The more social media use becomes a way of business and a way of life, the more we are seeing – and will continue to see – issues around data collection and user privacy.  It of course makes sense for marketers to leverage this data, but in my opinion, we’re going about it in the wrong way.

Brands MUST begin to view data as a relationship-building and consumer-engagement opportunity, rather than simply a targeting tool.  The targeting mentality is all about “catching” the customer, zeroing in on the customer like prey — totally counter to the emerging culture of social/relationship-based marketing!

Brands that embrace this targeting mentality are missing the boat and letting a huge relationship-building opportunity pass them by.  Let’s turn the table on the data collection/privacy issue and instead make it valuable to the consumer in the form of getting to know them and serving them better.

From a consumer standpoint, data collection can easily feel like an invasion of privacy – unless we build trust with our consumers.  We need to SHOW our consumers that we’re not trying to find their purchasing Achilles heel in the data we gather, and that instead we are tailoring our products and services to them, understanding their needs and pain points… and HEARING them.

  1. Ask your consumers questions — don’t just gather information behind the scenes. Be up front with what you want to know, and then follow up with additional questions to engage them as people, not as statistics.  ASK the questions… don’t try to TELL them what they need!
  2. Don’t use the word “target” with your consumers.  Language matters more than we might think.  Consumers are not prey, they are the other half of a valuable relationship.
  3. Say what you mean, then do what you say.  You have heard this concept before, but now it is more important than ever.  If you promise your consumers that you are gathering data only to serve them better, you need to prove it by actually serving them better!   Incorporate their feedback into improving your products, providing better customer service, paying more attention to everything they say.
  4. Include a healthy dose of empathy in your data collection strategies.  Take the time to see privacy issues from the consumer’s standpoint so you can address their concerns up front.

Remember, consumers are people, not prey.  Use your data collection wisely and it can be a highly effective consumer engagement tool.

Relationships ARE the new currency – honor them, invest in them, & turn your “targeting” into ­Return on Relationship!

Originally posted at Collective Bias

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