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Happy social media users more likely to share personal data online

Social media users satisfied with a site are more likely to share their personal information and data, according to new research by Vlerick Business School.

The researchers also found that users, who trust a platform, are more willing to share their data with social media sites if they believe it will make the content more personalised to them.

These findings show the importance of making a user-friendly site for marketing professionals to obtain critical data and information from users.

The research was undertaken by Andreas Munzel, Professor of Digital Marketing at Vlerick Business School, alongside his colleagues, Julien Cloarec, from the Iaelyon School of Management, and Lars Meyer‐Waarden, from the Toulouse School of Management.

The researchers wanted to study the personalisation-privacy paradox, and whether a more personalised service, which consumers are happier with, meant that they were more likely to share personal data and information with the website that they were using.

To do so, the researchers conducted three studies. In the first step, they studied over 10,000 British and French user reviews for Facebook. The findings show that the more consumers write about privacy in their reviews – about their information collection concerns in particular -, the lower their ratings. In a second step, the researchers then conducted two studies focused on the willingness of consumers to share their personal information with Facebook for personalisation purposes.

The researchers found that Facebook users were more likely to share their data with the site not only if they were happy users of the platform but also if they felt the content was more personalised and if they already had prior trust in the site.

“The rapid advancement of data gathering technologies has meant that marketers can truly understand their customers better than ever before,” says Professor Munzel. “However, with this comes increasing issues of customers’ data privacy concerns, and, thus, a reluctance from consumers to share personal information. Research shows that when social media users are happy and believe to be gaining something from sharing their information, they are more likely to do so”.

The researchers suggest that firms should emphasise creating a user-friendly, enjoyable online environment for their consumers so that they are more likely to share personal preferences, data and information with the company. This emphasis should focus on making the experience for users as personalised as possible and offering other benefits to consumers who use the platform regularly.

According to the researchers, firms should also be as transparent as possible about how they collect and use data. They should demonstrate a commitment to protecting users' privacy in data sharing and address customers' privacy concerns through a clear and available data policy. The research by Vlerick Professor Andreas Munzel and his colleagues offers valuable insights for marketers. It suggests strategies to find the balance between personalization and privacy and enhance user engagement without compromising privacy standards.