What Consumers Really Think About Businesses Using Their Social Media Data

What Consumers Really Think About Businesses Using Their Social Media Data

There’s no doubt that the potential reach of social media is massive. In fact, it’s become the main marketing channel for an increasing number of businesses. Accompanying the massiveness of social media is the plethora of social media data that exists.

“If you took out social media, Bark and Co. wouldn’t be a company,” said the pet supply company’s head of content in a conversation with CB Insights. That’s a significant claim considering the company has surpassed $250 million in annual revenue in the eight years since it launched.

Yet, it’s not always easy for businesses to use social media effectively. As I regularly share with company executives during social media speaking events and social media consulting, winning at social media is a combination of a strong marketing plan and creating content that’s authentic, engaging, and interesting.

Social media data can help transform your marketing by helping you to evolve your approach. You may currently be using a brute force approach to broadcasting your message on social media. When you begin incorporating social media data, your business can become more focused and more effective.

It’s important to be smart when it comes to social media data because a misstep can cause you to lose consumer trust, or worse. Learn more about how you business marketing can benefit from data and what consumers really think about businesses using social media data.

Using Consumer’s Social Media Data

Knowing more about your customers can help you improve customer experience, focus your marketing strategy, and ultimately grow your business.

There are four main categories of social media data collection:

  1. Directly asking consumers: Typically this is done through a poll, survey, or a straightforward post that asks users to comment on a question.
  2. Indirectly tracking customers: This data is collected behind the scenes by the social platform. This can include location information, a user’s interactions, content that a user responds to, metadata, and more.
  3. Social listening: Finding trends in online conversations to help you understand your audience, their preferences, and their sentiment.
  4. Using add-ons or third-party sources: These tools can combine data mining and data brokering to help your data strategy.

User Expectations of Privacy

According to the Pew Research Center, Americans have complicated feelings about social media privacy. Only 9 percent of users think that social media companies are protecting their data, and 80 percent of users say they’re concerned about how advertisers and businesses are accessing their data.

It’s widely understood that social media platforms are providing consumers with a free service in exchange for personal data that fuels advertising. However, it’s often unclear what’s happening with social media data behind the scenes. About 38 percent of users feel confused by a social media company’s privacy policy, and 57 percent aren’t sure what’s being done with the data.

Privacy considerations are at the center of any question about data. Even while consumer data holds tremendous power for businesses, concerns about privacy have sparked a debate about what’s considered invasive.

What Data Is Public?

There is some data that is not limited to the privacy rules or access restrictions of social media platforms. This data is typically from public government records, legal proceedings, or other public information sources. There are no privacy restrictions on this data since it’s a matter of public record. With these data sources, it’s easy to enrich your consumer intelligence without risking user privacy on social platforms.

While public data sounds straightforward, government sources don’t provide easy to use formats, and there can be differences when you start looking between data sources or even across state lines. This presents the business challenge of tracking down the data, sorting it, cleaning it, resolving discrepancies, and making the data usable.

That’s where PeopleFinders can help. With over 2 billion records and 40-years of user location history, the public data can help you know your customers, enhance your lists, and develop your sales intelligence. Plus, its proprietary matching algorithm underpins its data accuracy by collating related information about people, places, phone numbers, and businesses. This ultimately gives you a clear and holistic view of each person.

With PeopleFinders Enterprise Solutions, public data is at your fingertips.

Age as a Factor of Social Media Privacy

When it comes to the information that users share online and personal social media data, younger audiences tend to be more privacy aware. Not only are they concerned about what’s being shared, but they are also taking steps to actively control their privacy settings.

When Deloitte surveyed U.S. users if they’ve adjusted privacy settings on social media due to concerns over data privacy. There was a clear trend by age.

Percent Who Adjusted Their Privacy Settings Within the Past Year

  • Baby Boomers: 18 percent
  • Gen X: 22 percent
  • Gen Y: 24 percent
  • Gen Z: 26 percent

Gen Z is also the most active about privacy across all types of digital media. In addition to concerns about social media data, they’re adjusting privacy settings directly on their mobile phones. About 33 percent of Gen Z has adjusted their phone’s privacy settings within the past year, as compared to between 17 percent and 25 percent for older generations.

Users Want Data Control

User control and consent are the main drivers of consumer preferences about privacy. About 93 percent of users want the right to delete their personal data. Dovetailed with this, 73 percent are more willing to share data if they have visibility and control over it.

Keep in mind that the degree of data harvesting that happens in social media is ultimately determined by the platform itself, rather than by a business or advertiser.

Consumer preferences for control have started to shift social media policy. Facebook is about to make a platform change that is a strong pivot from previous data practices. The platform will be giving back users some control over their social media data.

In the coming months, Facebook will be rolling out a “clear history” tool that lets users anonymize some of their personal data. This function won’t affect the user data that the platform collects from within the platform. Instead, it will affect the data that Facebook gathers from websites and apps outside of Facebook which is then used for retargeting.

We don’t yet know how many users will take the steps to clear their history or how regularly they’ll use the function. For Facebook, this user tool presents a near-term risk that the loss of user data will reduce advertising potential. However, there are two long-term benefits. The “clear history” function will give users a sense of control that could help Facebook address its problem of being seen as untrustworthy. Plus, the function may also help the platform avoid government regulation or financial penalties for its data practices.

What Businesses Can Do to Encourage Users to Share Their Data

Savvy companies are taking a direct approach to consumer data by encouraging users to directly share information. While building your data profiles behind the scenes can help you to enrichen your user profiles, asking users directly, can be a way to obtain information while also building relationships.

There are three main tactics that your business can take to improve an audience’s willingness to share data:

  1. Empower: Let your audience choose what data they share with you.
  2. Benefits: Data is a commodity, and users don’t want to give their data away for free. Providing a valuable benefit makes users more willing to share data with you.
  3. Customize: Data preferences are generational. A data strategy that’s segmented by age can improve your results.

Data-Powered Marketing Strategies

Big data has transformed the potential of marketing strategies.

Consider the insights of every click, every comment, and every upload. Now scale that across the 69 percent of adults who uses social media, and the decades of historical data. This has created an unbelievably huge resource with tremendous marketing power.

How can your business use social media data?

  • Personalized marketing campaigns can go beyond traditional demographics. Today’s platforms have advanced filters that go beyond website visits, click rates, or downloads. You can now use rich personalized data to create very specific marketing targets.
  • Predictive analytics make it possible to not only look into a user’s past but to understand the likelihood of future actions. With today’s machine learning technologies and smart algorithms, social media platforms are getting increasingly skilled at using data for prediction.
  • A/B testing can directly inform businesses about the best way to approach their marketing campaign. With advanced testing, they’re able to leverage click-through data to understand what resonates most with a specific segment of users.

Building Data Trust With Consumers

Brand relationships matter, and consumers can be very unforgiving if they feel that a business’ data practices are invasive or insecure. These grudges can be long-lasting and pervasive.

Today’s privacy policies and data collection practices are becoming relevant beyond the legal disclaimers. Users are curious about what businesses are doing and concerned about business ethics. Especially considering the extreme data breaches that have occurred with email providers and credit reporting agencies, there has been an overall erosion of trust about how businesses are protecting their data.

The best practice of today’s business data policies is to be upfront and honest with consumers. This can improve both customer loyalty and trust, two intangibles that can have a significant effect on your bottom line.

Best Practices for Business Social Media Data Policies:

  1. Transparency: Be upfront with users about how you’re using consumer data.
  2. Inform: Don’t let legalese overwhelm your privacy policy and user agreements. Make it easy for users to understand what’s up.
  3. Choice: Give users the option to opt-out if they wish.

This is a post written by me on behalf of one of PeopleFinders Enterprise, the leaders in empowering your business with data. All opinions are 100% mine.

Neal Schaffer

Neal Schaffer is a leading authority on helping businesses through their digital transformation of sales and marketing through consulting, training, and helping enterprises large and small develop and execute on social media marketing strategy, influencer marketing, and social selling initiatives. President of the social media agency PDCA Social, Neal also teaches digital media to executives at Rutgers University, the Irish Management Institute (Ireland), and the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland). Fluent in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, Neal is a popular keynote speaker and has been invited to speak about digital media on four continents in a dozen countries. He is also the author of 3 books on social media, including Maximize Your Social (Wiley), and in late 2019 will publish his 4th book, The Business of Influence (HarperCollins), on educating the market on the why and how every business should leverage the potential of influencer marketing. Neal resides in Irvine, California but also frequently travels to Japan.

Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer

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