As the debate over internet privacy makes headlines with Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus all taking center stage around the hotly contested idea of “real identity” marketers face our own privacy battle. For us it’s not about how to open things up but rather looking at what open means for participation with our brands. Casting aside personal opinions and beliefs for the larger privacy debate, one has to realize that not all customers are willing to share all businesses – as themselves – to their own friends – in a way that can be seen forever.
Are the social tools we are using the right tools for our businesses?
Let’s start with a couple examples…
It’s Sunday afternoon and a man walks into Robins Brothers, “the world’s largest engagement ring store”. After having a great experience with the clerk and making a selection, he’s prompted to share the store by a kiosk on the door. Elated about the experience he quickly “validates” the store by liking it through Facebook. Before he makes the 5 minute drive home his soon-to-be fiancé’s friends have all posted back congratulating the two on an engagement that hasn’t happened. Whoops.
Fast forward a few days… the same man heads out with his [now] fiancé to watch a movie at the local theatre. The film is considered a “chick flick” but he likes it. After the movie, fandango asks him to post a review through his choice of social sites… all of which use his real name. Concerned from his last incident that he’ll get caught by his buddies he says nothing. Opportunity lost.
The next day the woman’s wife who works for a large corporation that was presented in the movie in a less than great way gets a call from her bosses’ boss asking about a comment she made about the brand integration on her new Twitter account. Realizing that what she had said was public, she turns off the feed from the site where she posted to Twitter.
None of these are far fetched, in fact, they’re all based on real stories that have happened and you can bet there are millions more out there. From a casual comment on a “like” of a particular brand to noting a review on a product a friend would not have expected you to buy, people are increasingly aware of the association between their lives and their postings.
While there’s inherent benefits in forcing real identity around social content like accessing someone’s friend network, or even seeming necessity, like detailed commentary, that’s a pro we’ve created without necessarily considering the impact of the con.
Thus it comes down to a decision: more content or better validation.
Luckily most brands don’t have to pick one or the other. With a host of tools it’s possible to allow both sides and with tweaking, even seemingly open tools can be made rather private. For example, Facebook’s basic like button posts right to the wall while the much richer UI share widget allows the user to select to exclude or include friends. Simple messaging to explain this may encourage a user afraid of exposure to hit share.
Give people enough choice to decide what and how while matching their own need for privacy, all while encouraging them to influence others – which accomplish your goal of creating visibility and buzz, even if it’s not quite in the way you wanted.