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Digital Literacy in 2018: The evolution of online audiences

How do you define Digital Literacy in 2018?

In a world of 'fake news' and Facebook, what do we really understand about our interactions - and their impacts - online?

These are the questions we find ourselves tackling in our office at the moment.

As Brendon wrote in What Zuckerberg's Testimony Teaches Us About Digital Literacy, "Digital evolution is now so rampant that even experts struggle to keep pace - let alone our lawmakers, business owners and executives."

Our team are regularly confronted with the challenge of explaining what we consider as basic principles of digital business. We do understand that we come from a privileged background - we should know more, that's what we're hired to do - but the gap seems to be increasing.

But why?

This is exactly the topic we covered last week in our 'coffee talk' - a weekly live catch up on our Facebook page to share what we're reading, talking and thinking about in our offices.

Digital Literacy - our definition

When you consider literacy as an individual's understanding of what they're reading or watching, in a digital sense it becomes their comprehension of what is going on when they interact online.

Five or ten years ago, our definition likely would have sat at the front end of the technology. Can you comfortably use a computer or a smartphone. Can you find information on the internet. Do you know what Facebook and Twitter are?

Fastforward to 2018 and, just as the digital space has evolved and expanded, so too must our definition of Digital Literacy.

We are being driven to understand what is going on behind the scenes.

What is happening behind your interactions online.

What information are you leaving behind you and you move across the digital space?

Beyond that, it's how you critically understand what is being presented to you online - what news sources can you trust, who can you trust with your information, who can't you trust and how can you tell the difference?

Now, let's take it a step further. As a business owner, or General Manager, CIO or Marketing Lead - do you understand how your customer's information is being collected, how it is being stored and used, and your responsibility to collect data in an ethical way? 


The relentless push toward greater literacy


While important, this doesn't really show why the term is coming to the fore now.

We've been using these tools for ages, what's happening today that makes the gap between those that know and those that don't so obvious?

Think of the stories swirling around the news cycle. 

  • Cambridge Analytica (an unfortunate data breach that saw information about many Facebook users leaked into the hands of consulting company)

  • Royal Commission into Finance and Banking sector (Do we trust financial institutions with our data?)

  • GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation, or the EU's complete overhaul of the privacy laws in the digital space that will come into effect in a matter of weeks)

Digital Literacy is becoming increasingly tied to some other very important words - privacy, choice and trust.

From understanding your own Facebook privacy settings, to managing your customers' data in an ethical and safe way, it's clear that it's an emotive issue - particularly where companies have failed to protect customers’ data.


Everything old is new again


But is this slew of online data a new thing, or are we just more aware of it?

As Leanne pointed out in our live chat, credit card companies have known more about us and our shipping history that we know ourselves for years.

Grocery stores have watched how we navigate the store, what we buy and how we pair items.

Loyalty cards were designed as tools to not only get you back in the shop but to (gasp!) collect data like, how often you return to the store, what products you pair together, how much you spend every time you shop.

This data, with clever marketing interventions, helped businesses sell more stuff.

But we didn't trust them any less.

How do we gain trust now, with potential customers and clients who are becoming more and more wary of sharing information?

We need to arm ourselves with information. And make sure our customers are armed with information as well.


This is where the GDPR comes in

Any modern business owner or manager has a responsibility to understand the data laws of the countries that you operate in - as well as those of other countries where your customers may be.

While we may not all be operating out of the EU, the GDPR is about to set the benchmark for privacy and data collection around the world.

We all need to be mindful of,

  • How aware we are of the information that we are holding in trust for our customers

  • Our responsibility over the information that we collect

  • How we store it and use that information

  • How we govern that information, and make our customers aware if that data is compromised in any way

It sounds intense, but it really does offer a great opportunity to businesses.


Working with consumers to improve digital literacy


People who are responsible for holding customer information in businesses (GMs, marketing, IT, customer service and operations leads to name a few) have been presented with a great opportunity to learn more, and to educate their customers in turn.

Build more trust with your customers, build better customer relationships, and use those to drive revenue and sales? It's a real win.

This is your chance to,

  • Get educated. Learn what information is being collected by your business. Don't just consider online forms and enquiries, but get to know what tracking codes are embedded at your website, like the Facebook Pixel and Google Analytics. Do you know what these are and what they're used for?

  • Clean up and segment your lists. Make sure you're talking to people who have specifically opted in to communication with you, and keep your lists targeted at the right people. Don't make your customers guess when you'll be talking to them, where or what about.

  • Get to know (and update) your privacy policies. Make sure you are transparent about what your practices are, so you’re consumers can educate themselves. Get advice from a legal professional.

  • ‚ÄčThink about how you can explain your data collection practices to your customers. Should you have a pop up to explain your site uses cookies? Is your privacy policy actually understandable to someone without a law degree or web development background? Can you give people options to opt-in to different types of messages, not just one big list?

Do you feel comfortable with how your digital ecosystem collects and uses customer information?

We're happy to offer training to across your business on this topic. Please get in touch if you'd like to find out more.

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