A cover story on data privacy appearing in the latest issue of Wired magazine has a two-fold message for corporate executives-both within the finance function and outside the finance department.
Not only does it remind us that it is critical to always keep an eye on corporate and customer data security, but it also demonstrates the power of readily-available online information and how it can be harnessed to more effectively market products to customers and consequently build revenue.
The idea was quite ingenious. Three writers were doing an article on the end of data privacy—looking at how much information can now be gleaned online about an individual by cross-referencing various sources and using social media—and they needed a strong cover picture to provide an impact.
Between the writers and their editors, they came up with the idea of personalized covers: those issues of the magazine going out to certain random subscribers, along with certain specifically-selected readers “with some media influence”, as editor David Rowan described it, were given a highly-personalized cover, which included a torn-page graphic with a letter to the reader. The letter specified the subscriber’s name, location, telephone and mobile number, spouse’s or significant other’s name, and other personal details taken from such sources as Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media outlets.
It must have been quite a scare for the readers receiving these issues, and certainly made the writers’ point: data privacy is a thing of the past for the majority of the wired world. Not only is your own data out there, but also all of the information that others have posted about you is readily available for those willing to put the time and resources into searching for it.
There is an obvious personal wake-up call that this provides to most of us that do make use of some social media outlets—or whose family or friends do—about how that data can be accessed regardless of the ‘privacy controls’ that such outlets stake their reputation on.
But there is also the other side of the coin: namely the value that this data can be put to in customer relationship management (CRM) and sales growth terms. The next generation of CRM and business intelligence solutions are aiming to do just that: mine information sources online, through customer interactions with the business and within customer databases to create a personalised customer profile that can be used to more effectively market to them.
It is early days yet, but this most certainly is the future.
You can see the Wired covers (with personal information blacked out) here.