When Collecting Social Profile Data, Don’t Be a Data Creeper

Making a new friend does not usually happen overnight. Often times it takes multiple interactions to understand an individual’s personality, interests, life goals and ambitions. Moving someone from a “stranger” status to an acquaintance, friend, and eventually, an advocate requires cultivation, patience, but most importantly, information.

Building a relationship between friends is the same as building a community online. Social profile data is a valuable asset to companies wanting to build a stronger relationship with their constituency. While this data will not completely sidestep the audience courting period, it does give companies a better overview of who is visiting their sites, how they like to participate, and where to drive more traffic for better engagement opportunities. Companies just starting to delve into collecting social data should keep a few questions in mind:

  1. What information do I want from my audience?
  2. Why do I want this data?
  3. How will I use it once I have it?
  4. When is it appropriate to ask for certain permissions?

Request Information, Don’t Demand It

Audiences engage with product differently in the virtual space than they do in the physical, but users still have feelings, and the need to feel safe and comfortable in any environment. For this reason, it is important to carefully craft the permission request policy during registration. Registration flows that require many fields frequently discourage visitors from completing their account creation, but asking too little information does not provide you with the valuable social data. Where’s the balance?

While there is no one right way to develop a registration strategy, there are a few important guidelines:

1.  Don’t ask for all information up front.

Like a new relationship, the fastest way to scare people off is to ask too many questions and want too much information before you’ve gotten to know them. Take it slow.

2.  Ask only for the minimum required information.

Every organization will have different requirements, but the most typical registration fields include First / Last Name and email address. Keeping the initial registration process clean and simple will increase completion and conversion rates.

3.  Inform and reward users for sharing information.

Being transparent with your customers is crucial to building a trusting relationship. If you identify what information will be asked of users, why it will be used, and what they will receive in return (updates, virtual or physical goods, etc.), your audience will be more likely to accept your permission request and revisit your site.

4.  Ask for additional permissions at different entry points.

Using progressive permissioning is a great way to bring users into your site, cultivate a relationship, and then ask for additional information when the user 1) leaves a comment, 2) enters a sweepstakes/contest, or 3) seeks additional product information.

Befriend and Cultivate

Instituting a layered effect of information collection will not only cultivate relationships with your existing online following, but develop new relationships with prospects. How has your company encouraged engagement with your online users? Have you crafted  your registration structure to minimize registration requirements? How has this affected the collection of important social data?