6 Ethical Ways to Use Customer Data for Content Marketing

Content marketing teams in large companies have an advantage when they need to use customer data in content marketing. Their companies usually have access to a wealth of customer data and the analytics teams to make sense of them.

However, as Brock Stechman pointed out, content marketers tend toward the creative side, as opposed to the analytical. One of the most effective tools to assist content marketers in understanding how to use that customer data to create relevant content is a content analytics tool that integrates with sales and support data to give you a 360-degree view of your customers and prospects.

Having a way that empowers creatives to understand and put data to work is a game-changer when it comes to reaching your prospects’ heads – and hearts. Seeing that data in a format that they can understand helps your content teams target the right customer segments, construct buyer personas, discover what keeps your prospects up at night, and create content that helps them overcome those problems.

But there’s one big roadblock – the fine line between using customer data ethically and, well, turning into a corporate stalker. You need some guidelines to help you ensure that your content is insightful, not intrusive.

Let’s take a look at several ways to help you walk that fine line.

Be Completely Transparent

Most customers know that companies they do business with collect data – lots of it. However, not enough companies disclose what data they collect, where it goes, and how they plan to use it.

Going beyond what the government requires to inform your customers about exactly what you collect, what you plan to do with it, and where you’ll store it (or how you’ll dispose of it) is essential for building trust in your content. And as we all know, trust is the foundation of doing business.

Explain How the Data Will Help Them

Transparency is one thing, but if you go one step further, you can build your brand reputation to be viewed as not only trustworthy but, more importantly, helpful. Telling people who give you permission to collect their data how it will benefit them in their work or lives is essential.

Then, be sure to carry through on your promise. For example, if you tell people who provide a few details about their business that you’ll use it to create content that can help them save time and money, you could immediately deliver a taste of that (like a quick guide with time-saving tips) within minutes of them completing your form.

Collect Only the Data You Need to Provide Value

Collecting data about your audience’s preferences, likes, pain points, and interests on social media is one thing. That type of data collection gives you an overall picture of your audience, providing you with topics that will interest them.

But when you collect and store an individual’s personal data, as opposed to general data about your audience, you’ve stepped over the line, unless you have permission to collect that data. For example, you shouldn’t follow one of your blog subscribers all around the web, storing data about each stop along the way, whether their searches are for dating sites or chef-inspired recipes.

And, when you do ask for personal data in exchange for an ebook, a white paper, or a free consultation, make sure that you only ask for what you need to deliver value for that individual.

For example, if your company sells accounting software for businesses, you don’t need to ask the CFO about her marital status. The size of her company and how many customers it serves would be relevant to providing her with maximum value.

However, if you sell tax preparation software to individuals, marital status might indeed be relevant since tax preparation rules vary by marital status and other personal situations. You can use that data to point the prospect to the best tax software for her specific circumstances.

Avoid Collecting Sensitive Data as Much as Possible

While your sales or accounting teams might need to keep sensitive data on file, such as financial information that can streamline the purchase process, your content teams don’t usually need such information.

However, if you do need some confidential data, such as marital status, number of children, or other personal data, make sure you maintain the highest standards of security. Or, alternatively, consider using pseudonyms or anonymization so that even a breach won’t expose an individual’s confidential data.

Keep Bias out of the Equation

If you use AI to analyze facial expressions so that you can create more realistic video content, be aware that various cultures express emotions in diverse ways. For example, old-school Southern women tend to smile at everyone no matter how they feel inside, with a “bless your heart” thrown in as a bonus. After all, Mama raised her right.

On the other hand, a conservative Turkish woman won’t be likely to smile at a stranger, especially one of the male gender. Again, you can thank her proper upbringing for her cultural-appropriate good manners.

My point is, be sure to include people of a broad range of cultural backgrounds and appearances, as Kristina Podnar advises. What might be proper in one culture might be offensive in another.

That advice applies to more than just data about facial expressions. Customer behavior varies widely by cultural norms.

Your analysis will only be as accurate as the data you input. So, ensure that you use data that are as free of bias as you possibly can collect – and reflect the entire cultural spectrum of your target audience.

Finally, Document Your Data Collection Standards

Other departments in your company likely have a set of strict guidelines on how they collect data. Sitting down with them in a content collaboration session can uncover valuable insights into the kinds of data collection and storage rules you want your content teams to follow.

Try to align your marketing data guidelines with those of your company overall. Since team members come and go all too often in this increasingly mobile work environment, be sure to document these data guidelines right on your content marketing platform so that even your newest team members can get up to speed quickly.

If your company handles sensitive data, be sure to provide your content teams with contact information for compliance and legal teams so that they can consult with them quickly on complex situations. When they have all the information at their fingertips, they’ll likely make better, more ethical decisions about customer data usage.

To make the best use of big data, AI, and other data-related technological innovations available today, content marketing teams need a central hub to handle all things content-related. DivvyHQ allows your teams to conduct all the tasks essential to content production, from ideation to analyzing the results of each piece you publish.

Your teams can put DivvyHQ to the test for 14 days absolutely free – with no obligation on your part. Start your 14-day test drive today!