Thursday, August 13, 2015

Further Down the Rabbit Hole [Marketing Segmentation and Big Data]

An e-blast from Sidekick [an add-on from Hubspot] just landed in my inbox with a link to this blog post. The post discusses a method to “hack” [figure out] someone’s email address when you need to reach them and have lost their address.
Read the comments for even more suggestions of how to find email addresses!
A couple years ago, my then-current employer brought in a social media consultant. As we started talking about Facebook advertising, he explained how he had helped a realtor sell a very specific property [a horse ranch], by using the segmentation criteria Facebook offers to set up ads that would only show to individuals whom: had the financial stability/income range to buy the ranch, were interested in horses, were actively looking for property, and lived within 50 miles of this property. The resulting audience was only about 5 people. However, one of the 5 bought the ranch.
Some people may be currently deleting their Facebook accounts and cleaning the cookies off of their computers as they read this, [and the examples above may have sparked some marketers to plan their next big campaign push] but the fact is segmentation and big data are our reality today.
So, how comfortable are you with the data that is available online about you?

Pew Research Survey published last year shows that sentiments are mixed:
In the commercial context, consumers are skeptical about some of the benefits of personal data sharing, but are willing to make tradeoffs in certain circumstances when their sharing of information provides access to free services.
  • 61% of adults “disagree” or “strongly disagree” with the statement: “I appreciate that online services are more efficient because of the increased access they have to my personal data.”
  • At the same time, 55% “agree” or “strongly agree” with the statement: “I am willing to share some information about myself with companies in order to use online services for free.”
I’ve written before about segmentation and big data, that when used ethically, is a marketer’s gold mine.
And, I doubt anyone can contest that there is a cultural shift going on, with segmentation and big data theories just emerging as commonplace in the marketing realm. Although the concept of big data has been around for years, Steve Lohr through the New York Times called out 2012 as the year “Big Data” went mainstream - just 3 years ago.
So why is it still surprising to many of us, myself included, when a new way of cyber-stalking [my tongue-in-cheek term for this shift] comes to light? Why are we still shocked when we realize who has profiles on us and how easy it is to gain insights about us online?
Photo Credit: Jeshu John

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Do Marketers Sell Their Soul? [Online Data Mining]

Do Marketers Sell Their Soul?

Last year Chris Chan wrote an emotional article on his thoughts about Facebook’s privacy policies and selling data.
It stuck with me and even a year later, I wonder if marketers are selling our souls for data.
As digital marketers, we walk a fine line every day.
I will be the first to admit I want my private life private. But when your job is to reach an ideal audience, and you want to do it the most successful way, gathering data on people and profiling is necessary.

It used to be marketing was a one-way conversation.

Ads, billboards, radio and tv commercials talk at people, without a response. Then came the internet. Things started to get loud. I’ve talked before about howloud the conversation has become.
Brand ad exposures in the 60s and 70s were limited. 
That was before the internet.
CBS quoted Jay Walker-Smith as saying we’ve gone from 500 in the 70s to 5,000 today. So, where I once could have run a TV commercial and hit 70% of my audience, I now have hundreds of channels to compete with, and YouTube, and Netflix, and Amazon, and...
The marketing game has changed. Our audiences are more spread out, in their own little niche corner of the digital age.

Enter data profiling and mining.

Before Facebook went public, people wondered how Facebook made money. If you were a digital advertiser, you knew. Google, Facebook, and every online behemoth collects data, strips out your name and resells that data. Do you want to target ads to upper income families expecting a child soon within 25 miles of your storefront? Easy. Facebook tracks and buys that data on people, then uses it to target your paid ads.
Ever wonder why, after shopping on Amazon, you can get incredibly customized emails about related products? Or the next time you’re on a news site, an ad for those shoes you were craving [but didn’t buy] shows up? 5 million people aren’t seeing the same ad for those shoes.
Thanks to the buying, selling, sharing and tracking of your data, marketers can provide unique, personalized experiences for you.
If my job is to find you exactly where you are in the loud conversation and to provide you with something of value, simply put; the more data I have on you the better I can make your experience.

The fine line marketers walk.

Just like an ARM mortgage can sound like a steal...until rates jump, it is up to the person taking on the mortgage to read the fine print. In the digital world, it is up to the user to read the fine print, understand what information is being collected on them, and decide how much information they are willing to give out. By using social media and the internet as a whole, users are agreeing to these terms.

It’s time to take responsibility.

In my opinion, my soul is intact from my career choices [we can debate my personal life offline]. I don’t believe in spamming customers. I believe in double-opt-in choices for email lists. I believe in a clear privacy policy explaining what information a website is going to keep.
But as marketers, I believe if you ethically explain what you are going to track on someone, the responsibility lies with the users to read those terms, and either accept them or leave.
If you don’t like Walmart’s treatment of employees, it’s your choice not to shop there. If you don’t agree with Google’s terms of service, don’t use Gmail, Chrome, Google Search, etc. But if you decide to use it, you are accepting their terms. Google isn’t the devil simply because you want to use their services but not play by their rules.
What do other marketers think? With hundreds of thousands of pieces of data on your customers at your fingertips, do you “sell your soul” using the data?
Photo Credit: Jeshu John