How to get personal in an increasingly private world

Successful social strategies connect with customers on a deeper level – but how do you get close without being creepy? Mel Moss talks personalising social media campaigns while respecting privacy.

Social media marketing is no longer just a line item in your digital media schedule or a way to create an online following – it’s quickly becoming the fastest, easiest way to build a brand, learn about your customers and deliver tangible business results.

It’s not as simple as posting content daily though, is it? More than ever, the social media game is focused on direct marketing tactics – interacting with your audience and customers in a way that feels personal and human. 

The right social strategy takes into account a person’s interests and behaviours, allowing you to connect with them on a deeper level. But have we gone too far? I couldn’t tell you how many times my parents have claimed their phone is ‘listening’ to them because they were served a Facebook advert about something they were discussing in the privacy of their own home.

According to Deloitte’s Australian Privacy Index survey, 83 percent of consumers say they’re concerned by the internet cookies that track their activity only for targeted marketing purpose, and we know they’re being taken seriously by the big tech players in Silicon Valley, with Google, Apple and Mozilla abandoning the third-party cookies that enabled them to track consumer behaviour across the internet for years. In saying this, consumers are still most likely to shop from a brand that offers a tailored and seamless experience. The tension between privacy and personalisation for marketers couldn’t be any more real.

Mel Moss.

So how can digital leaders continue to reach and engage customers and deliver personalised experiences online while respecting consumer privacy? Well, at Chemistry we believe it all comes down to this sentiment: You don’t hug a stranger and you don’t tell a friend you know they ordered UberEats last night! It’s all about social etiquette in the privacy versus personalisation space.

The key here is to empower people to choose if, when and how they want to participate with your brand. This means developing a robust first-party data strategy that builds in consent from the very beginning and an understanding that data can be augmented in an open and privacy-conscious way down the track to improve the brand experience.

Basically, you want consumers to feel that they have some control over what they see, and give them the idea that this has saved them from spending hours trailing through content they don’t need. This comes down to understanding how consumers are using your brand’s platforms. What do they click on, when do they go to the website from Facebook, how long do they spend on a particular branded advert?

As social media experts and marketers, it’s our job to harness the data from social media platforms to build this personalised space for customers without being creepy. So how do you use personalised marketing in social media without breaching privacy laws or scaring off your customers with the knowledge that you know exactly where they’ve been and what they considered buying hundreds of times before they checked out of their cart?

Take a look at my suggestions below. 

My top four ideas for personalised social media marketing

  1. Build a strategy around audience hypotheses and dynamically test them: The best way to begin a social strategy is with an audience hypothesis. This is where you build out different targeting groups based on being relevant (not directly personal) and then create a unique value proposition for each group. At Chemistry we will often run all types of ads dynamically across the groups to test what performs best, allowing the algorithms to do their job, rather than forcing our own targeting guesswork upon people. The best part is that you learn a lot about what people like from this approach! 
  2. Allow people to ‘hand-raise’: Implement ways for people to self-select and tell you what they’re interested in, rather than telling them what you already know. One of my favourite mechanics for hand-raising is lead gen forms that capture interest data that you can then segment and use to personalise at a later date. A simpler hand-raising technique is to run ad sets that are focused on specific things for users to engage with (or ignore). You can then follow up with more relevant content or ads based on their actions.   
  3. Give users the permission to be engaged with: You should always ensure you create ways for users to be in control of their engagement with you on social media. The best way to do this is to run a layer of engagement first, building an engagement pool that you then funnel into the rest of the campaign. You should also ensure you are lean with the frequency of your remarketing ads – there is no bigger turn off than being chased around the internet #desperate. (Don’t be tempted by how cheap remarketing is).
  4. Implement the ‘big brother’ creative test: There’s a lot to be said for overzealous creativity being the enabler of creepiness in social media. At Chemistry we run a litmus test to ensure we are showing relevance but not demonstrating we know something about this person because we’ve observed their behaviour. You should only leverage targeting data for finding people, not for creative execution. 

Mel Moss

About Mel Moss

Mel Moss is a Managing Partner at Chemistry - the experts in developing social media strategies that get under the skin of brand challenges to create solutions that drive real business growth.

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