We’ll soon find out whether POPI will be cheered or jeered this year.

The Protection of Personal Information Act of 2013 was passed and signed into law this past November. When the Consumer Protection Act was passed in 2011, many debated when it would be POPI’s turn. And after much discussion, it’s here and is said to commence sometime this year.

So what does this mean for all you digital marketers out there?

Opt In vs Opt Out

POPI has some great quirks, like the victory of Opt in over Opt out. This is something Everlytic has been campaigning for years. The previous direct marketing law, allowed for communication with anyone through email, SMS or other online mediums, provided they had a way of opting out or saying NO.

If you think of this scenario in a human conversation or meeting; Opt out would mean that someone can walk up to you with a cup of coffee and just start telling you random things about anything and the only way you can make them stop is by walking away (opting out). Sound rude? Well it is and it was. On the other hand, it is quite socially acceptable to send an invitation to someone and allow them to accept it or not (opting in).

Release the Opt in!

Opt in is the marketer’s term for permission. When you receive permission from a client, you may proceed to have that coffee with them and they may even interact and offer you their buy in. Opt in now means that you can’t just upload a mailing database or send a bulk SMS to people in the hope that some might bite. You’ll need to have their permission to communicate with them. This is either done by having them as clients, or as subscribers to your mailing lists.

So now that I have consent, can I talk about Elvis?

Having a permission-based audience to communicate to is the first step to ethical and influential conversations with your readers. Communicating relevant content however, is just as important. If I’ve invited you out for lunch to talk about soccer and you tell me about what’s happening on your favourite soap opera, I’d be highly annoyed and disinterested. Online marketing is very much the same. You should only talk to your clients about the products they’ve asked to be told about or the subject matter in line with their consented interest.

It’s not that cool to be a man of mystery anymore

Now that we’ve established how to send an ethical message, let’s remove the mask that so many digital marketers like to wear.

Everyone enjoys a little mystery here and there, but leave it for the books and the screenplays, it’s annoying in digital marketing. Receiving content from someone you may know under an alias can damage the brand’s reputation or loyalty. When a stranger buys me a drink at the bar, I have to worry what’s in it. Out of concern, I may not even drink it. POPI doesn’t like the mystery either, so lose it.

If you were sending an email newsletter, you need to clearly state all sender details which include; organisation name, address, contact number and email address. This is also known as the CAN SPAM footer in email marketing and it allows for complete transparency. There’s no “hard-to-get” in email marketing. Being clear about who you are and what you want, allows your client to respond or even make a purchase.

Many online marketers have viewed POPI as a negative thing, but it’s not. Allowing marketers to connect with people ethically, is a good thing. It enables us to enter into conversations where the human element is now more visible than ever. Remember, people buy from people and not robots or systems.