You want to know me, get to know me?
You have invested in the best minds and tools to create a realtime profile of my habits, purchases, and searches. You know more about me than my wife, kids, and college buddies. But, now I am ready to “Disconnect.”
Maybe data is not the basis of a long-term relationship?
I read an article in GigaOM the other morning about Disconnect, which prevents data siphoning during web search and browsing. Its use has taken off since it launched a free service last week. Two days into launch, it had received a quarter-million search queries. Compared to Google’s reported 5 billion daily searches, that’s practically nothing. Still, as a marketer, the apparently feverish consumer support of Disconnect captured my attention.
Why? Because Disconnect represents a backlash against the tools that digital marketers use to set their goals, measure their progress, run their lives, and grow their businesses. Disconnect encrypts search queries so the search engines can’t keep a record of them. This prevents marketers from seeing the keywords that brought people to their site. It allows users to muffle social network tracking as they browse. It even blocks some AdWords ads. So, if you’re keeping score, this takes direct aim at SEO, social, and SEM.
Ouch, ouch, and ouch.
And, Disconnect isn’t the only challenger angling against Google. Blippex is taking a similar privacy tack. As the revelations keep coming about exactly what is being tracked online every day, the popularity of tools and services like Disconnect and Blippex will keep growing.
While the marketer in me is given great pause by all this, the referral marketer in me is actually hopeful. If a reduction in online data makes it more difficult to use techniques that are hard for consumers to see, it presents an opportunity to do more of something that consumers can see, and are, in fact, integral to — learning about products and services through personal referrals, getting information from people they know and who know them. Marketing techniques that foster personal connection, respect privacy, and still acquire customers at scale grow more valuable to marketers.
Does the rise of things like Disconnect represent a significant moment of transformation in digital marketing? Probably not. But, it’s a good reminder that at the end of the day people tend to trust the people they know and not the big corporations and government agencies they don’t. As marketers, we ignore that fact at our own risk.