By Jonathan Lakin
Until a few weeks ago, the words ‘Facebook’ and ‘anonymous’ were rarely connected. Consequently, Facebook’s decision to offer nameless log-ins to other websites and apps through the site sent a ripple of disquiet throughout some sections of the online advertising and marketing worlds. The great prophet of personalisation, had suddenly turned its back on its followers. So, if brands get no value from the data, why bother with social login in the first place?
We’re already seeing a shift in consumer thinking. Increasingly consumers recognise that providing their social data is an exchange – they are allowing brands to understand their preferences so that the brand can deliver a better or more useful experience to them. When brands are upfront and clear about the value exchange, it benefits everyone. Facebook clearly understands this.
It was in reality, a brave and necessary move and one that will clear the online air. It’s all about trust, the pre-requisite of a meaningful relationship between the consumer and their valued brand. And offering a choice signals a far more honest interaction.
This is likely to put intense pressure back onto brands learning to avoid the clumsy, mismatched targeting so often driven by cookies and purchase histories, which frequently produce “stupid” personalisation with little value exchange at all.
Given the time we all spend on social networks, and the breadth of topics discussed within them, social data has the potential to be a gold mine for those who know how to use it. With some additional processing it’s possible to understand someone’s core interests (which interestingly enough remain stable over time) as well as their intent, which is usually focussed on what a person is trying to do at any moment in time, and which by contrast tends to change fast and frequently.
By combining both core interests and intent using new machine learning and predictive methods it’s possible to distil hundreds of thousands of data points on each individual into a highly accurate, ranked list of keyword interests for each visitor, so brands can deliver highly personalised experiences and offers – the kind of experiences where a person actually “wants” to give you their data.
Understanding the contextual relevance of the content itself also has the potential to deliver breakthrough personalisation. As a rule yesterday’s predictive models just didn’t make connections in the same way a human does, but real, human-like context is now a possibility. For example, if someone searches the term ‘soul food’ it could means different things according to their tastes; a Frenchwoman might interpret the term ‘soul food’ as ratatouille, whilst a Texan teenager might interpret the same term as a tasty leg of southern fried chicken.
Put all these new advances together and we have the means to transform a customer’s website visit from boring and generic to friendly, relevant and compelling. Given this – and the knowledge that it is only achievable by providing social log-in details – Facebook’s anonymous option becomes much more of an ‘on ramp’ to the full login, for those brands that can noticeably improve their visitor’s experience.
In a survey carried out recently by Intent HQ, over half (53%) UK social network users said they were willing to share social data for personalised content. And 56% said that they would log-in to another website using the social network profile for personalised content.
Once both publishers and advertisers recognise the value of high-quality content, special deals and insider information, then these percentages look set to rise. We’ve seen click-through rates of 15 to 30 times the average and, in some cases, far more with the same number of visitors, showing how this can really work. Moving forward, at Intent HQ we are currently looking at ways that individuals can possess their own interest graphs, with the transparency, control and mechanics to trade with brands they trust.
Giving consumers this control could change the face of online business – significantly increasing clicks, views, brand recognition and, of course, ultimately revenue too.
About the author
Jonathan Lakin is CEO at Intent HQ.
Jonathan has built his career founding and growing early-stage technology and media businesses in the UK, US and Europe. His focus has always been on analytics, from building OLAP in the 1990s to big data and predictive analytics today. In 2010 he founded Intent HQ to address the lack of relevance of online content and since then his team has developed a deep learning platform to understand, target and activate online consumers in real-time. It does this by creating human-like profiles from what people do on social networks and on a client’s site – essentially producing an always current, ranked and weighted listing of a person’s true interests and intent. Jonathan is also one of three founders of Delaro, a European firm that provides seed capital, people and knowhow to develop and commercialise social and quantified self platforms.