We’ve all seen ads on websites promoting the exact product we were browsing the Internet for earlier. The practice isn’t new and as paid search advertising pulls web surfing data from your search cache, it has a greater chance of successfully getting you to click through the ad to what you’re truly interested in.

This sort of data mining is getting creepier, and recently a client of ours commented on Twitter that hours after looking at an item on Nordstrom’s website, he was presented with an ad for that exact item in his Facebook NewsFeed. The comment wasn’t a positive one either – he was genuinely a little creeped out. Personally, I had been looking at a local company’s website and the next day received an email from LinkedIn promoting their open positions.

Social networks and search sites are making it easier than ever for advertisers to send out customized ads to Internet users in an effort to increase revenues. But the downfall is that users are beginning to understand the amount of data mining that is going on to create these ads.

As a business owner, you collect data on your customers all the time. Email addresses, home addresses, phone numbers, birthdays, what they’ve bought from you, the list goes on what you know about your customer. However, with that knowledge comes responsibility. No, we’re not about to jump into a superhero movie, it’s just a good thing to keep in mind – even though you have access to all of this great data, you can’t creep out your customers with it.

If you use an email newsletter client like Constant Contact or Mail Chimp, you can tell who opened your email, how many times they opened it, if they forwarded it to a friend, whether or not they clicked through to your site…the list goes on and on. When someone opens your email you might have the urge to reach out to them. Don’t. You’ve already given them information, so now let them decide for themselves if they want to learn more.

The person you should reach to is the person who’s really engaged with that piece of content – the one who not only opened the email, but forwarded it on, opened it multiple times, and clicked through to your website. That person deserves your attention. They aren’t a casual contact on your mailing list at this point and will most likely appreciate a follow-up call.

With any type of business, the last thing you want to do is come off pushy and desperate. In Nordstrom’s case, they could even be viewed as Big Brother-y and turn customers off. So figure out what type of marketing works for your customers. They’ll trust you more for respecting their information and not abusing it by inundating them with information or breathing down their neck for a sale.

How do you feel about the more personalized ads on social media sites and how they are using your search data?