All posts by Annabel Youens

Annabel Youens

About Annabel Youens

I'm a co-founder and CMO at AE. I believe that truly successful internet businesses have to connect people. {wave} When I'm not online I'm exploring beautiful Vancouver Island. Things I love: everything scifi, literary fiction, coffee, Google Music, my workhorse sewing machine and board games.

This year, the battle lines are being drawn in the fight for consumer data privacy. Read the full article below or watch the video summary!

Get our latest stories and video delivered right to your inbox!
Annabel’s got a lot more to say about data privacy and how marketers need to adapt.

Subscribe to our newsletter




Trust Is The Next Big Data Opportunity

In January, Apple CEO Tim Cook, took a stand for consumer privacy rights in an article for Time Magazine, asserting that consumers have a right to know how their data is being used

The past few years have been like the “wild west” in data harvesting. Taking a stand for consumer privacy at this moment in time is a calculated move on Apple’s part. Building trust around data and privacy is necessary in today’s digital world.

Apple is wise to focus on trust being the next big thing. The tech company’s bold position confirms that online privacy is a polarizing issue of our time.  And you can expect more businesses to follow suit.

cover of time magazine with tim cook from apple
Privacy is huge part of what makes the Apple brand attractive to consumers.

On the other side, big companies are even becoming more bold in their attempts to collect consumer data. In January, TechCrunch reported both Facebook and Google had apps in the Apple Store that were shut down because they were tracking users on their devices, flying in the face of Apple’s policies.

Businesses we trust and depend on have found a shady path to making big money — tracking users and brokering their data. And for some, it’s going to be a tough habit to break.

For consumers, agreeing to give up some data is an expected part of digital life. Most of the time, if we want (or need) to use an app, buy a product, or subscribe to a service, we can’t avoid a certain amount of data in trade.

But consumer advocates and governments are starting to step in. Purchasing a product online shouldn’t lead to your data being sold to a broker. Credit card companies and online services shouldn’t be collecting and selling your information without your knowledge or consent.  As Cook mentions in his article, these violations happen every second of every day.

GDPR
The US and Canada need more progressive data privacy regulations like the GDPR in Europe.

As regulations and consumer advocates stop companies from harvesting data for a competitive advantage, our digital world becomes more and more polarized. Good vs. bad companies, trustworthy vs. suspicious business practices. So what does the next age of data look like for businesses?

The crack-down on shady data practices is starting. Cook’s article calls on the U.S. Congress to “pass comprehensive federal privacy legislation.”

The GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) implemented in Europe last spring is the most comprehensive legal mechanism so far, intending to put control back into the hands of the consumer. Under the GDPR, consumers can explicitly deny or agree to transfer their data to a company they trust.

Being known as a “trustworthy” brand is becoming a requirement to doing business online.

Trust is The New Age of Data

As data collection and legislation matures, it’s time to re-think how data can create something beneficial for the consumer. And this is where data really excels — it can personalize mutually-beneficial, two-way relationships with consumers, setting companies up to perfectly serve their customer base.

This new age of consumer data will be about forming more useful relationships with individuals. Think about movie suggestions on Netflix, or useful product suggestions on Amazon. The right products can be offered to the right buyers — even more so, the right products can actually be invented and refined to anticipate the buyers’ needs and serve them perfectly.

And customers will have easy access and full rights to approve or deny a company’s forays into their data.

Making a Data-Enabled Future Possible

Zoom ahead to the Jetsons future and imagine your AmazonFresh App alerts you that it’s just ordered sourdough bread, soy milk, and eggs because it knows you’re about to run out. You’ve already agreed with AmazonFresh that you trust them to order on your behalf because they know what you want, saving you time and decreasing your mental load.

a picture from the old tv show the jetsons
How can create a positive future by nurturing a beneficial two-way relationship between companies and consumers?

I know I’m looking forward to the day when a self-driving car shows up, unordered, in anticipation of my flight, and at the right time based on traffic and immigration lines at the airport. But we don’t get to this future without some sort of two-way data relationship.

The new age of data requires a big adjustment for many businesses as well as consumers. Instead of seeing data agreements and privacy as a challenge, think about knowing more about your customer and serving them better, more creatively, more uniquely.

Data can build a better relationship with a more invested audience who find value in a product or service. The first step is to rebuild that trust.

***

Have you been watching?

The year we’re about to close has brought a LOT of changes to the world of online business. Consumers are demanding privacy and becoming more leery of online sales tactics than ever before.

The online landscape has already started to change. And that affects relationships that brands have with customers.

The upheaval started with Facebook’s many privacy blunders and policy changes and lead to the sweeping new structure of the GDPR (if you don’t know what that is, start learning here). Both of these notable changes have made businesses more accountable for the way they treat people online.

In the end, marketing work is about building relationships. Marketing automation can be used to help build those relationships… but we need practices that are not invasive and impersonal. Privacy improvements are a good thing if they help us build more trusting relationships.

Marketing Automation DONT’S:

  1. Pushing out content
  2. Buy, buy, buy
  3. Unboxing (ugh!)
  4. Impersonal marketing (Hello customer xyz!)
  5. Black Friday specials
  6. Faceless emails

Marketing Automation DO’S:

  1. Be useful
  2. Expose customers to new ideas
  3. Resonate with shared values
  4. Don’t take yourself (your brand) too seriously
  5. Respect your customers’ time
  6. Be genuine

Build Real Relationships

If you’re a marketer who cares about building real relationships with your customers, try a few of these ideas with your automated marketing — whether that’s Bots, Email Marketing, Funnels or Retargeting PPC ads.

1. Be useful:

Nobody likes a friend who only talks about themselves: “me..me…me!” We’ve all had one of those friends!  If we don’t like people who behave that way, why would we like a brand that behaves that way? A “me-me-me!” brand is one that always talks about itself and its problems and successes. If you’re building a brand and doing that, stop it right now!  Be a brand that comes from a place of service and share stories your customers can use.

Leslie Ziegler interviewed for First Round on branding.
Image courtesy of First Round

First Round Review — Getting Useful
A startup fund that produces amazing content for founders. 

This article on brand strategy gives you a great taste.

“The branding choices you make now are building your company as much as the programming language or CRM software you select.”

— Leslie Ziegler, Rock Health (interviewed by First Round)

2. Show Me New Things

Doing the same old thing is comforting. I love walking to work the same way every day because it feels nice. But science shows us that doing things differently — even changing your route to work — changes your brain. It helps you retain more information and be more successful. The same thing happens when we’re exposed to new ideas.

Be a brand that brings new ideas, challenges your customers, and helps them master their world. Open up those neural pathways and offer something new and valuable.

The Story of Microfibers video by The Story of Stuff.
A screenshot from The Story of Microfibers

The Story of Stuff — Bringing New Ideas

A movie kicked off a movement focused on how we buy and use our stuff. 

This video about microfibers is a wealth of new information.

Every time we wash synthetic fabrics, whether they’re made from recycled bottles or brand new materials, super tiny pieces of plastic called microfibers wash off and flow down the drain — up to hundreds of thousands each wash.” — “The Story of Microfibers”

3. Resonate With Shared Values

We naturally surround ourselves with people who feel like members of our tribe. Most likely this means that we have similar core values. Values are important because they are guideposts that help us make decisions in our lives and remind us what we stand for.

Just as we all have our own personal values, brands also have values. When these values are clearly posted, you quickly get a feel about what the brand stands for. Today values are having a resurgence. It’s becoming clear that not only do you have to state your values, but you have to follow through with actions. Be a brand that takes a stand and lives up to that — in every channel, including your automated marketing channels.

Some zany art for Lyft's Round Up & Donate initiative.
Image courtesy of Lyft

Lyft — Sharing Values 

Their values couldn’t be more clear and different from Uber. I love them and what they stand for.

Lyft’s Round Up & Donate initiative is a perfect example.

“The more we ride, the more we raise. Support the causes that you believe will make the world a better place.” — Lyft

4. Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously

Let’s be honest, most companies we interact with every day are not saving lives. They want to be successful, make money and return money to their shareholders. If you’re not a successful business, you can’t survive. But being a successful business doesn’t mean you have to be uptight.

I love a brand that reflects humor, spontaneity and positive messaging in kooky ways. It’s an important part of our daily lives to step back, reflect and inject humor where we can. I like to think of humor as the connective tissue that holds our relationship together. Be a brand that isn’t a stuffed shirt.

MailChimp made this graph showing the top emojis used by their clients over the holidays.
Image courtesy of MailChimp’s blog

MailChimp — Being Lighthearted
An email platform that m
akes everything fun. How can you not love that monkey!

This fun article is a great example of MailChimp showing its playful side!

“There was a 34% increase from 2016 to 2017 in total emoji used by MailChimp customers during the holiday season. 🎄 was the top emoji used in subject lines, followed by  🎁, 🎅,🎉, and 😍.” — Kasia, MailChimp writer

5. Respect My Time

Don’t make me jump through digital hoops to get on your mailing list. Don’t tease me with content and then not provide it when I visit your website. Don’t send me an automated email newsletter every week just because you should (no you shouldn’t – see Be Useful).

Don’t send out a Black Friday coupon because everyone else is doing it. Be a brand that delivers something meaningful to your customer.

An example of a newsletter from Note to Self.
Image courtesy of Note to Self

One of my favorite podcasts, Note to Self, gently prods me when a new podcast is online and always includes other content that’s valuable. They curate for me and save me time.

6. Be Genuine in Your Automated Marketing Campaigns

Stop doing what everyone else is doing. You don’t have the same customers as your competitors. Those customers don’t have the same problems. Everyone’s customers care about different things, so why on earth would you be trying to communicate with them in the same way.  

Be a brand that respects the time I take to read your newsletter and click on your links. And most of all, make it personal so I care.

The team at Sago Mini being genuine.
Image courtesy of Sago Mini

Sago Mini — Being Genuine 

This brand for kids’ apps and toys is always about being themselves. In this blog post, a team member gives a candid account of how she came up with an idea for a new game.

“I started thinking about the brutal but beautiful winters in my hometown of Edmonton, and all of the fun activities we used to do in the snow.” — Teena Saur, Sago Mini Director of Brand & Marketing.

Building relationships is no easy task.

It’s no longer good enough to sign someone up… it’s too easy to quickly lose them. Onboarding has become a big deal for businesses working online. That’s just one hint at a larger trend — the new standard in marketing automation is a fully personalized experience for your leads and customers. 

You have to look at every customer touch point and engineer the marketing experience way past the point of signup. Who are your real users? Those people are busy, they have families and friends to spend time with, grocery shopping to do, bathroom sinks to clean and time to rest at night. The only way you can stay relevant is to show you really do care. 

Brands and companies who treat their end customers like breathing humans with limited time will be winning. And that makes me happy because the hard work that smart digital marketers are doing every day will be paying off.

***

AE was recently featured in Music Ally’s Sandbox, a monthly report for music marketers. We shared what we are doing here at AE and why AE is the perfect tool for music marketing.

This September’s issue was all about what to do when your music marketing campaign takes off. The report showcased how AE’s fan insight technology can impact music marketing for the better.

While we can’t give you the full article, you can get a free subscription trial here, and we have included some of our favourite quotes below!

Capture And Campaign

“Acquire, Attribute and Automate are the three A’s that are driving modern music marketing….Enter The Appreciation Engine (AE). This allows marketers to capture fan information from streaming and social platforms and then view insights down to the individual level.”

-Music Ally’s Sandbox Report

musically's sandbox report appreciation engine is the tool for music marketing

Get The Engine Running

“Inside AE’s dashboard, you’re able to view what’s been going on across your fanbase at an artist level, a global level and an individual fan level, so teams for a specific artist or across a wider catalogue can all work together within the same place.”

-Music Ally’s Sandbox Report

musically's sandbox september issue music marketing for the digital era where ae is the tool for music marketing

Enterprise to Indie

“AE is currently available to any labels and management companies that would like to start working with it and, although its features are currently geared for very large labels, it is prioritizing its updates over the coming years to be every bit as accessible to smaller labels…”

-Music Ally’s Sandbox Report

musically logo for music marketing

Sandbox by Music Ally is a subscription-based online publication that releases a fresh report every month. Their in-depth articles share recent digital marketing trends, useful tools and services, the industry’s most successful campaigns and interviews with industry leaders.

We were thrilled to be featured as a tool for music marketers and we hope you get a chance to read the full report! You can learn more about Sandbox and get a free trial subscription here.

xxx

What a real example of AE in action? See how we helped Kesha reach 3.5 million fans here!

A lot of people use the terms “influencer” and “advocate” as synonyms. In some ways, it makes sense because at first glance they both promote products on social media channels. But each group possesses very different characteristics and plays specific roles in social web society.

Their Definitions

Influencers are:

  • people who are active on social media and have the capacity to affect another person’s behavior simply based on what they post
  • often celebrities, politicians, or other individuals with a sizeable and loyal audience

Advocates are:

  • individuals who publicly support a product or service based on its incredible quality
  • people who vocalize their support for a product over social media and hope their admiration inspires others to buy

At AE, we believe the most important difference between influencers and advocates is:

  • influencers agree to promote a product in exchange for free goods or services
  • advocates promote a product because they genuinely like it and are impressed with its quality

Basically, advocates develop a long-term loyalty to the product they promote, while influencers create a very temporary and short-term connection to the product.

Their Motivations

An advocate’s motivation is:

  • to help his/her friends find high-quality products
  • advocates are selfless and want to help others in their community

On the other hand, influencers’ motivation is:

  • to increase the size of their own audience
  • unlike advocates, influencers are selfish- influencers are only concerned with how promoting a product will help them in the long run (they’re only in it for the freebies and the free press!)

This is backed up by Forrester Research, which states that only 18% of consumers trust influencers and their opinions, while Nielsen says that an astounding 92% of consumers trust brand advocates.

When trying to classify a customer, look for passion behind their posts that promote a product. Advocates always have a genuine passion and admiration for what they promote, where this passion is often missing from influencer posts.

Influencers and Advocates in the Real World

Two Facebook users are talking about Nike, but they speak very differently.

Influencer Post: “Check out Nike’s new sneaker! It’s fashionable, form-fitting, and definitely my new favorite shoe.”

Advocate Post: “Just bought Nike’s new sneaker. These shoes are the most durable pair I own! Went on a 5 mile hike and the sneakers didn’t have a mark on them. The soles are excellent at gripping dirt too. A must-have for all hikers and runners!”

Marketers Need To Know These Distinctions

Understanding these two groups is a vital distinction for marketing teams so that they know which customers they should connect with and focus on. So use this ammo to develop genuine and meaningful relationships with your brand advocates.

***

GDPR. GDPR. GDPR.

Anyone else still recovering from the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) inbox flood?

If you’re based in North America, you’ve probably also wondered to yourself if you’re even affected by GDPR. (Spoiler: you are!)

While centered on the European Union (EU), the GDPR will have a global impact.
While centered on the European Union (EU), the GDPR has a global impact.

The GDPR’s Global Impact

While centered on the European Union (EU), the GDPR has a global impact. Here’s why.

Even if you’re based in the US, Canada, or Mexico, if you handle any data from EU customers (there are 28 countries in the EU), you’ll be affected.

There are certain caveats to these rules:

  1. If the EU visitor/customer is not in the EU when you collect their data, the GDPR does not apply.
  2. Your visitor or customer does not need to purchase from your site for the GDPR to apply to your business.
  3. If you’re hosting a generic survey without directly targeting EU consumers, but a prospect from Britain fills it out, they are not covered under GDPR. However, if your study even mentions the EU, then the law kicks in.

But what about California?

The California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 is another hot ticket item that could bring GDPR-like privacy rules to California– the heart of tech.

The California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 could bring GDPR-like privacy rules to California.
The California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 could bring GDPR-like privacy rules to California.

This could spell out a major change for businesses that collect and sell customer data. Customers will have to ask how their data is being used, and request to be removed (opt out). The GDPR focuses more on opt-in requirements, making the California regulations much more friendly to data collectors.

Customers who choose to opt out, cannot be punished or charged higher fees for services. And here’s the clincher: it allows public prosecutors and citizens to sue for data breaches or for the sale of personal data after someone has opted out. There’s no requirement that specific harm be proven before damages can be awarded.

Citizens can sue for data breaches and there’s no requirement that specific harm must be proven before damages can be awarded under California’s proposed Consumer Privacy Act.

This will make effective tracking and following through on opt-outs a top priority for companies that collect data in California.

What does this all mean for marketers in North America?

In a time where people are being asked for their data on a daily basis, and that data is being traded with other businesses, it’s about time customers gained some power. Historically, customers have had their data traded and sold without their knowledge, and with the rise in cybersecurity leaks, it’s well past time every internet user had rights.

As a marketer, it means you need to be prepared for a new age of data collection and transparency.

With these regulations moving from a possibility to a reality, we need to become proactive. Even if California’s privacy act does not pass, it’s inevitable that marketers will see a shift in data collection regulations.

Marketing strategies must shift from a cold transactional approach, to a warm, transparent and relationship-focused strategy.  

So, How Do You Build Trust as a Marketer?

It starts with upfront communication before you ask for any customer data.

When you collect data from customers, you need to clearly tell them how you plan on using that data. The context will matter when working within regulations like GDPR, because your stated context for collecting/using data is the only way you are legally allowed to use this data.

You can earn big points with consumers for providing the transparency they deserve.

From there, you need to give them explicit details on how you will use their data, and if you want to send them different information, you need to get permission.

***

Additional Resources

  • IDC Five Steps to GDPR
      • This white paper is basically a more in-depth version of the five-step guide above, so if you want more details, here’s the next stop.

***

This post is part of our series: Find Out Fast If Your Business is GDPR Ready. Our goal is to help businesses make sense of privacy and data. AE is your Babel Fish for Legalese 🐠

The flip side of the onerous GDPR regulations is the new opportunity they’ve created for brands to be leaders.

Marketers who adapt to these changes quickly will be able to build a new layer of trust for their brand, and emerge from this transition as industry leaders.

With the added transparency of GDPR, marketers are being called to deliver on their promises, and provide real value in exchange for connecting with customers.

This means, as a marketer, you’re going to have to get more creative with how you capture opt-ins, collect data, and use that data. These new pressures are also an opportunity for your brand to become a leader and actually increase engagement from your customers.

A big reason for these regulations is the increase in unwanted emails we all receive every day. People were being messaged endlessly, through all channels, with content that they unknowingly “opted in” to.

People were being messaged constantly through all channels with content they had unknowingly "opted in" for.
The deluge of unwanted content was becoming unbearable!

With the removal of some offers, the noise may die down, but there will be a new opportunity to be seen, if you’re prepared to offer something remarkable.

Thoughts on Leveraging Data in the the Age of Transparency

Customer data collected through a Spotify Pre-Save campaign can only be used for that campaign, under the new GDPR.
Let’s use a Spotify Pre-Save campaign as an example.

When it comes to collecting customer data, there are a few options at hand. Say you’ve created a curated Spotify Playlist and used a Pre-Save campaign to generate thousands of signups. Because of the opt-in context, you’re only allowed to use your customers’ data for this Spotify campaign. You cannot send them additional information that they did not consent to.

So, how do you leverage the customer data you’ve been given, within the context you’re allotted? This involves digging into your data a little deeper.

Here’s the data you get when you use AE’s Spotify social login:

Here's the data you get when you use AE's Spotify social login.
Here’s what you’ll see of users’ activities with AE’s Spotify social login.

Use this data and take the opportunity to give value back to your customer. For instance, send them a message about the track they’ve listened to, and ask if they’d like more music from similar artists.

Take the time to create a more personal relationship, acquire more data to segment your customers with, and message with content they actually care about.

This level of communication is vastly different from what marketers have been doing recently. They overlooked building genuine relationships because it takes more time, and opted for a more transactional strategy: sending emails to push a purchase.

In the age of data transparency, pushing a sale must come secondary to building the relationship. You need to use the data at your fingertips and work within the context of your opt-in process. By doing this, you’ll build more meaningful relationships with visitors, and slowly gather the information needed to upsell, cross sell, and offer a sale, when it’s time.

In the age of data transparency, pushing a sale must come secondary to building the relationship.
Focus on building meaningful relationships with your customers, rather than trying to push a sale.

The difference: you’re now focusing on the long game, rather than the short one.

Adapt Early and Customers Will Love You

As this approach becomes more popular and customers understand the various levels of data consent, they’ll become more sensitive to how their information is being used.

Marketers who take a cautious and considerate approach (i.e. asking permission to contact for reason X), will gain more trust for their brand.

This new wave of marketing is all about taking the data you have and using it to form relationships with individuals before sending them sales-driven content — not pushing your message out to as many people as you can.

This will be an adjustment for many marketers. But the payoff may be a better relationship with a more invested audience.  Better to make these changes as an early adopter and industry leader, rather than just trying to keep up with the pack.

***