Facebook’s privacy settings and the wave of controversy they caused have created a new level of user awareness when it comes to personal information on web-based technologies. The Palo Alto giant decided to roll out a new program where people were automatically opted in to share their personal information across the web that they had saved on Facebook. Facebook coupled this roll out with a poor explanation of what it was, who it was affecting, and how users could manage it. The convoluted privacy controls and constitutionality were hit hardest, but they were not the real problem in this case. The actual problems here lie in communication and choice. I agree with Mark Zucherburger that a more open Internet is a better Internet and that the more people share, the more social the Internet will become. Unfortunately, sharing ones personal information needs to be a choice and users need to understand how and why they are sharing their information. “Because it’s good for you” is not an acceptable answer for most people.
Arts organizations in the US need to take this Facebook quagmire and use it as a case study for their own e-marketing and e-mailing policies. Communication and choice will lead to stronger web based support and a happier constituency.
Things arts organizations should keep in mind:
- E-mail and e-marketing should almost always be opt in for supporters
- Organization should explain why and how they will be contacting people
- If possible, users should be able to customize what they receive
- Opting in and opting out should be very easy and take little effort
- Safety measures on how the organization will protect a users personal information and contact information should be clearly stated on the website and reiterated in the first e-contact
Opt in policies are generally the most effective and considered to be best practice. This is where Facebook made their fatal mistake and where arts organizations need to ensure they are excelling. Organizations only want people to receive information that want to receive it. By allowing people to opt in to programs, the organization is letting the individual take responsibility and targeting individuals who want more contact with the organization.
Once someone has opted in to e-marketing and/ joined the e-mail list for an organization, they should be able to choose what they want to receive information about. Maybe they only want information on ticket sales or a certain type of programming. Maybe they only want the annual report and education programming. Being able to customize what information they receive will help keep them more engaged with the organization and make them less likely to opt out or stop reading e-blasts.
Finally, people should feel safe giving an organization their e-mail address and personal information. With all of the information sharing, spamming and possibilities for profit, consumers are very wary of giving away any contact information these days. Post on your website and in the confirmation e-mail how you are protecting their identity and their personal information. These practices will help any organization build a strong e-mailing list and e-marketing campaign.