That is… Permission from consumers to market to them.

Recent stories in the news regarding data privacy and social media have added to consumers’ concerns about data privacy and targeting. Facebook recently responded to these concerns by removing functionality available to marketers, including the end of its Partner Categories  program in Facebook (which utilized 3rd party data to enhance targeting) and the overnight throttling back of its Instagram API. These changes in functionality and policy are designed to scale back consumer information available to marketers, creating uncertainty in the future effectiveness of social platforms as marketing tools. Adding to the uncertainty is Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s recent appearance before the US Congress for two days of questioning.

During the Congressional Q & A sessions, some members of Congress suggested the United States adopt legislation similar to the European Union General Data Protection Regulation(GDPR), which goes into effect on May 25, 2018 and replaces the earlier Data Protection Directive. The GDPR will expand the definition of personal data to include location data and IP addresses. Additionally, these rules will strengthen the regulations around permission and consent, requiring organizations have terms and conditions that are easily expressed and understood.Organizations must explain how personal data will be collected, what the data will be used for, and where and how that data may be transferred. Specific consumer consent to collect personal data must be obtained. This regulation is backed up by a healthy fine—up to approximately $24 million (USD) or 4% of the organization’s worldwide revenue (whichever is larger).

While Mr. Zuckerberg seemed agreeable to implementing these controls outside of the European Union, when pressed for more detail he was somewhat vague  as to how far Facebook was willing to go with regards to non-EU markets. The next stop on Mr. Zuckerberg’s world tour is a meeting with the head of the EU’s digital policy. While it is unknown what the result of these hearings and meetings will have on marketing policy and practice in the United States, it does provide an opportunity for marketers to reflect on their current relationship marketing practices and methods. What are responsible marketers to do in this environment of increasing consumer distrust and potential regulation of social platforms?

The best way forward is to embrace permission-based relationship marketing. By doing this, you will be communicating directly with consumers who want to receive your messages and you will deepen the connection between your brand and these consumers.

You need to own the relationship with the consumer, which means the approach to social platforms might change. While social media targeting tools can help identify consumers for acquisition, downstream social media efforts should drive interested consumers to provide permission for additional communications across multiple channels. This will allow you continue to develop the brand-to-consumer relationship in meaningful ways beyond clicks and likes.

When you ask interested consumers for additional contact information, and permission to continue the conversation, you are creating a value exchange with the consumer. The consumers provide personal information on their end of the value exchange. Your end of the value exchange is to use their information and permission responsibly by providing relevant communications and offers while maintaining their trust that you will protect their information.

To accomplish this, you need a consumer data management solution that helps you unify and protect your consumer’s data across all communication channels. The solution should allow you to manage the accurate inflow and outflow of consumer interaction information across marketing channels. While you might outsource the delivery of channel specific communications, you should maintain the records of who you are communicating with, what you are communicating, and when those communications are sent. It is critical to maintain records of consumer permissions across channels, provide accessible methods for consumers to opt out, and immediately act on those requests to opt out. Careful and accurate consumer campaign and response data management will enable you to protect your brand, and more importantly, the trust of your valued consumers.

There are many tools on the market that provide data management solutions (like EnvoyPro) BUT they are not all created equal. As mentioned in a previous post, you can even start with a simple database in Excel. If you decide to use a pre-packaged solution, be cautious and critical in your selection. Ask questions to make sure it captures all the necessary information for your category and the types of communications you envision using. Make sure it is easy to use and doesn’t take a manual or a background in SQL to understand what to do or additional plugins for functionality. It should be simple enough that interns can easily pick it up. And please understand how it captures and maintains different levels of consumer permissions.