Personalization is about relationships. Relationships, about trust. Much has been written about the good, bad and ugly of personalization, but all too often, these conversations focus simply on technology or perhaps general tricks to “make things more personal.” The technology that powers digital personalization is simply enabling better marketers and content creators to more closely approximate face to face relationship building, and relationships can be good, bad and ugly, which is really the point.
When a friend, colleague or acquaintance shares information with us, we have unspoken social contracts regarding how and when we can use that information, which, when followed, lead to deeper relationships. Ignore those rules of engagement though, and your relationship will be short lived. So put aside all thoughts of the technology and techniques for a moment, and keep these basics in mind.
Don’t Be Forgetful
Did you ever forget a close friends birthday? An anniversary? How about the name of a new colleague or the names of their spouse or kids? These memory slips can usually be forgiven once or twice, but if you keep this up, the relationship will be short lived. On the flip side, research shows that using someone’s name both in conversation and in email marketing can have positive effects. The more details you can remember and respond (appropriately) to, the more that relationship can grow.
Don’t Be Nosy
While it’s great remember the details that someone tells you, bombarding a new acquaintance with personal questions that go beyond acceptable social norms can be a very quick way to end a relationship as well. Asking a stranger at a party what they do for work is fine, but asking them how much they get paid is likely crossing the line. The flip side of this is also true though. Once a relationship has reached a certain stage, asking more intimate or detailed questions can be the key to unlocking that relationship’s potential.
(To briefly break my own rule and talk tech, this point is why progressive profiling can be so effective.)
Don’t Be a Snitch
If someone shares information in confidence, the best way to ruin that relationship is to gossip or spread that information to others. In the realm of online relationships, this is why data privacy is so incredibly important. On top of that, while 2nd and 3rd party data sharing services exist, the value of these should be weighed heavily against the potential for betrayal of trust.
Focus on Trust
Technology is inherently neither good nor bad, but rather an enabler for people. In the case of personalization technology, mass communications are beginning to feel ever closer to conversations with individuals. As the holder of these tools, you can choose to treat those individual with respect, and in so doing build trust, or you can disregard the relationship and break trust. Which will you choose?