4 Marketing Efforts that Can be Putting Your Identity at Risk
In the age of information, protecting the personal data of customers is of the utmost importance for companies. This is especially true for marketing campaigns. Modern marketing isn't just about crafting a strong message to raise awareness about a product, it's increasingly about gathering data about customers. Different kinds of outreach, processing and sharing of data gathered from customers, and potential customers put those who interact with companies at risk. Here are a few of the biggest culprits in unintentional data risk in modern marketing and how companies can reduce the associated risk.
Social Media Marketing
The Problem: Companies -- big and small -- love to use modern social networking platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest to interact with as many people as possible and gather valuable demographic data. Unfortunately, this means that companies using social media to market themselves will end up being responsible for potentially thousands of people's' data. Everything from contact info to photos and more pass through social media channels, making corporate social media pages an ideal hunting ground for identity thieves.
The Solution: Any company that uses social media should be careful of what kind of data they ask of those who interact with its pages. Express permission to use photos and other identifying data should be a given, while things like contact information should never be a component of pages accessible by a public audience.
The Problem: As powerful as social media is, sometimes the best approach is a real face-to-face experience with the public. Field marketing is a great way to gather valuable information about key demographics, but it also often asks people to give personal information in a relatively uncontrolled environment. In crowded, busy places where field marketing is most effective, identity thieves have an easy time stealing everything from clipboards to over-heard personal info.
The Solution: Field marketing representatives should go into each assignment aware of appropriate protocol for gathering personal information. Reps should keep their eyes on all forms as they're being filled out and make sure to maintain a tone of voice that's clear for the participant but is hard to overhear. Reps should also remain watchful for suspicious behavior in others.
The Problem: After a company gathers demographic data, any documentation of that information should be carefully protected. Many companies fall short in this department. Documents with sensitive information are often loosely filed, too easily shared between employees, and improperly destroyed when they're no longer useful. Theft of identifying data from within the company or from an outside party is easier with such disorganized practices.
The Solution: Personal data documents should be stored in a single, locked cabinet and all retrieval of those documents should be recorded. When the company no longer needs a document, it should be thoroughly destroyed so it can't be retrieved or pieced back together from the trash. Crosscut paper shredders are good for this step of the process. For electronic documentation, companies should use trusted security programs like those featured at www.identitytheftprotection.org/
The Problem: Companies often try to engage with customers by offering them membership into special clubs and offering them extra information through mailing lists. Any such strategies that ask customers to "opt-in" to a deeper level of engagement have associated risks. Weak passwords protection, insecure email lists, and other kinds of data collections put opt-in programs in danger of leaking customer data.
The Solution: Opt-in networks should require all participants to provide a strong password to create an account. This means requiring a minimum of 12 characters, as well as mixing letters, numbers, and symbols. Databases of customer email addresses and other personal information should be encrypted for peak security and forms should never ask for personal information the company doesn't absolutely need.
Modern marketing practices can be exciting and highly effective, but companies that use them have a responsibility to provide protections for customer data. Whether it's in the realm of social media or in data-driven outreach, respect for the customer's identifying information is of the utmost importance. Companies that offer consistent security not only save energy on solving breaches, they also generate good will among today's and tomorrow's customers.