Multiple Persona Disorder?

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I’ve posted about the potential for the browser to become a users online persona or shadow; the representation/summation of that person’s preferences. I’ve also talked about the future of OpenID and dataportability and how these two concepts together will create a marketers dream, which is an online persona that a person can plug into a companies environment (as long as that company supports OpenID). From this persona, minus the actual identification of the individual, the business can determine what they may be able to offer that user while they are on their site. This personalized marketing (contextual, behavioral and situational) is what marketers want and users in theory want, as long as quality is not forgotten.

I’m now unsure that the browser will end up representing our persona as many of us access the Internet via different computers and mobile devices. It may end up being social networks. There is a tremendous opportunity for social networks to become our personal portal to access other sites and our cloud services, which are one of the elements of a robust persona.

The potential issue that I now see is that most of us have multiple online personas. This is just as true for the real world in that we don’t behave the same in front of our grandmothers as we do when we are with our friends. Our LinkedIn account paints a different picture than our Facebook account. The question becomes (assuming all social networks eventually embrace data portability) which persona shows up at the online store?

It would be best if our persona were a combination of all the communities we were members of. This would paint a complete picture of the user. There may be no way to use much of the information that a user brings with them based on what the business has to offer and yet if the information is collected, potential strategic partnerships will reveal themselves over time. It’s also important to remember that the definition of a user will only become deeper as niche social networks become more prevalent.

Marketers need to remember that users will have (and should have) complete control over their online persona and how much they share. Marketers will also need to be vigilant to insure that the users who they’ve partnered with, only receive relevant material.

By Michael Myers

I’m an Associate Teaching Professor of Digital Marketing at the Daniels College of Business, University of Denver. I also consult with startups and established brands. I’m currently focused on artificial intelligence, cognitive neuroscience and culture. I am married to an amazing woman and have two incredible children. I was raised in Colorado and spend my free time with family, cycling, snowboarding and going to the Pacific Ocean to SCUBA dive + surf. I’m passionate about architecture, design, street art, photography and the art that tattooing has evolved into.

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