Driven by privacy concerns, double opt in will come to platform marketing

by Justin Kistner on May 26, 2010
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Platform marketing is concerned with marketing on platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. The ecosystem, tactics, and considerations are different on platforms because of technological constraints, platform culture, and the currently hot issue: privacy.

Interestingly, my first post on platform marketing comes on the 3 year anniversary of the Facebook platform. As Facebook is embroiled in its fifth privacy debate, I’m sitting in a jury selection room at the local courthouse. What better environment to ponder the implications of privacy and platform marketing?

One of the strongest attractions to platforms for marketers is the lure of user data. Whether it’s targeting ads or collecting profile data, the rich information about people available on Facebook, YouTube, etc.

It’s also what has users up in arms that lead to Zuckerberg writing an op-ed piece in the Washington Post assuring users that they are protecting their privacy. Facebook has lead

Prediction: Social media marketing is about to go through what email marketing did at the turn of the Millennium. When email marketing first hit the scene, a new term was born: spam. People hated it and still do to this day. Anyone involved in email marketing during the early days held a certain amount of shame. Spam got so out of control, that it forced legislation to address the problem.

In the US, that was the Can Spam Act of 2003 that defined the rules of email marketing. Most notable was the call for double opt-in. First a user had to sign up for the email list, then she had to click the confirmation link in the email (in case someone else put her name in the sign up form). Since then, email marketing has turned into a multi-billion dollar industry and everyone was happy. People don’t consider the email they subscribe to as spam and true spammers are now mostly blocked by spam filters. Win win for everyone.

Social media marketing is currently starting down a similar path with Facebook blazing the trail. With the introduction of the Like button, the opportunity for social media marketing spam was born. What people didn’t realize is that by clicking the Like button, they are also granting publishing permissions to the object owner. If a user is viewing their news feed in relevant mode, then they won’t see 99.8% of those updates. But, a new breed of optimizers are already hard at work on news feed optimization (the new SEO).

Logically, it shouldn’t be long before platforms will have to honor the double-opt in rules of the Can Spam Act as well. My recommendation is to voluntarily adopt double opt in practices. If you’re ambitious, start building the tools that will power double opt in and make them with audit trails.

Post Author

Justin Kistner is author of the 2013 Social Rich Media Benchmark Report and VP of Strategy at ShopIgniter, recently acquired by Mixpo. Justin has been a well-renowned leader in social marketing strategy for over ten years with leadership roles at...

  • Nice piece Justin. Let's just say I'm in violent agreement :)

  • Justin – If I'm understanding you correctly, you are suggesting that people will need to confirm (double opt-in) to social media sites. If that's the case, I'm not sure I buy it. I would think that could get to be a big pain in the tail having to confirm every time I follow someone on Twitter or Friend/Like someone on Facebook. That being said, I *could* see a follow up email that would link to a preference center … a la email marketing.

    Interested in your thoughts…

    DJ Waldow
    Director of Community, Blue Sky Factory

  • I think an extra confirmation for when your information is going to be shared with the public could be called for. At least until Facebook lulls us all back into their false security blanket again. = )

  • Great post, Matt. I'll drop a comment on there.

    @DJ, I didn't know double-opt in wasn't required by CAN SPAM act. Looks like merely providing an opt-out is compliant with the US law. The EU does require an opt-in. Double opt-in appears to be the best practice to assure adherence to all international laws.

    That said, I should clarify. I don't think every action on social networking should require additional verification. However, if a user is opting in to receiving marketing messages, that's when a double opt-in would come into play. And, I don't think it's the best idea, I just think it will happen to combat NFO “spam”.

  • Jason – I agree that we should be well aware what we are opting in for regarding what information will be shared. However, I just worry that the extra step – an email stating “click here to confirm” – may cause some issues. That's all.

    DJ Waldow
    Director of Community, Blue Sky Factory

  • Justin: That's one of the major misconceptions of the CAN-SPAM Act. Amazing, isn't it? Actually, we always preach in the email marketing world that CAN-SPAM is really the MINIMUM. Most email service providers – Blue Sky Factory included – hold clients to a much higher standard.

    I see where you are coming from on “additional verification” for marketing messages. That being said, if the social networking site can be explicit up front – tell friends/followers exactly what to expect when they sign up, then there should not be any issues. That's assuming they stick to their promise AND continue to provide value. Two big assumptions!

    Interested to hear what others think too…

    DJ Waldow
    Director of Community, Blue Sky Factory