Updated: Sep 26
I'm sure you've heard about the Great Hack documentary already, even if you haven't watched it.
Climate change, & displacement emergencies aside, one of the biggest issues we face as humans this century is the ease of manipulating & stealing our personal data.
One fact that may shock you, the worlds most valuable resource is no longer oil but data. Just think about that for a moment.
"This documentary explores how a data company named Cambridge Analytica came to symbolise the dark side of social media in the wake of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, as uncovered by journalist Carole Cadwalladr. "
Why everyone should watch it
After 5 minutes of watching The Great Hack I felt like I had some how started an episode of Black Mirror.
Its highly disturbing stuff.
Without giving away the entire plot 3 quick take aways are: 1) Facebook has taken away our ability to ever have another general election in the world safe from electronic tampering and digital coercion.
2) The UK referendum was rigged
3) oh and the US election of 2016 was also a fix.
Why the issues are particularly relevant for business owners
There is a second part to this blog post and that's the bit for small business owners, well business owners generally really.
As a business it is very important to understand what your customers are thinking about.
Whether you are trying to sell insurance, baby clothing, or baked goods considering what your customer may have on their mind can only get you closer to making a sale
With thousands of people, probably many of your customers having watched the programme and listened to the paranoia it induced, you'd be foolish not to see how that impacts on their thinking.
In short right now it is even more important that you position your brand/business as honest, trustworthy & transparent.
Some quick advice points you may want to consider.
1. Respect your customers privacy. If your customer trusts you with their data be sure to comply to all regulations if in doubt check what is covered by the Data Protection Act 2018 probably the most simple scenarios for you are being sure you have the right policies on your website and ensure ease for customers wanting to unsubscribe from your mailing lists.
2. Be very careful who you collaborate with. Your customers have a relationship with YOU, not with another company you happen to be working with.
For one allowing other companies to piggy back on your hard won relationships is potentially damaging if the customer doesn't like the new company, so you are tarnished by association.
But more worryingly, you may not know what else that company has been involved in that could come back to bite you. So do your homework on who you want to be thought about in association with.
3. Be clear about your terms and conditions
Make sure customers understand exactly what they can expect from you. Put everything in writing. Make sure people understand order times properly before parting with their money. It seems to be an area small businesses fall down on, with the expectation that a customer should not mind delays due to a one man band working slowly through bespoke items, or issues beyond their control such as shipping outside the UK. A long lead time is fine if everyone understands it, go out of your way to explain this.
4. Be transparent
Support ethical practises, be transparent in your workings, the public have views on the use of using labour in developing countries, provenance of products, use of unpaid interns and zero hours/gig economy contracts. Make sure you explain how you work as simply as possible to avoid any adverse PR.
5. Consider a complaints procedure
Even if you are a solo entrepreneur company consider having a clear complaints procedure that customers can follow if everything goes really wrong. It could save you a lot of heart ache in the end and conveys honesty & the hope of fair treatment to customers right from the start of your relationship.
Bringing it back to the context of the documentary, Facebook could afford the five billion pound fine for their part in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
I understand this is a drop in the ocean with their revenue being around 15 billion per quarter.
But think about how your own company could be affected by an unhappy customer. Keep yourself educated about what laws & legislation your company needs to be aware of, and keep thinking about the fact that customer scrutiny is only going to increase from here on in.
Thanks for reading! As always I'd love any comments and feedback.
Extra Resources for The Great Hack
1) Highly recommend the TED talk by Carole Cadwalladr in which she appeals to 'the Gods of Silicon valley'
2) On Podcast Control+Alt+Delete Emma Gannon interviews director Jehane Noujaim on the documentary in Episode 209
3)Vice takes a slightly different view on The Great Hack
Would you like more help with your marketing? My new book is out now
If you would like a book of 100 Marketing Tips written just for small business owners then do have a look here. I wrote this book to be easy to read cover to cover or to be kept as a reference to dip in and out of!
What to read next
I really enjoyed another Netflix documentary recently, it's called The Creative Brain, and you can find out more about it here
Shona Chambers Marketing is a Marketing Agency based in Nunhead near Peckham. Specialising in helping Small Business Owners and Freelancers with their Marketing. Based at 61 Cheltenham Road, Peckham, SE15 3AF