Social Media: How to Lose Friends and Annoy People

Shane, one of the few local marketers who I don’t consider an evil, soulless, click-counting douchebag (there are less than 4 people on this list, if that (that’s a compliment,BTW)), shared an article Why I’m Doubling Down on the Twitter Ecosystem written by someone who is obviously not on that list. The author shares his views on the Twitter platform, its usefulness to businesses new and established and uses these points to justify his investment in some data-mining company. Reading the article renewed my feelings of disgust and repulsiveness towards the marketers who usurped the social media for their purposes.

The best analogy I can come up with is that these people showed up at our party and made it into a Tupperware party a ridiculous exercise in guilting your soon to be former friends into buying overpriced plastic crap. Let’s face it, most of us are on Twitter, Facebook and Google just for fun. We retweet each other’s jokes, funny videos, quips, share articles, personal photos, talk about food, sports, events, find dates, break up and call each other names. We didn’t come there to be sold stuff, see more ads and be manipulated into doing things. And although there is hardly any expectation of privacy on the social media sites, I resent my information being sliced and diced and then served to anyone who would pay.

Because we can track the open, real-time links you’re sharing we know something about your interests. If you’re sending lots of Tweets about “gay marriage” we can likely ascertain whether you’re for it or against it based on the “explicit” links you’re sharing.

Again, this is made even more powerful by knowing your location. Maybe you’re not even using Twitter on a mobile device but we have enough information about the propensity of people you follow and their locations to determine that you’re likely in New York State.

And imagine we’re an interest group that wants to enlist you to lobby your congressman on our behalf on this topic. Twitter will be the source in the future for political parties finding you and even for communicating with you. You’re simply an @message away from my reaching out and asking for your help in putting pressure on our local congressman.

Every action you take in Twitter: Whom you follow, which links you send, what words you use in your Tweets, any location you give us, whom you retweet, etc. will tell us something about you.

For most of us this is not a huge revelation. Many of us already make compromises with the likes of Google, who in return for their ability to read our private communications and data give us something like free Gmail and other services. Nothing is free, people need to make money, what the hell is this, Russia? Yeah, we know… Marketers weren’t born yesterday, but until recently we didn’t give up our stuff so easily and they weren’t so openly bragging about their ability to use it. There is no need to use annoying survey calls and focus groups, we all have volunteered ourselves as a giant focus group.

Do you follow Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck? Well if you also follow Keith Olberman and Rachel Maddow then I can interpret something about you. If you follow the former and not the latter I can interpret something else.

No interpretation will be 100% accurate but companies will run correlation analyses to determine probabilities that you are a, b or c. Even if they’re not using this to target you with information sent via Twitter, they might use it in aggregate to determine things like the likely electoral votes in a region that will swing for a candidate. Or the probability of Southern Democrats to buy cable versus satellite or an Android versus an iPhone.

Companies like LocalResponse are using this implicit data to help merchants offer better targeting to loyal customers and help them figure out whom their customers are in the first place. It is an awesome example of the power of implicit data.

I am not a conspiracy theorist (at least not in this case) but the thought of someone coldly calculating my chances of buying a new widget, while I am frolicking in the green pastures of the social media annoys me to no end. There is a difference between promoting one’s business, blog (please share this post with as many friends as you can, retweet and FB like it long time), or an event and trying to find out how many gay republicans are susceptible to your burrito ads.

Even more vulnerable are the people who for incomprehensible reasons decided to share their location information.

According to Dick Costolo’s statements at CES, up to 40% of all Tweets are sent via mobile devices, which is a hugely powerful asset for Twitter. Many of these Tweets will have information about the user’s location that makes increases the value of the data enormously.

If I Tweet about the Wynn Hotel while I’m in Las Vegas that Tweet has a different value to local business than if I Tweet it from my office in Los Angeles. Real time + location equals marketing opportunity.

And that’s exactly what happened to me last year. I sent out an “open” Tweet saying, “has anybody been to the Wynn Hotel? Is it worth walking across town for?” Aside from the people who chimed in with points of view, the Wynn Hotel offered me free chips if I’d come down and play.

Real time + location + Klout + interpreting my demographic data could = goldmine. How about if they knew how often I came to Vegas? I might be different if I’m there 1x / year versus 1x month.

I hope free chips were worth it.

So what can we do to make them work for their money?

  • Disable location services (unless you want few bucks worth of crap). Stop checking into places, or make the information private. Trust me, your real friends don’t want to know when you walk over to your fridge anyway (sorry, I just had to run over to the fridge, I’ve been typing this for a while).
  • Use every possible privacy control to lock down as much of your information as you can.
  • Do not use your real name if you don’t have to. It’s not your brand; mostly it’s a way for you to become unemployable in the future.
  • Do not volunteer any demographic data like your age, sex, political leanings, number of tattoos.
  • Don’t hesitate to report any marketing-sounding followers as spam and never follow them back.
  • Stop propagating commercially manufactured “viral” videos and messages. There are millions of videos and other creative things worthy of becoming viral waiting to be discovered and they are not trying to make you buy stuff.
  • Throw a few wrenches into their analyses: follow people on the opposite ends of political spectrum, Pepsi and Coke, Ford and Chevy, and throw in a Vespa for a good measure.
  • Type a message in a foreign language once in a while. Have them analyze that.
  • Share the things produced by real people: blogs (this one is a good place to start), art, videos, food. These are the people who don’t have the time and money to hire a marketer, why not help them?
  • OK, I ran out of steam, make up your own things to do.

The point is: you know your information is out there for most anyone to see and process, that’s just part of the game, but you don’t have to make it easy for these people to know more about you than you do. They are not your friends (as a group) and they are not here to make your life better. You are paging through the printed ads; you DVR your favorite TV shows and skip commercials; you put the phone book into recycling bin the day it shows up on your porch; you block the ads on your internet browser; so why are you handing all the information about you over to the same people? If they want it so much they can buy it from you directly. No one offered? I didn’t think so.

Don’t be a part of the “ecosystem” – be an individual!