The sale by Twitter of old archives of everyone’s tweets going back a couple of years has been widely reported in recent weeks. This new development puts a UK company Datasift in charge of handling the use of these tweets, initially for market research purposes. There are reports of up to 10,000 potential clients salivating at the thought of poking through our tweet history and at a reported charge of £625 per month for access, both Datasift and Twitter are likely to be making a lot of money very soon.
It’s unclear yet whether the current permitted use will include being able to target individuals based on what they have tweeted about. But with Twitter’s need to monetise their service and the demand undoutedly building in consumer goods companies across the world I would expect it is only a matter of time before we start receiving targetted tweets back based on something we said years ago.
My gripe with this, and as you can tell a gripe is coming, is not with the privacy issue per se. I accept that Twitter has to make money, like any business, and they give me their service for free. I can stop using Twitter if I want - as can you, and maybe in the future there could be a paid for version that would keep my data only for me. No, it’s not the idea of selling my data, it’s the cack-handed way that so-called digital marketeers are learning and developing their craft and deluging me with poorly targetted rubbish along the way.
If you’re going to stalk me, then stalk me properly.
Behavioural retargetting is one technique that is now being sold to companies to help them really get consumers when they want their products. Its a way of advertisers sort of following you around the internet, in the hope of eventually wearing you down. So if you search for a particular product on a department store website, then every time you log in to your email or do a Google search, you’ll find ads for that product mysteriously appearing. I’ve been to conferences where it is sold as the holy grail of marketing and advertisers nearly wet their pants at the prospect of wonderful conversion rates. But my experience of it so far has been woefully inadequate.
I’m staying at a hotel in Hong Kong in a fortnights time, and booked it through my travel agent a while back. A few weeks ago I went to the hotels website to get their address and now, almost everywhere I go on the internet, I am followed by adverts for this particular hotel. It’s really irritating as I have no chance of becoming a new customer of theirs as I’ve already made my booking - I’m already a customer. I’m actually starting to feel that I’m missing out on other company’s products and services by being stalked by this hotel chain.
And I’m not that fat - so what’s this all about?
I visit a technology news website every morning, before I leave for the office. For the last 3 months the only advert I have seen on that website is titled along the lines of “Want to lose weight? Follow this one weird old tip”, accompanied by an irritating cartoon. What is it? Have I got the fat cookie stuck in my browser or something? Why am I being plagued by this advert? No one else I know ever sees it on that website, but I get it every, single time!
I’m not even that fat! I mean I could lose a couple of pounds and tone up a bit - who couldn’t, but I don’t deserve to be bazookered by that advert every single time I visit that website.
Do you know me? I don’t know so much.
“We know consumers better than they know themselves” is an often spoken line by proud data marketeers. Well really? I don’t think so. I’ve been with the same credit card company for years (Member since 06 it says on my card) and whilst I agree they should know a lot about my spending they have no idea whatsoever how to use it - on any remotely sensible level.
They could pick up easily that I fly a lot to Sydney and New York and stay in the same hotels, they know which supermarket I use, which bars and clubs I go to and which is my favourite department store. But I’ve never seen them once use any of that information in a remotely sensible way. All they have ever done is send me brochures of generic promotions and “unique offers” that don’t attract me at all.
Our ability to collect data is a decade ahead of our ability to use it, and has been for some time. There’s a lot of talk about analytics and data gathering and we’re often told it’ll aid consumers by giving them the right information or right product at the right time, but I just don’t believe it.
I think there will always be businesses desperate to try to get the edge over their competitors with smarter and better marketing. There will always be companies ready to supply those businesses by promising data insight even though they know the customer wil probably make poor use of it. And whilst this merry go round of marketing and business sales go on, at every turn we consumers will continue to give up more and more of our personal data to be tracked and measured and sold, without but real benefit other than occasional bouts of really irritating advertising that just won’t go away.
So for me, it’s not about privacy it’s about effectiveness. When you can use my data sensibly you can have it, and I look forward to these targetted ads that are going to enrich my life.
So what do we need from digital marketing?
I think we need a new manifesto for digital marketing. A new set of priorities for what it will deliver us as a set of consumers. I’d suggest that data owners start small and look at the groups they really understand and give them things they really want, rather than trying to nudge conversion rates from 0.1% to 0.15% on a massive sample - that avoids 99.85% of people seeing rubbish.
I’d like to see genuine insight into me deliver genuine benefits for me. I don’t always mean I want deals and discounts either. I’d be happy with new ideas and complementary products that I’d find interesting and helpful - is that really too much to ask? My credit card company knows exactly which hotels I stay in regularly and in which cities, so my world is open to them to suggest genuine, relevant alternatives with reasons.
Until then, whilst digital marketeers work out what your trade really is, I’d like them to keep off my data as I think they’re making a mess of it.
If you’re a digital marketeer, or have a view on this subject then let me know. Am I getting it wrong? Am I missing the point? The comments section below is open to anyone or you can email or tweet me and let’s talk about it.