do you want to be transparent?

Do you want to be more trustworthy to your readers?

Do you want to have a unique content angle that nobody has taken before?

Do you want to bolster your tips with hard data?

Do you want customers to see that you’re growing?

Do you want more publicity?

All are valid and none are mutually exclusive, but think long and hard about this, as it will make a lot of your tough choices much, much easier.

2) Does It Add Value to the Reader?

This question couldn’t be more simple, and yet it couldn’t be more important.

Does being transparent, in the way that you’re doing it, add value to the reader?

If not, what’s the point?

3) Am I Going Beyond the Numbers?

Transparency doesn’t just involve numbers.

You can be transparent with your processes. Your team dynamic. Your reading list.

Some of our most popular posts – the ones that many readers deeply connected with and got value from – are ones where I’ve been transparent with my emotions.

There are a lot of ways to be transparent and useful. Don’t limit yourself to metrics.

4. What Is Going to Make People Want to Read This?

It’s easy to forget that at the end of the day, nobody cares about you.

They don’t care about your blog, or about your business, or about your content.

Everyone cares most of all about themselves. Indulge that, and you can do anything.

Yes, your content has to be valuable. But being valuable isn’t enough, just like being transparent isn’t enough.

What makes your content interesting? Unique?

Why should I read it over the thousands of other posts competing for my attention?

This is an important question to ask in any conversation about content strategy, but especially so when we’re talking about transparency, because it’s easy to think that transparency is unique enough to be that differentiator.

It’s not.

Transparency Is a Tool, Not a Silver Bullet

There are a lot of incredible benefits that we’ve reaped from the transparency on our blog.

The biggest one of all is the relationship that we’ve built with this community. I get emails every week from people who like us more, trust us more, read us more and recommend us more because of how open we are.

But if we were transparent without any of the other stuff, it wouldn’t matter. Nobody would read our blog.

Transparency is a great tool that I’d recommend to anyone, but it’s not enough on its own.

I hope that this post inspires you to think differently about transparency, and how you can use it right to grow your own business.

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About the Author

Alex Turnbull is the CEO & Founder of Groove (simple helpdesk software for small businesses) who loves to build startups and surf.

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