Earlier today I was reading a rather brilliant piece of writing by Rachel Coldicutt about how corporate Twitter accounts could (or perhaps, should) be run. An almost throwaway remark in that piece really resonated with me, and it’s this:
…the reality is that I have a more intimate relationship with my phone than with most of the Twitterverse. It’s never far from my hand, so it’s a tiny step to put that, almost preconscious, thought into the world…
Now, I’ve taken this slightly out of context, but I think that’s okay as I’m not critiquing Rachel’s writing or the subject she was writing about. There’s a reason for that. What struck me was the fact that Rachel said she had an intimate relationship with her phone, a level of trust that she didn’t have with, in this instance, the Twitterverse. The fact that she trusted her phone, implicitly it seemed to me, says something about our relationship with a humble communications device – and a whole lot more about how we use it. And, of course, how that relationship can be exploited.
I was interviewed a year or so ago about cloud computing; it was something to do with an in-house publication at the agency I work at. The question revolved around how we get people to give up certain aspects of their privacy when they choose the cloud (as the perception is cloud-based services are easier to hack and therefore what are quite personal details could suddenly be open to the world). I said, in response to that question, that we will simply ask people to use their phones as the conduits for any cloud-based service as people have an implicit trust associated with their phone.
And they have done as long as I can remember. I know this because I’ve witnessed it.
The phone, because it links you to a person, brings with it an inherent trust. People are afraid to give their details online (or at least were afraid to in the early days of e-commerce) but they were (and are) still more than happy to give a number a call and tell a person to whom they are a stranger some of their most intimate details. The phone gives them a level of trust that the computer doesn’t.
I don’t believe it’s just the human element. Why? Well, if you have a human available online and offer a phone number, people will generally call the number rather than interact with a human online. Trust again.
I don’t have any stats to back this up, as it’s merely an observation of mine. But I know others agree:
I am constantly surprised at how many visitors to our ecommerce sites will provide their credit card numbers over the phone to an individual they know nothing about, answering the phone number listed on a website that they have only interacted with for a few minutes.
It’s not that I really care a huge amount about how much trust people are willing to place in their phones, but it certainly starts to get some interesting thoughts going, particularly as the smartphone begins to offer features that mean it’s more than a simple voice communication device.
Now that phones can track our every move, can be used to transact, to capture and document in a way we’ve never had before, will this quite amazing level of trust be about to fall away? Or will it simply be exploited in a way that, as yet, the marketing community couldn’t do before? Will the latest phone-hacking evidence that’s pointing the finger at UK newspapers mean people will start to re-evaluate the level of trust they’re willing to afford the phone?
I, for one, will be interested to see how this plays out.
They say mobile marketing is the future for advertising. Will we see that idea flourish still? Or will, at some point in the future, people begin to realise that their phone has changed and it might be time to change the relationship they have with it, too?