If you’re a citizen of the European Union or a tourist traveling through, you’re likely noticing a pop-up message each time you visit a website. It usually reads to the effect of something like: “By clicking on our website, you accept cookies and similar tracking techniques.”
Before May 25, 2018, online businesses didn’t have to provide messages like that. But because of the GDPR, they must state in clear, non-legalese language what they do with customer data or risk heavy financial penalties.
The new set of rules dictates how companies must be transparent about their use of the personal customer data they gather. Since May, organizations can no longer operate in the shadows when it comes to data gathering. They now have to ask for consent from users, which means all that personal data used for targeted advertising must be freely given.
As you might imagine, because the GDPR commands a global reach, it has had a significant effect on the digital marketing landscape over the last few months:
• Only 36% of marketers are asking users to re-consent to email lists, and only 32% say their organizations are fully compliant with GDPR, according to a 2018 survey of nearly 250 global marketers from DemandBase and Demand Metric.
• Digiday points out that third-party data use has grown more difficult, which has led to 87% of marketers planning to increase their use of contextual advertising in the next year.
• Only about a third of U.S. consumers have opted in to give companies permission to use their data, while nearly 17% have opted out entirely, according to a survey.
There are several incredibly telling takeaways here. For one thing, it means people do read privacy statements from companies, most likely because they’re now much shorter and easier to understand, thanks to the GDPR’s requirements.
For another, it means this isn’t only happening in Europe. The GDPR, with its global reach, has led to users refusing to opt in all over the world. Customers are more cautious about how their data is used and how they’re being marketed to.
While it’s still too early to tell the long-term impact of GDPR on businesses, we can grasp the fundamental short-term consequence: Content marketers must be a lot more open about how they continue to engage audiences.
What’s a content marketer to do in a post-GDPR world? Here are a few suggestions:
1. Treat data consent as data given, rather than data gathered.
Although fewer people are granting permission to companies to use their data, many customers are still willingly consenting to give their data, and that is a valuable gift for your brand.
In Robert Rose’s article about the GDPR for the Content Marketing Institute, he quotes privacy expert Simon Carrell, who says, “When someone grants permission they are acting consciously, becoming an active participant rather than a passive source of data to be pillaged. Permission equals engagement. And engagement is the ultimate goal here, isn’t it?”
This is the right outlook to have. The GDPR can be perceived as a great thing for marketers since those customers who do opt in can be considered loyal. You can cater them with content tailored exactly to their tastes.
2. Position yourself as trustworthy, reliable and unambiguous.
The GDPR provides a chance for an image change. A brand can now position itself as the trustworthy choice, the one that has customers’ best interests at heart.
According to data released by Morning Consult, compassion, honesty and reliability are among the most important values held by millennial buyers. In general, brands with morals are very much in vogue — see Nike’s enormous success with its Colin Kaepernick campaign.
In our work with clients, we’ve seen firsthand how the GDPR can help brands become more transparent with their clients. For instance, making their security and tracking policies simple and entertaining, and creating a content series that explains how data is used and why. Many customers are more accepting of data tracking when they understand how they will benefit from it.
3. Revamp your website and privacy procedures.
Let users know what you plan to do with their personal information. Make sure their data has been given, rather than scraped. Email addresses, names, cookie IDs and IP addresses should be accounted for.
Since there must be a clear audit trail for this consented data, it’s a smart idea to assign a member of the marketing team to make sure marketing data is managed carefully. They should understand the data inventory they have and be able to erase data when the individual wants to exercise their “right to be forgotten.”
Plan for more user-generated content and influencer marketing. Consumers are empowered through the GDPR. Why not empower them through user-generated content? Ask customers to share testimonials, photos and videos, which can increase your trustworthiness. After all, 92% of consumers trust peer recommendations over traditional marketing any day.
All in all, the GDPR is simply asking content marketers to adhere to best practices. It’s raising the bar and asking brands to be a lot more transparent with their customers. And in the end, isn’t that one of the driving principles of content marketing?