Online privacy has become the hottest topic in today’s digital world. As legislators gain a deeper understanding of the internet giants’ business models, they are slowly realising just how much these companies rely on users’ data being freely or unwittingly given. While the internet was once thought of as a free-of-charge, all-inclusive space, increased awareness of digital privacy is set to shake things up dramatically in the coming months and years.
It’s impossible to escape news stories about hacking, data leaks and online security breaches, with major incidents focusing minds on the issue of internet privacy. People are now more cautious than ever about what they share online and who they share it with, from uploading photographs to handing over their credit card details to online retailers. So how is this increased awareness going to affect tomorrow’s digital landscape, the way we consume media and – most importantly – advertisers?
The media landscape
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has a new favourite soundbite: ‘the future is private’. The largest social media platform is, it seems, now keen to embrace secure online communication. This is an about-turn almost as radical as its transformation into a mobile-first business about five years ago, and where Facebook leads, others follow. All social media platforms are now re-examining their privacy policies and asking their users to think again about what data they are happy for the platforms to collect.
Zuckerberg’s ‘private future’ will mean smaller but stronger online networks, more encryption and increased volumes of private interactions between individuals. It will also mean a shifting of the burden away from Facebook’s own servers and on to users’ devices, putting more power and responsibility in the public’s hands. Ultimately that will mean a faster, more reliable and more secure social media platform. But that, in turn, will have an impact on the way we use it.
As the privacy burden is shifted, users are going to have to navigate the transition from a ‘town hall’ environment to Facebook’s cosier ‘living room’ vision of the future. In a more secure digital realm, people will start to have more private group chats on messaging apps, closer friend circles and more relevant and intimate community pages. With an increased sense of security comes an increased impetus to share.
A revolution in the way people perceive their online security is under way and, as a result, they will want to interact more and engage on a much higher level. This will undoubtedly pave the way to a brighter future for private e-commerce. Online sellers who can cater to Instagram shoppers and those who want to pay via messaging apps will lead the way in the more private world of tomorrow.
What does this mean for advertisers?
All this will have a significant impact on advertisers. In order to unlock the full potential of Facebook’s vast audience, advertisers already have to ensure that what they are offering is highly personalised.
As users gain greater control over who they interact with, and who can use their data, the pressures to target the right people and remain relevant will only increase. With consumers becoming more empowered, advertisers can no longer afford to miss the mark in terms of personalisation.
It is a fine balancing act to pull off. Advertisers have to remain relevant to their audience at the same time as delivering millions of communications, and that can only be done through technology. That’s where artificial intelligence (AI) comes in. Advertisers are going to need to embrace AI and harness its power because AI is going to become an integral part of their marketing and communication infrastructure in the future. Those who use it wisely will be able to deliver creative and relevant content to the right people, at the right time. This will provide streamlined customer service, reaching consumers through their preferred medium and even solving bottlenecks in the customer journey from ad to payment.
The future of advertising and privacy
There can be no doubt that users are becoming more aware of the value of their personal information. With the rise of internet privacy concerns and fears over mass data harvesting, the tech giants will need to continue to innovate and move towards that more private future. In order to prove they are worth sharing personal data with, brands will need to stay up to date and see they deliver content that is more relevant and personalised to their consumers.
Advertisers, therefore, need to be the first adopters of new technology and make the most of advances in AI. In order to stay ahead of their competitors and target the right people, they will need to think smaller rather than bigger. If the future is private, then the key to success will be in knowing their customers and finding a foothold in their increasingly private world.