Data, hyper-personalization, and value generation: Insights from the most recent Netflix documentary

Bowling in Columbine. Super Size Me. An Inconvenient Truth. Every now and then a new revealing documentary emerges from niche interests and gains popularity and the attention of a broader audience.  Quickly, your LinkedIn feed is full of passionate reviews, it becomes the hottest subject for your Whatsapp groups, and the publications you follow start to publish articles and editorials about it.

The newbie on this list is The Social Dilemma (Netflix, September 2020) which shows the influence of social media platforms, and the landscape of data collection and behavior manipulation through refined algorithms.

It comes with huge viral potential. The movie was launched in a particularly complex panorama: countries are still dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and many are facing a second wave of lockdowns. According to Digital 2020, a report published by We Are Social and Hootsuite, the pandemic has led to 70% of people spending more time on their smartphones, and 43% report increasing their time on social media. The report also showed that more than half of the world’s population uses social media, a number estimated at 3.96 billion in July 2020.

The narrative of The Social Dilemma targets those who are less familiar with the intricacies of technology. And it does well on that perspective, even if sometimes there is a lack of more structured technical information or a better understanding of how things had developed themselves until the current scenario.

Even if it is always helpful to hear from those who were deeply involved in the creation of many of the social media platforms used today, for those who are more familiar with digital marketing initiatives, ethical usage of sensitive data is something that has been widely discussed for a long time. And more recently, digital marketers have understood the implications of the General Data Protection Regulation, and how it impacts the data we collect, use, and store.

From the perspective of a content strategist who has worked closely with large brands in the last decade – and after watching The Social Dilemma – a few thoughts popped into my mind on how companies can improve their experience using content without transforming their brand into Orwell’s Big Brother.

Make it worthy: Deliver value to your audience

Whether your content goals are raising awareness, walking your user to a conversion journey, or launching a new product, your brand should provide valuable information in return for the insights it collects. Your prospect, your customer, they want to be sure they are making a smart decision when relying on your products or services. Feed them with relevant content and become an authoritative figure in your industry. Recommended content includes “How-to” guides, highly detailed technical information, decision making checklists, trustworthy reviews. You know better than anyone else what your brand has to offer.

Make it honest: Don’t over accumulate sensitive but irrelevant data

I remember hearing it from a client: “we don’t wanna sound creepy”. The first step is: do not ask embarrassing questions. Why do you want to know the food preferences of your real estate client? Why does the marital status of your prospective client matter? In the case of doubt, don’t ask for the information. If it becomes necessary, you will find an occasion – and a good trade-off – to ask for it.

Make it accurate: Make it hyper-personalized to improve peoples’ lives

There are a few industries that have been well-known for offering hyper-personalized experiences – these include health tech, insurance, and fintech. But take the example of real estate. Knowing where a tenant works, which university they attended, their hobbies and interests, how they commute, and who their flatmates are. All this information may help you to offer more personalized services. The data you gather can help create actionable recommendations, and provide a better experience, such as improved property recommendations. But this is also sensitive, personal information, so firms need to find the balance of offering more personalized services without becoming creepy.

Transparency and balance need to be at the heart of today’s digital marketing strategies

The crises presented on The Social Dilemma are not just the result of new technologies. Rather they are based on an asymmetric and undisclosed relationship between companies and their customers. To navigate this complex environment, leading organizations are focusing on building those bridges between personalized services and respect for people’s data, with transparency and balance.

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