I started a Yahoo email account in the 1990's. It soldiered on through the early 2000's until I got my .mac account. Next thing I knew, I was chatting up a storm in Apple mail.
What happened to my Yahoo email account? Well, I didn't bother to disable it or erase it. I moved on with my life, as though it never existed. But therein, lies my mistake. I left it, and all of it's contents waiting for hackers, who would eventually find it and scour it's content. I, like everyone else that was hacked, would find out many months later that my old Yahoo email account had been hacked. This left me feeling... well... gross. It didn't matter that it may have been years since I used the account. Someone wanted to get in my account and use my information for their personal gain. I had been robbed.
I started to think about what this meant to me, as a business owner. I request some data to sign-up for an account. I store that data. If people stop signing-in, I continue to store that data. Most of the time, people do not purge their accounts. They abandon them. There's even entire articles about how people can "properly" abandon an account.
I didn't want Mosaiscope™, an RSS reader and news aggregator, to be a product that didn't take adequate steps to protect users, even former users of the product. I am grateful any time someone downloads our free app, and wants to try the product of my blood, sweat and tears to find their news, but if they determine for whatever reason Mosaiscope™ isn't quite it, I still want to do right by the customer. I don't want to keep storing their personal data.
So, several weeks ago, we dug through the data. We found a handful of users who had not signed back into their Mosaiscope™ accounts since signing up for their account initially. On top of that, they had no content in their accounts (no Topics and no Sources). These were the people!
We took that group of customers and started a campaign to contact them to see if there was anything we could do to help them get content into their accounts and hopefully enjoy Mosaiscope™. We also wanted to solicit their feedback to understand why there had been a drop-off in activity, as well as let them know of all the updates and new features that had been added since they last signed in. Finally, we let them know that if they didn’t sign back into their accounts within 2 weeks we were going to delete their accounts.
Fast forward to last week, now three weeks after sending the message, and wouldn’t you know it--a bunch of customers had signed back into their accounts and added content. Of course, there was also a group that didn't sign-in, but that was a sign. With a little bit of hesitation, we hit the delete button on their accounts. All their information gone.
Not the normal activity for a startup, but one that felt like the right thing to do. Outside of keeping the data clean, it also makes reporting more accurate. When I talk about how many users we have for the product, I know I am reporting out engaged users. On that rare occasion that I need to contact our users, I know that I am contacting people, who are using the app. We aren't about being annoying, and hopefully, this is a good thing that serves our customers and our product.
If you have a start-up, have you ever considered deleting users? What made you move forward or hold back?
Let us know what you think, and hopefully you will agree that, although not the normal thing for a startup to do, hopefully it's the right thing for a startup to do.