Abusing Customer Trust, by Stealth


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A recent article by Shawndra Hill on the Knowledge@Wharton website caught my eye. The article on ‘Network Marketing; Using Existing Customers to Help Sell to New Ones’, showed how much more successful marketing through customers who already know the target customer (‘neighbours’) is than marketing using traditional targeting (‘targets’). In the telecoms example she used, neighbours were over three times more likely to sign up for a new service than targets were. And neighbours who were also targets were five times more likely to buy. A great result by any marketer’s yard-stick.

But what really caught my eye was Hill’s suggestion later in the article that,

“firms own their customers’ data — including email content and MySpace messages — and legally can use it for such purposes as target marketing and fraud detection. Therefore, consumers should be aware that when they reveal both traditional and social network personal information to firms, this information might be used for target marketing or other purposes”.

I cannot believe for one second that customers of, e.g. an on-line service or members or a social-networking website, would stand idly-by whilst the parent companies used their conversations for corporate gain.

Signing up for advertising as the quid-pro-quo for using an on-line service is one thing, but having the parent companies stealthily mine your conversations for potential marketing nuggets is another thing entirely. For me, this would be a serious abuse of trust. It would be a relationship killer.

What do you think? Would you let an on-line service or social networking website mine your on-line conversations? Or is this just the price you pay for using them?

Post a comment and get the conversation going.

Graham Hill

Graham Hill (Dr G)
Business Troubleshooter | Questioning | Thoughtful | Industrious | Opinions my own | Connect with me on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/grahamhill/


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