Becoming Professional: A Blog

Archive for December 2010

techmap logo

Techmap logo. Click to visit their website.

Last night I had the great fortune to go to the techMAP end of the year event. For those of you who don’t know, techMAP is an online and offline community of marketing and PR professionals who are riding the wave of changes in our industry. In short, they are awesome.

I had found out about the event only last Tuesday and attended without preconceptions. Five speakers spoke about what they had learned in 2010 and a little about what they hoped for 2011. I was so blown away by their quality I decided about half-way through that I just had to blog about the event for those who couldn’t attend. Here’s the main point I got from each speaker.

The first speaker was Lucy Payne, an account manager at Pass It On Media. Her presentation focused on participation. She wants us to engage with the people who will actually be using our products from the word “go.” That means we should bring them in during the planning phases. We need to do this because, “Social Media Marketers are not Social Media Users!” Of course, she didn’t mean that we aren’t obsessed by Twitter, Linked In, and Facebook, rather that while we are, our audiences aren’t. We have to adapt to how they use the media, not assume they use it like we do. (For more on not being your audience, check out this blog post)

Next up we had the social technologist Benjamin Ellis from SocialOptic, amongst other projects. His presentation can be captured by the phrase “it’s always been about the community.” He defined “community” simply as a group of people gathered around a purpose. If you have a true community then even if you leave the project, the community and excitement will keep on without you. But if your community dies, then what you built was but an interested audience. That stunned us for a moment.

Next up was Misae Richwoods, a lady with a finger in many pies. Her presentation focused on the fact that human beings don’t change. We’re quite static, really, which is why history tends to be cyclical, or as Mark Twain said, “History doesn’t repeat itself, it rhymes.” Those who participate will always be participators. She also made the point that we can’t stick to social media and not look at anything else. After all, “If all you have is a hammer, pretty soon everything starts looking like a nail.”

Kate Spiers, who runs her own communications agency, was up next. Her presentation focused on the idea that “It’s not me, it’s you.” As she put it, this is the age of personalization. You can get what you want, where you want, and when you want, so it’s about you — the consumer. Her hope for 2011 was for marketers to get more tech savvy and for IT departments to get in touch with their entrepreneurial sides. Apparently what we have now are hyperactive marketers and rule-bound IT departments. Kate wants them to come together.

The last presenter was Mark Jennings, account director at Fresh Networks and the founder of theMeet140. Apparently 2010 taught Mark that he hates social networks! Well, really the technology obsession. We’re so wrapped up in the tools that we’re forgetting to concentrate on the people, which is the part that Mark loves. He got the room laughing with stories of drunken fun at social media conferences and other events, including a business venture to market non-standard sizes of hula-hoops. And his hope for 2011? That we mature. Read his blog post. He explains it better there than I can here.

And that wasn’t it. The conversations afterward were almost as good as the presentations! Here are some golden nuggets I managed to jot down:

  • A community is good because it has boundaries and is finite. So when you market to a community you have a defined audience to target instead of trying to shove your message at “everyone.”
  • There is a danger that we can become native “broadcast” marketers again, losing the opportunities of social media.
  • As soon as you say “social media” customers close off because so many “social media marketers” are self serving and gave the topic a bad rep. To get around this, talk instead about what social media does, without naming it.

*14/12/2010 Note: techMAP has now uploaded the slideshow that the presenters used here Enjoy!

Image of a man in a mask taking a photo over a wall

Image by Anonymous9000 on Flickr. Click to see original location.

I read this post by Chris Zaharias, SVP of Sales at Dapper, an online advertising technology company. In it, he claims that the problem with ad-targeting is not the privacy intrusions, but rather it’s the excessive frequency of ads and poor targeting. Chris has a point, but privacy is still the issue, just not in the way most people think. Because of that, the solutions being suggested, both self-regulation and legislated regulation, aren’t solving the true privacy issue: advertiser stalking.

See, if a stalker just follows you around, you feel like your privacy has been invaded. He might never invade your home. He might even refrain from taking photos. But if the man is following you everywhere you go, yes, he is invading your privacy. You have the right to go places without someone intruding on your day. What’s the difference between being stalked by a person in real life from being stalked by an advertisement in the digital world?

Not much. Of course, the company can know about the websites you visit without showing you an ad. That’s what cookies do, after all, let the company know upon your arrival to the website that you’ve viewed such and such content already. They can even tell if you put something in your Amazon basket but didn’t buy. This could be viewed as an invasion of privacy. Except that you can often tell where a person has been in the real world by knowing a little bit about a person and extrapolating. That’s what demographic research does. It takes your characteristics and figures out the probabilities of you behaving in certain ways. True, with cookies, there is no probability. They know how you behave.

Still, considering the benefits of cookies (the added personalization, deals, and greater relevance they can make available for advertisers and consumers), I think it’s okay to let a company know what websites I’ve visited. As long as they don’t use this information to stalk me, that is. Again, I’m drawing a distinction between having information and using it to be creepy.

I seem to be one of the few people, who are making this distinction. The two proposed solutions to the “online advertising privacy issue” certainly don’t seem to be addressing it.

The FTC has provided a glimpse at what might become the legislated solution. They released a privacy report in which they suggested a universal “Do not track” option for consumers, according to this NPR article. Sounds like a solution to my problem, right? If you can’t track me, you can’t stalk me. This solution has been positioned as the “Do not call” list for the digital world, taking a person out of the personalization ecosystem of the web entirely. Of course, when you’re not tracked, you loose all the benefits of a personalized web. Considering that personalization seems to be where the web is going, this might not even be practical for consumers, regardless of their privacy concerns. As Braden Cox said in his recent blog post Do Not Track – A Single “Nuclear” Response for a Diversity of Choices,  what we really want is something in the middle of yes or no that “would represent an educated setting where consumers understand the tradeoffs of interest-based advertising – in return for tracking your preferences and using them to target ads to you, you get free content/services.” And if you don’t opt-out? They can follow you all over the web with impunity.

the icon that consumers see when the ad uses behavioral targeting

Image from the Self-Regulation Program. Click to view original location.

The other approach, which Braden suggests provides a middle ground solution, is self-regulation. The Self-Regulatory Program for Online Advertising is a group of large advertisers who have agreed to be open and transparent with how they use consumer data, provide an easy opt-out mechanism, and display the icon to the left in ads that lets consumers know when the advertisers are using cookie data. While it would be lovely to have more information, there are drawbacks. One is that this is a voluntary program, and even if you opt out from receiving targeted ads from all of the member advertisers, there are still plenty of advertisers who are not members. I think this approach is too hard for the consumer to keep track of because just like no one reads the fine print, no one will go to the Self-Regulatory Program’s website and go through the list of all their advertisers in order to weed out the ones they don’t trust.

And oh, it doesn’t prevent stalking.

So, I’d rather let the cookies work the way they work now, but with the advertiser’s respecting my space – though it would be nice to know when they are using my data and how. I can’t deny that. Any one in real life can observe me for a day and pretty accurately tell my routine and my habits. My grocery store probably knows more about me than an online advertiser, much less my credit card company! But online advertisers stalk us and our credit card companies don’t (unless you owe them money, and that’s another story).  If advertisers just stopped stalking, we wouldn’t have a problem because our privacy would not have been violated.

Image of a puppy in snow

Photo by John Talbot. Click to visit original location.

In my last post I mentioned that a good marketer has to be able to look at things through the eyes of his target audience and recognize that while what is “wicked cool” to that audience might be “really gross and sick” to him, he can still market to that audience. For instance, I’m absolutely petrified by zombies; yet in promoting the Phoenix Comicon, I had to figure out how to communicate and appeal to people who thought zombies were so awesome they liked to dress up as them for themed parties. Not my personal crowd, but this is very doable.

Another facet of this is that you can’t assume that what is dull to you isn’t the bee’s knees to someone else. What made me think of this was the snow that is currently falling outside my window. I have never lived in a place where it snows, though I’d seen it before. To me, this is a fascinating new experience. I mean, the roofs are white! How cool is that?

Of course, to a native of snowy lands, I look insane. After all, most of the people I’ve talked to who moved away from areas that get snow said they did so because, “I don’t like digging my car out of snow.” In fact, a friend responded to my Tweet about the snow by telling me that the novelty wears off rather quickly.

Be that as it may, to me snow is magical. Ice falls in fluffy flakes and I can actually understand why Santa wears that heavy coat. No, I’m not idealistic. I know it well get in the way (it already has to some degree), but that isn’t my point here.

My point is that you have to notice how ideas might affect your audience differently from how they affect you. After all, the opposite is true. Imagine being an American and going to a Japanese person all excited about QR codes, those little graphics you can ad to offline material to help users connect online. Well, they might be relatively new in the States, but they are apparently quite common in Asia. What is new and novel to you might be humdrum to someone else.

This is different from simply marketing to a different demographic from your own because that is based mostly on product and appeal while this is on point of view. What I’m talking about now affects all interactions, from marketing to chatting with friends. We all have that friend who goes on and on about something you really don’t care about. You really don’t want to be that person as a marketer because it is a lot easier to walk away from an ad than tell your friend to shut up without damaging your relationships. Also, by recognizing that something dull to you is amazing to someone else you can find opportunities for even more meaningful communication. For instance, if someone came to me and told me right now about a park that has a great cafe, lots of snow, and cute snow-covered trees, that cafe would get my business in a heartbeat.

It’s something to think about. And if you know such a park in London, don’t hesitate to share!

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Who Am I?

I am a Digital Native who is trying to puzzle out what exactly that means. I share my thoughts on social media, digital business models, and PR here on this blog.

I am currently getting my Masters in Digital Marketing from Hult International Business School, having gotten my B.S. in Marketing from Arizona State University. Everything is on track and I am making headway towards my dream: World Domination... or being a productive, helpful citizen and marketer. Whichever comes first.

Don't hesitate to get in touch. I Tweet daily at @KateDavids and also have a science fiction and fantasy blog ( and Twitter (@Masked_Geek).

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