Predicting your secrets, but not admitting it

We all know that companies are collecting massive amounts of data about us (or we should), but somehow we are surprised that companies actually crunch the data and act up on it.  Sunday’s New York Times magazine addressed this issue looking at how Target has targeted pregnant women

“As Pole’s computers crawled through the data, he was able to identify about 25 products that, when analyzed together, allowed him to assign each shopper a “pregnancy prediction” score. More important, he could also estimate her due date to within a small window, so Target could send coupons timed to very specific stages of her pregnancy.”

Although I don’t think we should be surprised that big companies like Target know so much about us and are acting on it, it does surprise me that Target has decided to cloak how much they know about us by sending us random coupons, too.

“And we found out that as long as a pregnant woman thinks she hasn’t been spied on, she’ll use the coupons. She just assumes that everyone else on her block got the same mailer for diapers and cribs. As long as we don’t spook her, it works.”

This randomness is what disturbs me because are they throwing in random coupons to disguise what they know about me or just because they get better usage when they do it. Either way I think they are treading on shaky ground ethically because they are admitting they understand that the consumer doesn’t like that they know so much about them.

Communicator’s hate change

A few months ago I talked about how users hate change, but let’s not forget that a lot of communicators hate change, too. I’ve been in several situations where I had to train reporters, editors and writers in the newsroom or writers in a PR and marketing group how to create web content and work with social media and quite often they are highly resistant to changing how they write, what they write for online. Most of the time their thought process is that the web is just another place to publish their writing so they just copy and paste their news releases, brochures, etc into the content management system and they think their done when they are actually just getting started.

When I talk to college students about working in communications the only thing that I say that I can guarantee them about a career in communications is that people always love to read, see and hear well told stories and that how we tell stories will continue to change.

Is social media really worth the effort

I’ve had two people ask me in the past week if social media was just a fad and really worth putting any resources into. There’s been a lot written on this in the past two years and quite a few clichés, but I thought I would finally weigh in since I’ve recently been directly asked this question.

  1. Word of Mouth. A recommendation from a friend is huge and that’s what happens when people talk about your positively on social media.
  2. It’s where the users are. One out of five web site page views is on Facebook. If you maximize the traffic on facebook to your web site what would that be worth in Advertising spends?
  3. People are already talking about you on social media. Are you going to join in the conversation or just let them talk behind your back?
  4. When they talk about you, you have a great opportunity to help them. Many companies have whole customer service departments set up on Twitter.

Developers: we don’t crash EVER!

If you a manage a web site and it crashes you think about all the users hitting your site at that time and getting the same error message that you just saw when you discovered it had crashed. If you look at it from the user perspective, you immediately go into high gear to get your site back online. There’s a scene in the movie The Social Network (which I watched again last week) that expresses the same emotion. Zuckerberg goes off on Eduardo Saverin for closing down their businesses checking accounts.

Without money the site can’t function. Okay, let me tell you the difference between Facebook and everyone else, we don’t crash EVER! If those servers are down for even a day, our entire reputation is irreversibly destroyed! Users are fickle, Friendster has proved that. Even a few people leaving would reverberate through the entire userbase. The users are interconnected, that is the whole point. College kids are online because their friends are online, and if one domino goes, the other dominos go, don’t you get that? I am not going back to the Caribbean Night at AEPi!

Moneyball: which number moves you?

Moneyball is a great movie. Finally watched it last night. It reminds of some very simple logic.

Find the number that best dictates your success. Measure everything about that number. Determine which factors move that number in a positive direction. Measure everything about those factors. Use the most efficient way possible to influence the main number in the right direction to find success.