Balancing Business Insight and Consumer Trust

How to develop your social data strategy while building trusted relationships with your customers.

In 2014, Snapchat agreed to settle charges that it deceived consumers about the disappearing nature of messages sent through the popular mobile messaging app. The company allegedly deceived consumers over the amount of personal data it collected and the security measures taken to protect that data. In fact, Snapchat’s failure to secure its “Find Friends” feature resulted in a security breach that enabled attackers to compile a database of 4.6 million Snapchat usernames and phone numbers.

Then there’s the case of PaymentsMD, LLC, a U.S. health billing company that misled thousands of consumers who signed up for an online billing portal, failing to inform them that the company would seek highly detailed medical information from pharmacies, medical labs and insurance companies.

The list is long and dirty. Companies are still misusing consumer data for their own gain, in turn losing the trust of their customers. The mistake these companies are making is not having data privacy on their radar.

Balancing Business Insight and Consumer Trust

Companies are in a quandary.

On the one hand, they need to extract insight from the overwhelming amount of human-generated data that is available to them. The information, especially social data, is located in multiple applications and repositories across multiple time zones. In addition, some of the most valuable knowledge is locked in reports, social media and product reviews. Inside all of this unstructured data are facts and insights about every aspect of an organization’s business.

On the other hand, companies need to honor the trust of customers, consumers and other critical constituencies. Only when there is trust that organizations are handling social information responsibly and providing sufficient individual benefit can the data be shared in a sustainable way. After all, no one wants to be the next Snapchat or PaymentsMD.

Chief marketing officers are at the sharp end of this quandary: they need to use social data strategically while building trusted relationships with the people who use their products and services. The core of digital transformation is to use social data as a tool that benefits both the business and the customer.

Here are 3 areas companies should focus on to ensure they maintain balance between insight and trust:

Area #1: Data Strategy
Companies need to strategically plan ahead to ensure social data is used in a trustworthy, scalable and value-added manner. This means identifying key internal and external stakeholders, understanding the case law as it pertains to social data use and developing a clear plan for how human data will be used in the business.

For example, what are the core use cases? How might they help/surprise customers?

Area #2: Data Usage
Firms need to understand how to use data throughout its lifecycle, and the impact that data will have on customers, consumers and other constituencies. For example, they need to know where the data comes from, how it is enriched, what methodology is used to interpret it—and crucially, how it is to be used. Is there any possibility that the data will reveal personal/intimate information?

Area #3: Data Governance
This is the process by which the company tracks and measures the way data is collected, used and communicated. They need to ask themselves how the data will be used and what security measures are in place to ensure data privacy? Who has access to the data and what permissions do they have in terms of data use? Companies need to answer these questions and determine whether the data can be manipulated or changed.

Drawing it all together

Human data is growing faster than anyone imagined. Companies are pursuing policies to analyze this data to inform their decisions, but consumers are wary that their data is at risk of being misused. In this climate, companies need to look hard at the way they use data and assess what the likely impacts may be—not only on short-term revenue gain, but also on long-term trusted relationships.

Maintaining that balance, in which both businesses and customers thrive, should be the guiding principle.

Note: A similar version of this blog post appeared on DataSift’s blog at in December, 2015.