Workers in a modern office preforming trust exercises
PHOTO: Shutterstock

Even before the Cambridge Analytica/Facebook scandal broke, brands and their customers had rocky relationships. A survey conducted by advertising agency McCann in 2017 revealed that almost half of those surveyed did not trust brands. This is not getting better as Internet and social media users are continuously discovering that their data, which they thought was private, is being shared — anonymously or not — with marketers.

As consumers discover that this happening, some act out their disappointment not only with social media providers and/or websites that use cookies, but also with the very brands who are spending money to reach them.

Rules of Engagement

Research published in the Harvard Business Review by Leslie K. John, Tami Kim, and Kate Barasz reveals that prospective customers are receptive to offers they get based on "declared information" — products they have actually "liked" in their feeds or researched on specific websites (first party data.) But as soon as they get the feeling that marketers are targeting them using inferences and predictions based on third party data, they become 17 percent less likely to make a purchase.

That same study found that prospective buyers are less likely to trust a brand if they do not trust the social media sites associated with the brand. In other words, if a brand wants someone to "like us on Facebook," and the prospect does not trust Facebook, it could reflect poorly on the brand. To make this even more complicated, buyers are also annoyed when non-data driven (aka irrelevant) offers and ads are served up as well.

Related Article: How to Put the Trust Back Into Email Marketing

Trust and Transparency Are the Future

And herein lies the dilemma that brands face at what Richie Etwaru, author of Blockchain: Trust Companies: Every Company Is at Risk of Being Disrupted by a Trusted Version of Itself, calls the end of "Experience and Engagement Economy" and the dawn of the "Trust and Transparency Economy." "You will still need experience and engagement," he said, "but the main differentiator will be trust and transparency."

"I have to trust you in order to transact with you," he said, adding that trust is manufactured and comes to us via contracts, documents, data, flat files, Excel files, ETL files and even our gut when we agree to terms of service agreements without reading them. And while we will discuss more of what Etwaru has to say about trust, transparency and block chain in a future article, it's worth looking at how marketers and tech companies are working to earn trust and deliver delightful experiences now.

"You own your data. No one should ever sell it" — Mark Barrenechea, CEO, OpenText

5 Trust Building Approaches

Consider Turning-off Facebook

It's not only Elon Musk who dumped his company's — Tesla and Space X — Facebook sites, so has auto parts retailer PepBoys, software company Mozilla, and enterprise software provider OpenText among others.

While OpenText CEO Mark Barrenechea is a big proponent of "data for good" he does not trust Facebook to care for his customers' data, so he turned his company's Facebook site off. Here is how he explained his decision in a blog post. "People have noticed that we turned off Facebook and have asked why. It is simple: the trust is broken. In good conscience, we cannot ask you to connect with us via their platform knowing they may use your data, and your colleagues' and friends' data, and so on, whether or not you gave them permission. Trusting and securing your data is something OpenText takes most seriously. It is time to advance the narrative, as we are championing trust as the foundation of data. You own your data. No one should ever sell it."

Related Article: 5 Strategies to Achieve Better Brand Recognition

Empower Buyers to Reveal Their Identities When They Choose

Fabrice Saporito, founder and CEO of Koble, a service which connects business-to-business marketers with buyers, told CMSWire that educating users about who owns their data and how to control revealing their identities is crucial. In B2B interactions, for example, employers own the data, but when shoppers use sites like Koble, marketers are blind to their identities until prospective buyers actively choose to identify themselves. “Koble is set up somewhat like Tinder,” Saporito told CMSWire.

He added that while individuals own their data on sites like Facebook, Facebook needs to make it clear on how their data is used and what happens to their derivative data. He also noted that there are sites like Telegram where data is encrypted and conversations are visible only to the parties involved.

Keep Data Secure and Private

"The key is to own your customer's data and the connectivity between the data and yourself," Zvi Moshkovitz, CMO Pypestream told CMSWire. He recommended against using tools like Facebook Messenger where he claimed Facebook owns the data. Not only that, but he also cautioned against sharing information with anyone whose business is dependent on monetizing the data.

However, Moshkovitz noted that that sites like Linkedin. Facebook and WhatsApp can be good places to start conversations with brands, but that they should quickly be diverted to a secure and private channel. This is something that buyers are beginning to request on their own, according to Moshkovitz. "One year ago everyone wanted to engage on Facebook or WhatsApp. Not anymore," he said.

Understand Your Data

Dana Simberkoff, chief risk, privacy and information security officer, AvePoint told CMSWire it is crucial for companies to understand the data they collect. "As consumers and policy makers around the world become increasingly alarmed over the threat landscape posed by cybercriminals and privacy practices (or lack thereof) of large corporate players alike, a unique opportunity for companies that understand and embrace the value of data protection has emerged," she said.

She added that data management and collaboration can be turned to a competitive advantage for marketers if the right risk management filters in place, so that data is available whenever and wherever to those who need it, and not available to those who shouldn't have access. "Companies can repurpose their compliance programs that have traditionally been viewed as a cost center to help them turn this previously untapped information into a business asset. This not only creates a quantifiable return on investment for data security and privacy programs, but it also helps the company increase productivity and stay out of regulatory hot water," she explained.

How Brands Can Save Themselves if There Is a Problem

Data breaches and other problems, including those that do not originate on the Internet or social media, will inevitably occur. When that happens Constellation Research vice president and principal analyst Cindy Zhou, recommends applying a simple formula: "Transparency, open communication and speedy follow-up." She offered Kentucky Fried Chicken's response to running out of chicken as an example.

KFC damage control ad campaign from UK
PHOTO: KFC

She also noted that Facebook could learn from the way Starbucks handled its most recent problem in which two black men were arrested in Philadelphia for doing nothing. "Apologize, change, open communication, and transparency. That's the recipe," she said.