Like many other data breaches that have been flooding the news, the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal sent the social media world into panic. This scandal was different from the other reports of misused consumer data (like Equifax) for two reasons: one, because of the sheer number of people affected (some reports stating as many as 87 million users); and two, because of the type of data that was shared without their consent.
While Equifax was hacked for information, like social security numbers and credit card information, Facebook facilitated the improper use of user data like political views, likes, interests, etc. Both are huge invasions of privacy and betrayals of trust. But while one is decidedly “creepy,” the other is downright harmful and potentially tragic. Either way, data breaches make you stop and think. At least, for a moment, or—at least they should, right?
As scary as any type of data breach is, the Facebook scandal hasn’t actually deterred many users. While it’s true that trust in Facebook fell 66 percent following the news, the breach hasn’t really stopped many from logging on. Simply put, we’ve become too used to living online. Sharing our pictures, locations, updates, and relationships is too ingrained in our behavior for us to be concerned enough to change, let alone go cold turkey. What it has done is drive users towards taking a closer look at what they’re posting online, reading/creating tips on how to share less information with the platform, and overall having a heightened awareness of data privacy and how their personal data is being used.
However, this doesn’t mean that data marketing should be avoided or that marketers should pull out of advertising with social platforms like Facebook. Instead, it’s important for marketers to take a look at the kind of data they’re using, the source of that data, and how to assure consumers that their data is used appropriately and will be well protected.
Establish Trust (and if You’ve Lost It, Earn it Back)
For Facebook, this meant reestablishing trust by increasing spending on their data security and privacy, finding new ways to improve data use and security, and making it easier to manage privacy settings. They also took the time to recognize their shortcomings and provide a clear direction for the future in the form of a very well-done and heart-felt TV commercial.
For marketers who are not in the center of a scandal, it can be as simple as sending a message reaffirming the kind of data you collect, what it’s used for, and the people or groups with whom it’s shared. Ensuring that communications that include sensitive data are provided in a secure manner is also essential. Direct mail is great at this—fortunately, there is no “hacking” an envelope and consumers are proven to trust information provided via the printed word more readily.
Understand Your Audience’s Data Privacy Comfort Level
Carefully consider how comfortable your audience is with data and where that data is coming from. We’ll use my family as an example. As someone who understands how personal data can be leveraged to better customize products and services, I’m okay with sharing information with companies I trust and do business with. As for my two daughters, while they understand on some level how the information they post online can be used by outside sources, they aren’t necessarily giving marketers the okay to use it.
This is an important distinction: just because someone makes personal data about themselves available does not mean they are comfortable with having marketers use it. Instead, try to stick to the data that the consumer intentionally gives to you.
Avoid Getting Too Personal
In many cases, it’s not about what data you have, it’s about how you use it. I expect financial institutions to have some of my personal information like my credit score or income. However, were the same financial institution to reference my daughters in a communication, that would raise a red flag for me. That kind of data isn’t appropriate for the services the business is providing. That level of personalization would raise my awareness of the kind of data they’re collecting on me, and how they’re using it. Most likely to the point where I would either make a phone call or terminate the relationship all together.
If you’re using data for trigger mailings, come at the topic from a general angle to alleviate data privacy concerns. Let’s say you’re selling life insurance to expectant families. You don’t need to say, “Congratulations on your new addition!” That’s information you have no business of knowing, and frankly, it’s not needed. The consumer doesn’t need to be reminded of their situation—it’s already top of mind. All you need to do is communicate the importance of your product and carefully craft your messaging to include their specific situation and help them connect the dots.
Keep Your Customer Comfortable
As a marketer, it’s important to understand what your customer is comfortable with in terms of the data you collect, the data you use, and the data you ask for. Asking for permission to access data isn’t just a courtesy these days, it’s a necessity in building strong relationships. If you’re asking for data outright, make sure the information you’re asking for relates to your service or product. Approach asking for information by confirming for your prospect or customer that the information they provide will help better customize their service. Also make sure you communicate how you’ll be using whatever data they provide and how you plan to safeguard it.
Consumers are rightly concerned about data privacy and how companies are acquiring and using their personal information. By using the data you have wisely, you can alleviate consumer concerns while still delivering personalized one-to-one content that helps your return on marketing investment thrive. For more help on navigating this delicate subject, contact me today.
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