One of the things that has changed greatly over the last decade is the amount of personal information that is available about ourselves has grown significantly. This is both true in respect of what others hold about us and what we wish to make available to others. Should we be giving out business cards (that 3.5 inch by 2 inch card) when they are no longer capable of holding all of the information that we now wish to share with others?
A while ago this site published a wish list of improvements that it felt could be made to Microsoft Outlook to equip it for identity management in the modern world. This particular article actually generated an email response from Microsoft suggesting the use of their Business Contact Manager add-on for Outlook. Since that time Microsoft has also released Outlook 2010. Yet neither of these solutions offered the support for extended identity information that should be necessary in managing our connections today.
Can we obtain identity information from social sites, like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. From some yes, others no – much actually depends on how the application is built. Facebook for example assumes we already know the person and have no need to retain an independent record of that person’s identity. Twitter holds some information, but does not provide access to their email address. LinkedIn enables us to download to Outlook (or any other software that can handle .VCF files) the person’s electronic business card. Plaxo, is actually a social capability that allows you to automatically backup you contact records.
Despite early attempts at electronic exchange of business cards the technology never really succeeded. So we give out, old fashioned, cards then go about transcribing them onto some form of electronic record. In actual fact a person’s identity is made up of a series of documents, tasks, emails, phone calls, etc. that form one part of the whole interaction we have with that individual. So If I sit down at my computer and search for “Paul Connolly” then I will find everything I have on file for him as well as any associated Internet based updates. Hmm, nice in theory but not always practical and thus we can see the card is merely the tip of the iceberg, and this does not even start to account to the heap of records the average corporation maintains about that individual.
Yet think about how many identity records you use on an average day and you will be surprised how many times you supply email addresses, usernames and passwords in order to access systems that we are entitled to use. Open IDs still have not gained as much ground as they ought to have. Is it because of a reluctance to make use of a single digital identity on the part of the user, or is it because of a lack of trust of the vendors? What is surprising is the number of Internet based applications that login using a Facebook account, perhaps this is the de-facto Open ID.
Facebook with nearly 500 million members is therefore reaching somewhere in the region 1 in 14 of the world is interesting because it is seen by many as trustworthy. Yet I cannot see LinkedIn allowing you to login using a Facebook ID. Yet there are now many marketing applications that leverage Facebook in order to perform marketing based activities. Perhaps the reason that you cannot download an email from Facebook actually works in its favour in putting marketer and customer together in a way that maintains separation and can be ignored by the user if they wish.
Privacy of contacts should be taken very seriously by corporations, yet social applications do allow marketers and prospects to mingle in the same space, albeit for a period of time, and that can be crucial, yet so is the need not to be making ‘advertising noise’ during that connection. This is one reason why the customer wishes to maintain a certain distance – and quite how much is of their choosing, not the marketing organisation.
For any business it is important to maintain as full a data set about customers and prospects as possible, even if you have no email address then skype ID, Facebook ID, LinkedIn ID etc may well be important facets which will need to be recorded. The earlier comments regarding the shortcomings of Microsoft Outlook remain valid even with the 2010 product. Social identities are as important (if not more-so then physical or email addresses) in order to keep an ongoing dialogue with that individual. The next generation of contact data that we store must be socially aware.
Tags: Collaboration, Communications, Communities, Identity