Induction ceremony keynote speech: What Facebook knows about you that you don't know they know.

AuthorMessineo, Melinda

What Facebook Knows about You that You Don't Know they Know. (1)

The Power of Big Data

Has this ever happened to you? A student in my Sociology of Media course shared in class an example of an advertisement she received on Facebook that illustrated the power of digital. The advertisement was for a women's t-shirt from an online company that sells personalized clothing. The image on the black t-shirt consisted of white block text with a red heart that read "This girl loves her TRAVIS." The veracity of the shirt's claim was not what was at issue here. The girl in question did in fact "love her TRAVIS" but there was no way that this clothing company should know of her affection. What our "Travis loving girl" later learned was that the advertisement used data obtained from her Facebook activity to determine that he was her significant other.

Following this revelation, the class erupted into a discussion of dozens of other examples. Students described seeing their own names on countless products in random locations. One student shared how he had been "stalked" by shoes viewed on one site that followed him to other sites until a purchase was made. Many shared how products they viewed infiltrated their online perusal and Gmail users shared how topics of previous e-mail messages would prompt ads reflecting the topics of those conversations in later searches. Another student was surprised when Amazon contacted her one afternoon to remind her that she had some "amazing" items in the digital shopping cart she had abandoned earlier that day. The "coincidences" go on but what students were describing is what is known as retargeting (display ads) or remarketing (if it is through direct to consumer e-mail) to consumers. These widely used Online Behavior Advertising (OBA) marketing strategies are how advertising space and access to consumers is sold in digital environments. The OBA models consist basically of strategies to re-engage not yet committed consumers, upsell to loyal consumers, and anticipate or prospect for consumers that have not yet shown an interest in a product or service but look a lot like others who have made the purchase 'leap.' You may have seen this prospecting strategy used when purchasing books or products online when the company displays prompts that say "shoppers who purchased the item you are now looking at also purchased these items." Did it work? The company is hoping so and paying billions of dollars a year to increase the odds that it does work.

Retargeting and Remarketing

Services like retargeting and remarketing are provided by third party advertising networks or ad exchanges like Googles AdWords and AdChoices and the model has dramatically changed the digital and mobile marketing landscape. Powerful analytic tools make data capture and analysis possible like never before. The volume of data available for use in targeted advertising includes demographics like age, sex, race, behavioral data, like browsing history, online and offline purchases, and psychographic data, including personality traits, values, hobbies and lifestyle. Research suggests that the strategies are effective, to a point. A recent survey of consumers revealed that three or fewer retargeted contacts are about the limit. (2) After that, consumers were more likely to feel annoyed or that their privacy had been compromised. The report describes consumers viewing their online activity as being almost as personal as their home address with 69 percent of consumers being uncomfortable with advertisers knowing which websites they've visited, slightly lower than knowing their home address (72 percent) and current location (71 percent). (3) Despite these limitations, companies find that being able to connect with their most likely consumers is worth the cost and potential risk of irritation. Moderation appears to be critical to...

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