5 Dos and Don'ts on How to Use Consumer Data in Social

Blog Post
May 29, 2018

By Laura Watson and Kate Sullivan

Data privacy is a hot button topic right now—but being responsible with your customer’s personal data is never going to go out of style.

When it comes to the use of data and information from a social network perspective, all of it is personal. Why? Because social media is inherently personal and useful to people—it fulfills our need to share news and updates with family and friends. It helps define us through shared information on health, civic participation, job-related activities and more.

In the face of the recent Facebook, Cambridge Analytica issues, we can expect heightened awareness of personal data issues, and says Victoria Petrock, principal analyst at eMarketer: “expect these concerns to increase, especially as more data is shared across different apps, devices and platforms.”


How can you ensure that—as users’ distrust of social platforms grows—your brand’s reputation isn’t being dragged down as well? How can we, as responsible marketers, ensure we are driving ethical and responsible data use in social?

Here’s a list of Do’s and Don’ts:

1. Opt-Ins

DO have more than one way for users to connect with you. Think beyond email. There are multiple ways to retarget audiences, and the more audiences you build, the more people you can retarget. Make it easy for users to “opt in” to communicating with your brand beyond email to include multiple channels. An agile approach to testing and learning over multiple channels will be rewarded.

DON’T retarget anyone who hasn’t explicitly opted in to marketing communications from your brand, whether using their email address or other identifier.

2. Personalization

DO create campaigns that build on users’ engagements with your brand instead of serving everyone the same content. People are on FB because it’s personal to them in the first place.

Lots of marketers are retargeting there because there’s an expectation in the market that people want things easy, simple and fast in a venue where they’re “hanging out” already. And there are a lot of marketing automation tools that can help tailor the types of content and topics that help you deliver hyper-personalized communications to your customers.

DO think about whether you’re adding value to your customers’ lives. Brands today need to “show me you know me.” But there is a fine line, and you certainly have to be sure that you’re treating any information that you have about a consumer with respect. Be sure there is a proper threshold set for the personal intel you’re using about them and how you’re treating it so that it doesn’t feel too invasive when setting up personalized messaging.

DON’T assume that you should target your customers based only on what you know about them in your database. There’s a wealth of behavioral data both within your owned properties and on walled gardens like Facebook that you can use to trigger more relevant and more valuable communications.

3. Transparency

DO set up an internal advisory board of team members outside of marketing (which can also include customers). Run your targeting by this team. If they can’t explain or feel squeamish about how you’re using your customers’ data, then it’s time to rethink your approach.

DON’T use targeting options you wouldn’t want the customer to know about. Facebook will eventually make the ads you’ve run through their platform publicly available.

4. Team Members

DO equip your employees to talk about their passion for your brand and its customers.

DON’T force feed them specific content. For example, a blanket list of talking points handed out to employees will fall flat. Don’t force anyone’s hand about the news or info they share about your brand—this is about as impersonal as it can get. Humanize your brand by allowing them to share socially, on their terms, what they are comfortable with and what they care about. Make content available for employees, but don’t insist they share it.

5. Conversations

DO listen. Listening to your customers can revolutionize your business. Analyze customer conversations to enable better product offerings, create tailored services—virtually anything to do with your business model. You may be surprised to find out what really matters to them.

DON’T try to control the conversation. People quickly begin to mistrust brands that provide only positive reviews of their products or services. Including the negatives, as well, provides a well-rounded, humanized view that helps generate trust.

DON’T just wait for your customers to reach out to say something to you. For every one person that complains, there could be 26 that do not. One person’s complaint may not be that meaningful to you, but for every 100 complainers, 2,600 have quietly stopped doing business with your brand. Be proactive, reach out and connect. Ask customers what they’re thinking—it will pay dividends in the long run.

Just as social media allows users to have a personal relationship with friends, family and the world, it also allows brands to create relationships with customers. A healthy relationship thrives on open communication and trust. You can develop that trust by using social media and the data available through these platforms respectfully and to the advantage of your customers. Use it to understand customers’ needs and concerns and to consistently drive relevant, personalized conversations that bring them value. This approach will never go out of fashion.

You might also find value in Data and Trust: 4 Pressing Risks for CMOs.