Since Internet usage became popular in the mid-nineties, there’s been a great debate about identity versus privacy. But as time has progressed, demonstrating, verifying and protecting identity has become an increasingly important part of online relationships. Now more than ever companies, marketers and consumers are concerned about demonstrating identity.
Several recent events have driven that home:
- Second Life and IBM’s initiative to open Second Life avatars so they can be used in a wide variety of virtual worlds
- The inclusion of identity API’s in Google’s OpenSocial initiative to possibly enable transfer of personal data across social sites that support OpenSocial
- The rise of online identity credibility providers like SezWho and honestyonline
- A discussion with Georgetown University’s Communications Culture and Technology students last week (see companion piece on Now Is Gone and GNOVIS podcast) had some serious points on identity
- Brendan Cooper dropping the Friendly Ghost avatar, and the bizarre fall of anonymous troll Amanda Chapel and associated blogs Strumpette, Furthermore and Daily Diddle
Identity, Trust and Marketing
Generally speaking, experienced Internet users have been burned by anonymous identities, and want to know who we’re dealing with. Certainly, there’s an element of Internet citizens, etc. who must remain anonymous, in large part to keep their jobs. Others want to protect their privacy, but on the grander scale providing genuine identity is essential to facilitating trust online.
As we said last week, honesty, transparency and ethics — including accurately identifying yourself (anyone can claim to be Pete Townsend) are critical to online relationships:
There is no body language, no tone to hear, no eye to eye communication. Even in ?user-generated? video and audio, re-recordings and edits can mask inconsistencies. Authenticity and trust is based on a very generous gift of faith from the consumer, whether that?s in a C2C, B2C or a B2B environment.
Sales and marketing professionals, consultants, and PR pros must build trust to create results. Identity anchors trust. By providing an open identity, whether as a company or an individual, we foster trust in digital communities. And so it’s critical to practice ethical codes and foster accurate identity and transparency in our actions online.
Accurate identity’s importance has been confirmed by the pressure put on industry pundits to identify themselves. The increasing rise of start-ups to verify individual identity and even rank their credibility fulfills a marketplace need.
Even more encouraging, are the Second Life/IBM and OpenSource initiatives. It seems that consumers, application providers, and social networks alike also want universal identification capabilities across social networks. This allows for easier extension of personal brands as well as extension of preferred personal applications across communities.
Open identities also reduces social network fatigue. Users can explore more social networks without the rigors of starting anew every time they join another hot community. A win-win that enables much more fluid and pragmatic usage.
Identity has always been a moving target, but now it really seems to be moving. What are your thoughts on this pertinent topic?