Should Brands Care If a Social Influencer is Anonymous?
Pseudonyms and user anonymity have been a hot topic in social circles for some time now. This week, they came into sharp focus with Google’s announcement that they are retracting their earlier policy restricting the use of pseudonyms. Sort of. In this post, I’ll try to put this in context for social marketers.
While that’s somewhat complicated, it only affects a small group of users at the moment. The benefit for them is that their Google+ pseudonyms will come up correctly in Google search. Also, for users who use pseudonyms that are connected to their real identity, Google is adding a few new profile configuration fields such as “nickname” so that the user can come up in searches for their pseudonym or real name. Finally, Google says that they are not done from a policy perspective and will make pseudonyms more broadly available. We’ll see if the Electronic Frontier Foundation steps back in to offer another opinion.
The Upshot For Social Marketers
The where and why have a lot to do with the unique culture of the networks and how people use them. For example, part of what has made Twitter so important during political uprisings is the fact that it’s a means of disseminating information without compromising identity. On the other hand, part of what has made Facebook and LinkedIn so successful and trusted as substrates for many of our closest relationships is the fact that we have a high-degree of confidence that the people we are connecting with are who they say they are.
Brand marketers are primarily interested in identity as a means of facilitating user experience via data collection. This builds on the fact that marketers generally believe that the more they know about a customer the better they can serve him/her. It also speaks to a fundamental value exchange between marketers and consumers that says that the former will return value in exchange for user data. That value usually takes the form of relevant content and offers. But it’s tricky for marketers because, for this to work well, the data they collect across touch-points needs to be aggregated with a single profile. In order to do that, marketers rely on a unique identifier of the user’s identity (most often a verified email address or a browser cookie ID).
Following this, when a user creates a pseudonym (that preserves anonymity) the above value exchange is partially compromised in so far as marketers may not be able to aggregate data effectively. But at the end of the day, brands are much more interested in the user’s behavior than they are in their identity. And, anonymous users may still provide brands with a significant volume of behavioral data from a single touch-point. So while anonymity compromises the marketer’s ability to deliver relevant data it does not eliminate it.
- Recognize that they may be using a pseudonym to protect themselves
- Don’t demand that they reveal their identity prior to providing a service, unless absolutely necessary
- Look for patterns in their behavior that might provide clues to what they might find valuable
- Provide easy access to users who want a “private” communication channel
Changes On Facebook
What are your thoughts? How does this impact your brand?