February 28, 2013 · 10:35 am
Suppose your car dealer put a device in every vehicle they sold that would allow the dealer to know where you’ve been.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Maybe they’d bury something deep in the owner’s manual that explained what it was and how to turn it off, but how many people really read the car’s manual cover to cover? Of course, such things do exist – the OnStar service tracks you, as does the smart phone you have in the vehicle much of the time. The “creepy” factor is off the chart but unless you’re a criminal it’s not something we think about a lot. It doesn’t really affect you (at least not until you’re in an accident and the “black box” data from the vehicle is used to raise your insurance rates!). I don’t think, however, you’d be very happy, especially not if you don’t have OnStar or keep your phone on to prevent the tracking.
I bring this up because the digital ad industry is in a panic over the announcement by Mozilla the other day. They announced that new versions of the Firefox browser would block third-party cookies, those little bits of code ad networks use to build profiles of your web surfing. The Safari browser has done this for a while, and as I wrote a year ago, researchers found out that the ad guys were going to great lengths to get around the blocking. There were other nefarious things going on as well. Some folks used “history-sniffing” to figure out which sites users visited in order to compile marketing profiles of them. Ad networks and other companies that use the technology are able to determine which sites users have previously visited.
Now many observers are speculating how the trackers will get around the privacy measures being implemented. The Chrome browser allows you to turn off the tracking although it’s not a default setting, and there have been add-ons available for all browsers that did it for a long time. Maybe it’s time to reiterate the point.
People don’t like you to follow them around unless you’ve been invited. Not on the street. Not in their car. Not on the web.
That’s about as plain and common-sense as I can state it. I don’t think many of you would disagree. Yes, I completely understand the content/value equation – you’re giving me free content and in return I’m giving you access to a little data about me so you can sell ads. Why not make that blatantly obvious to every user? Maybe when I get to a site an overlay should say “Welcome! You have cookies turned off so we’re guessing you don’t want us to track you. Fair enough. Click here to pay us $1 or click here to enable cookies and access the site for free.” It’s now MY choice.
As one article said:
It doesn’t mean that circumventing settings in order to track people is a good idea. If nothing else, it violates users’ assumptions about how their data is being collected and used. When they discover the truth — as they inevitably will — some proportion will be more inclined than ever to support restrictions on companies.
In other words, place nice, be transparent, and treat your customers like adults. Take “no” for an answer and move on. Otherwise, some legal authority will move you on. Is that really so hard?
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February 27, 2013 · 11:07 am
I always look at research with an eye toward the axe the researcher is grinding. The fact that a survey is conducted to prove a point doesn’t necessarily negate the value of the findings but it does mean we have to be careful about how questions were asked. That said, I took a look at a study released by the folks at Technorati Media called the Digital Influence Report. It takes a look at the role “influencers” have on purchase decisions and how brands are spending to reach the influencers. I guess the thinking is that if these folks like your product they’ll drive their friends and followers to make a purchase.
Technorati‘s axe to grind is that they sell ads on blogs. They’ve put together target segments of bloggers. Not surprisingly, one characteristic of the aforementioned “influencers” is “Influencers are most active on blogs, as 86 percent say they have them and 88 percent of those say they blog for themselves.” However, even with an axe to grind, the point is a good one.
For as long as I’ve been in media (since the late 1970’s, thank you) someone is trying to make the point that the audience/spending equation is out of whack. The argument is always “we’ve got X% of the audience and yet we’re only getting Y% of the budget and we should be getting a lot more.” There’s truth in that although it does ignore a few key factors: environment, cost/value ratios, and others. In this case, the food chain look like this: spending against social media is about 10% of the digital spend, and spending against influencers is roughly 6% of social. In other words, it’s tiny, especially compared to the influence these people have against purchase decisions. As you can see on the chart I’ve embedded, 32% of consumers identify a blog as a source most likely to influence a purchase decision.
We can debate the merits of this particular study but I think the point is a good one. There is too much of a herd mentality when it comes to advertising and that appears to be the case in social advertising as well. Blogs have as much influence as Facebook but Facebook gets more than half of all spending against social. In part that’s due to its ubiquity. In part that’s due to the “safety” factor – you don’t get fired for buying a market leader and it’s a much easier sell when the higher-ups have actually heard of the medium you’re buying
I take all research with a grain of salt. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe it but we should always try to get beyond the intent (or bias!) of the researcher and into the good stuff that might be hidden inside through our own evaluation. What do you think?
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February 26, 2013 · 10:20 am
Every once in a while I get up from my computer screen and take a break. Sometimes it’s to make phone calls. Sometimes it’s just to spend a few minutes watching the news. Anything to step away, clear my head, and refocus. You should try it! Lately, however, I find myself not watching the news networks while they have multiple people engaged in conversations. You know the format – a couple of talking heads representing opposing points of view batting an issue back and forth. Except lately there’s far less dialog and a lot more overlapping screaming.
I can’t take it. One person begins to make a point and the other one starts yelling “you’re wrong.” The “moderator” from the network rarely intervenes – I’m sure they’re thinking this is great TV. It’s not. One guest talks over another until it’s time for commercial. It makes my head hurt. It demeans everyone involved. It’s wrong in so many ways and it makes a great business point.
I blame the producers. They could be telling the audio guy to cut off a mike. If I was in the booth, the reporter would hear “tell so and so that if they won’t let the other guest speak I’m cutting off their mike until it’s their turn to talk.” You know – kind of how you’d treat a child, which is how they’re behaving. Former elected officials do it. Party officials do it. Rarely, however, do people serving in office do it – they have something to lose – the next election!
It would be a disaster if you ran your business this way yet many people do. They talk over customers or are so focused on making their point that they ignore what the other people are saying. One thing digital has done to us all, in my opinion, is curtail our attention spans. We’re used to responding immediately to things and we’ve all become a lot more self-centered. Don’t believe me? Look around the next time you go out to eat – how many people are checking their phones instead of engaging their dining companion? We can’t do that if we’re to be successful businesspeople. We need to cut off our own mikes and listen. We need to moderate the customer feedback portions of our digital efforts. Not to curtail opinion but to enforce grown-up behavior. People want to express their opinions and we should welcome that. We can insist on them doing so respectfully.
One of the points in The Cluetrain Manifesto (surely you’ve read it by NOW!) is that in both internetworked markets and among intranetworked employees, people are speaking to each other in a powerful new way. Your business needs someone to keep them “speaking” and not shouting over one another. How are you doing with that?
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