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How User Privacy Impacts Your Content Strategy

User Privacy Impacts Your Content Strategy

Concerns over user privacy are at the forefront of navigating the online world. This is true for both brands and the users they wish to attract. Brands have to find a balance between delivering useful content and data collection. This requires a strategic mindset. Brands must also track changes to privacy laws to remain informed and to protect users.

Not so long ago, matters of online privacy were left to legal teams to figure out. Content strategists were less concerned with—if not completely detached from—the creation of those policies. Leaving matters of compliance with privacy policies to the end of the content creation process when content is sent for a (hopefully) quick legal review as part of the editorial process.

Privacy policies and disclaimers have become central to the content strategy process. Content creators consider where to place these policies. And they consider how to improve privacy language so users understand how private information is used.

Understanding privacy: operating definitions

Understanding privacy: operating definitions

User privacy. Data privacy. User data. Personal information. What’s in a name? And more importantly, why should it matter to your content strategy? For a better understanding of how these terms are interconnected, consider this comprehensive privacy policy definition from a glossary compiled by the International Association of Privacy Professionals, or IAPP:

“[A privacy policy is] an internal statement that governs an organization or entity’s handling of personal information. It is directed at those members of the organization who might handle or make decisions regarding the personal information, instructing them on the collection, use, storage, and destruction of the data, as well as any specific rights the data subjects may have. May also be referred to as a data protection policy.”

Based on the IAPP’s definition, one could argue that as a content creator:

  • You are a member of an organization (be it a brand or agency).
  • You handle personal information collected from users.
  • And you may also make decisions about how that information is used.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that if privacy violations occur, you’ll be held personally responsible. But it does mean that you should be aware of how dependent your strategic work is on collecting data as users interact with the digital experiences you create and support.

Clearly communicating with users how their data will be collected and used is an integral part of creating a successful content strategy. Here's how to do it.' #contentstrategy #privacypolicy #userprivacy Click To Tweet

Understanding online protections

According to a 2019 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, when it comes to attitudes about privacy policies and laws,  “Many Americans have little to no understanding of what companies are doing with the data that is collected about them.”

  • About 22% of survey respondents said they ‘always or often’ read privacy policies before agreeing to them.
  • And of that number, 43% said they ‘glance over’ those policies instead of reading them all the way through.
  • When it comes to comprehension, 55% of respondents said they understood some of the policies they read.

Why should you be concerned about how user privacy impacts content strategy? If people aren’t reading privacy information, why does it matter? If your content strategy depends on users’ data to help navigate the marketing funnel, you need to be aware of how using private data affects users.

Strategic use of privacy content

Strategic use of privacy content

Using the parts of the funnel as a reference point, let’s look at how user privacy considerations might impact your work. And check out a few examples from brands that have optimized privacy policy content by taking creative approaches to explain how user data is consumed.

Top-of Funnel Marketing (ToFu)

Top-of-funnel marketing is where awareness happens. It’s also the phase where brands establish trustworthiness. Consumers want to establish relationships with businesses and brands they trust. And those brands depend on that trust as they invite consumers to share information to deepen brand engagement.

Base is a brand that’s taking steps to establish trust while collecting personal information. Base makes all-in-one home health testing kits that provide users with information to improve their health. Users take a quiz designed to help them choose test kits that will give them actionable recommendations.

The first few questions on the quiz collect baseline information to learn what health concerns users want to improve. Then, before revealing which starter plan is the best, users are prompted to enter their names in order to make the experience more personal. And here’s where Base takes a privacy pivot. If you’re not ready to share your name at this stage, you can use “Foo” instead.

Image source: get-base.com/quiz

The beauty of this experience is that you’re given a choice to continue somewhat anonymously until trust has been established and you’re ready to reveal who you are.

There's no escaping the importance of user data privacy and its relationship to (and impact on) your content strategy.' #contentstrategy #privacypolicy #userprivacy Click To Tweet

Middle-of-Funnel Marketing (MoFu)

Let’s take a look at middle-of-funnel marketing activities and consider how user privacy might shift at this stage. At this stage, consumers are more seriously considering what your brand is offering, be it a product, a service, or an experience. Being transparent about matters of privacy may seem fruitless since such a low number of people read these policies. But if you make it your mission to be transparent about these policies, you give users another reason to deepen their engagement with your brand.

Social media brands are continually at the forefront of privacy conversations, and usually not for the best of reasons. There’s definitely a tradeoff between the expectation of privacy and sharing on social media. But instead of creating a mass exodus by users, content marketers, and social media influencers, some social media platforms are learning to do better by being more transparent.

Consider Twitter’s customer-centric approach to the latest iteration of its privacy policies. It removed legal jargon and has made privacy content more conversational. Privacy information is now presented as content that people actually want to read. And it allows users to make informed decisions when interacting with the platform.

Image source: privacy.twitter.com/en

Image source: privacy.twitter.com/en

Plus, they’ve gone a step further and created Twitter Data Dash. A gamified experience—completely free of data collection—to help users understand privacy matters in a fun and engaging way.

Bottom-of-Funnel Marketing (BoFu)

If you’ve used data-driven content strategies to guide users from the top of the funnel to the bottom, you may think your work is done. But at the point of transaction—the bottom-of-funnel marketing where decisions are made, and conversions happen—privacy is critical.

Let’s say you’ve come across the most delightful LEGO succulents set, and it’s just the thing you need to complete your home office décor. After seeing the set on a third-party site, you decide to shop at the source to see if there are similar sets available. Many online experiences presented a generic-looking cookie policy banner (hello, banner blindness). LEGO.com is upfront about privacy. They display a modal with a headline that reads, “Privacy Preferences: The cookies are ours. The control is yours.”

 

Image source: Lego.com

Instead of wading through pages of privacy information to get to the cookie settings, you’re presented with three (relatively) short paragraphs. Followed by two buttons that allow you to make a quick, informed decision. And if you still feel the need to go deeper into cookie settings, there’s a tertiary call-to-action that allows you to do so.

Privacy: it’s all in how you say it

Privacy: it’s all in how you say it

There’s no escaping the importance of user data privacy. Clearly communicating with users how their data will be collected and used is just as important to content strategy as research, market segmentation, voice and tone, and improving SEO. In the end, if your privacy policy clearly states what it means to users and how it impacts their experience with your brand, everybody wins.

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About the author

Natalie Dunbar

Natalie Dunbar is a user experience-focused content strategist, freelance writer, speaker, and builder of engaging content experiences for brands that include Anthem, Inc., Farmers Insurance, Kaiser Permanente and YP.com, and several federal government organizations including the Food and Drug Administration, US Department of Agriculture, and the Veteran's Administration.

When she’s not herding content or writing all the things, Natalie teaches yoga, and also enjoys dancing Brazilian Samba and Forró into the wee hours.

Natalie's first book, "From Solo to Scaled: Building a Sustainable Content Strategy Practice," will be published by Rosenfeld Media in 2022.