Today, while walking around a giant shopping mall in Manila, I was approached randomly by several different salespeople offering me things I didn't need nor want.
It felt like the human equivalent of a bunch of popup ads. Yuck! 😝
Anyway, it got me thinking about giving out personal information online. The cold hard truth about form data collection is there is no easy way to verify the authenticity of the supplied information.
Just as a user sends data to an "invisible face" on the other side, the company collecting this information is getting it from essentially unreliable sources.
In other words, lying on forms is incredibly easy to do and it has almost no consequences in real life. Of course, there are exceptions like when you're signing a contract or applying for a loan, but those aren't the kinds I'm referring to.
For example, if you need an email address, just plug in a temporary email into pretty much every form in existence and voilà! The data validates because it conforms to the correct syntax, but whether or not it will ever be seen by the intended recipient, who knows?
In real life, you might have feelings of guilt or remorse for lying to someone, but on the internet, you're mentally disconnected from the real people on the other side. And in many cases, as a user, you're actually better off giving out false information.
Combine intentionally wrong form submissions with automated spam bots scouring the internet for forms to spam, and you have a growing problem when it comes to collecting useful leads for your business.
So, how do you combat this problem? You can do a few things.
First, fix any trust issues (or lack thereof) that you may have. Tell your users flat out that you will never spam them or give out their personal information. Also, make sure they understand they can stop receiving emails from you any time they want.
Give them a reason to use your form too! What's in it for them? What benefit will they gain by giving you their personal information?
Limit the information you ask for to only the information you need to complete the task at hand. Anything more than the absolute necessities and you risk losing everything!
But this part is important: use the appropriate network(s) for your purpose. LinkedIn is ideal for collecting information from professionals, businesses, and decision makers. Twitter is good for casual users, or people who read news and blogs. Facebook is good for people who want something fun with little to no commitment.