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Being responsible with consumer data

Technology & Data

Being responsible with consumer data


Social media is changing the way that marketers think about the world around them. Platforms like Facebook are not just new ways of reaching audiences, they also contain huge volumes of data about each individual. Every time a Facebook user ‘likes’ a page or connects with someone else a record of that event is created. Combined with the demographic data that already exists, this activity can tell marketers a lot about the people they are interacting with. If you are interested in seeing what your data profile looks like go to wolframalpha.com/facebook.

All this information and insight to potential behaviours and preferences is part of the promise of big data marketing. But there’s a problem. Now that brands have caught onto the value of this data they are busy trying to collect it in any way possible – and while Facebook allows you to collect data, that doesn’t always mean it’s a good idea. If companies get individuals to provide personal information unwittingly, or use it in ways that don’t add value, then this system for gathering, analysing and utilising data could break down.

The average person knows that companies want his or her data. After all they are asked to provide it all the time. But for many people this is starting to get scary. So how can a brand get what they need but leave individuals  feeling ‘safe’?

It’s not that difficult. Just follow these four simple rules:

Only ask for what you need

Imagine a world where, as you walked in a supermarket, you were greeted at the door by a bouncer who asked you to hand over your wallet and passport. Nobody would go there. This is how people see forms that ask for lots of information at once. It’s an invasion. They may give you that information but only if they trust you.

So only ask for the minimum information you require.

Describe how the data will be used

Be open and honest. If you are going to email the customer later, tell them. When people know they have a choice,  the sense of empowerment can build trust.

Think of it as a trade – offer something of real value

If the data is valuable to you then find a way to reward people for sharing it. And reward every additional piece of information they supply. You are engaging in a trade. They are giving you something and you should reciprocate. It may just be through access to a bit more information or functionality but it is still a reward for the behaviour you are seeking.

Don’t go back on your word!

If you have earned an individual’s trust don’t undo all of your good work by doing something stupid. Treat each person like a partner and you will build goodwill.

The data from social media can be an extremely powerful tool to help drive sales and change the way you think about your customers. But always remember it’s a record of your customers’ life. Treat it with respect.


Mark Cameron

Mark Cameron is CEO of customer experience innovation agency Working Three and a world renowned digital strategy commentator with well over 400 published articles. Specialties: Digital innovation, Digital customer experience strategy, Social media strategy, Digital strategy, Online Marketing strategy. He blogs at markrcameron.com and tweets from @MarkRCameron.

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