How many times have you received marketing emails from companies you’ve never heard of touting products you’d almost never consider buying? For each of those emails, how many times have you wondered how the heck those companies got your email address? Most of us marketing types know the story behind those random emails, but if you’re not in the business, that kind of thing can leave you wondering exactly who has access to your email address. And, if they can get a hold of that information, what else are they privy to about you?
These sorts of questions, and many more about how our personal information is being used by businesses, float through the heads of people regularly as they wander about on the web. With the induction of social media into our daily lives, those questions have exponentially increased in number, and it doesn’t take much to find someone doubting whether they should share their latest online purchase with their Facebook friends or sign up for another e-newsletter.
The increased levels of general consumer awareness and wariness about information sharing make it imperative that you, as a business, stay aware of rules and regulations surrounding customer data use and are open about your data gathering policies and any changes you make to them.
So, what do you need to make sure you’re doing to avoid breaking the rules and alienating your customers?
Know the Rules
This seems obvious, but with new social networks popping up so fast and new information becoming readily available on the web on a daily basis, the rules change quickly. Keep up to date with all regulations from your government’s consumer affairs arm regarding data gathering & sharing and consumer privacy.
Of course, it can be hard to stay updated or even understand what you should and shouldn’t be doing when you have to wade through pages of legalese. If possible, have your legal team create an easily understandable “Cliffs Notes” version of those federal policies to be shared in your internal community. If that isn’t possible, work with legal team to identify the regulations most relevant to your communications and update and share that information regularly with your Marketing and PR/Communications departments and executives.
Don’t take chances with any vague clauses or statements in these policies; seek out clarification and always err on the side of caution. When it comes to federal privacy regulations, the last thing you want to be doing is skirting the line between solid and questionable data use.
Air Your Clean Laundry
If your business is directed towards children or is a financial institution have you accounted for the additional rules and regulations created specifically for your industry?
Give Them a Way Out
Opting in and opting out of something is not just relegated to newsletters these days; you can give your customers opportunities to opt in or out of sharing certain pieces of information about themselves when they choose to share details about your products via social networks. Even if they choose to share quite openly, provide an opt-out option at all times. Make it easy for them to change their information sharing preferences at any time, and be honest with them about what they’ll be putting out into the world if they choose to interact with and promote your brand via social networks.
This is a quick look at what companies should be doing at a basic level to protect their customers and stay in good standing with them, as well.
How are you ensuring your social media marketing efforts don’t alienate your customers and prospects? Where do you draw the line between using social media data and leaving it in the confines of your secure customer information databases? Share your tips and stories with us in the comments!