How To Make Your Content Personalization Less Creepy

Content personalization is the future when it comes to digital and social media marketing. Making a personal connection with individual audience members can give a brand the opening it needs to build a lasting relationship with potential customers and strengthen existing relationships. And from Facebook to LinkedIn, social media networks are taking advantage of big data and using it to help their partners market to users. How To Make Your Content Personalization Less Creepy image content personal creepyHow To Make Your Content Personalization Less Creepy

But many users are starting to think all this personal, predictive advertising is kind of creepy. With algorithms that reveal connections between seemingly unrelated social network users, retargeting partnerships that pull from users’ Internet habits and inbox ads that refer to your favorite websites, it’s getting a little tough to draw the line between brands’ efforts at online customer service and a constant bombardment of advertising.

If the goal is to move away from interruptive marketing and toward a more inbound approach, brands might need to rethink their methods of reaching and interactive with their audiences. But when does helpful turn into creepy? And how can brands avoid that line?

Convenience for convenience’s sake?

Amazon’s newest addition to its line of Kindle tablets is the HDX, which exclusively features a 24-hour video customer service line. It’s being billed as a handy, hands-on solution for Kindle users who need help with everything from digital media purchases to Kindle HDX features.

Early reviews of the feature call it “the real deal” and impressive. But the commercials that advertise the feature make it seem a little…spooky:

Amazon’s customer service (once it became easier to access) has been solid for years. But how necessary is seeing a customer service rep—especially when that rep can’t see you? Does this personalization of content and service make customers feel more in control of the user experience, or does it simply represent one more layer of brand infiltration? Amazon’s Kindle devices already operate on an essentially closed ecosystem—giving customers the equivalent of voyeuristic customer care seems a bit much.

The Great Opt-Out

Amazon’s Mayday feature is for customers who buy a particular device, but Google’s latest foray into ad generation potentially affects everyone who uses the search engine. It’s Shared Endorsements plan, which launches in November, uses the +1’s from users to generate display ads to show to your friends. It’s an ingenious way for Google to use its own data to generate even more ad revenue.

But Facebook learned earlier this year that users aren’t fond of being tricked into vouching for brands without being notified or paid. Google pre-empted a legal backlash with a terms of service change, but by making the feature opt-out instead of opt-in means that its millions of users may still have their information shared without their express consent. Google has enough data at its disposal to create the largest ad network in the world and, whether we like it or not, every time we use any part of its service we run the risk of feeding Google’s ad machine.

Keeping brands on the right side of content personalization is much more difficult than it looks, especially when the Internet is so full of valuable data. But making the right choice can be as simple as a brand asking its audience what they want. Opt-in policies and other actions can be taken to reassure customers that they and their data are respected and protected. That’s one kind of personalization that virtually every Internet user can get behind.

Image credit: Mike Licht

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