Millennials are sending mixed signals. On one hand, they share more publicly (i.e., online) than generations older than they are willing to, but at the same time they vociferously defend their right to privacy.
"You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it." Scott McNealy, CEO of Sun Microsystems, famously said this pre-social networking, back in 1999. The center of the debate was that online surfing and shopping habits were being cookie recorded. With Cyber Monday 2013 clocking in as one of the heaviest online spending days — $1.7 billion according to comScore — this debate is now over. In 2010, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said that privacy is no longer a social norm. Consumers are not only sharing more and different kinds of information to larger groups of people. Brands like Pinterest, Foursquare, Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter have all followed in Zuckerberg’s wake.
What should be of interest to brands is that Millennials, more that other group, are even more likely to share online if there they see a value in doing so. A new survey from the University of Southern California’s Center for the Digital Future and Bovitz Inc. reveals that more than half of Millennials would share their location with companies to receive coupons or deals for nearby businesses. However, in the same study 70% of the same group felt that that “no one should ever be allowed to have access to my personal data or web behavior.”
Confused? The Millennial generation has made it clear they want both options. They want the power to personalize (in some cases, manipulate) information they share and be private when they want to be. Be a suit during the day and a hipster at night. Don’t believe me? Look around.
With the privacy element in their DNA, Snapchat is the poster child for this generation. In my last column, I talked about how Snapchats are going out at a rate of upwards of 350 million messages a day. They created a new style of communication that allows people to give in to both desires—to share and hide. Given Snapchat’s disappearing photos, the app is actually fostering trust as much as narcissism. It is you are ultimately in control of the photo in which you post.
Music service Spotify is another great example of an offering designed to manage this. Spotify has seemed to find that right balance of offering an all-you-can-eat model, social, mobile and local experiences. This means, you can find new music from people who are “in” but more importantly you can control your privacy for those times when you have your Miley Cyrus moments.
Mobile browsing now accounts for more than half of all Internet surfing, so the next wave in social media marketing will definitely focus on location-based technologies because we all have the power in our pockets to share our location. I believe 2014 will bring mass acceptance in publicly sharing one’s location.
Companies who are able to capitalize on creating context for the user then most people will be willing to share if there is perceived value to the consumer. The folks who reveal more will benefit when it comes to customer service, making professional and social connections, and make their lives easier and better.
Privacy will likely be a hot topic as long as there is an Internet. The brands that offer the most user-friendly controls in an accessible manner will be the brands that users will flock to. That’s something they definitely will not keep private.