Big Data, Data security, privacy and ethical issues of collecting data online.

Your digital persona tells people a great deal about who you are. Just by visiting someone’s Facebook profile you can probably find out their name, where they live, where they are from, where they work, relationship status, sexual orientation, favorite movies, books and music, etc. Now, depending on your privacy settings, this is open for anyone in the world to see – and potential employers are probably actively seeking out this information. I know that in the past potential employers have searched for my Facebook profile. I have nothing to hide on my account, but I still keep my page private for the most part. I want to keep my personal and work life separate. I have never been asked to show my Facebook page to a potential employer in an interview or provide them with my account passwords. Honestly, I would be uncomfortable if I was asked for my password. While this has not happened to me, it is happening to others. According to Facebook’s policy, they prohibit people from sharing their password. But, it is questionable on whether this is illegal and breaks federal law. The articles “Can Employers Legally Ask You for Your Facebook Password When You Apply for a Job?” discusses this issue. Not only, is the legality of this debatable, but it can also lead to illegal discriminatory acts based on the information your profile displays. Mashable published the article “What to Do When A Potential Employer Asks for Your Facebook Password” to help people learn how to handle this situation.

But, this isn’t all about the legal issues of employers asking for your social media password. That is a whole controversy that could be heavily debated on its own. We are all publishing information about ourselves, big data, online. How much does the majority of people know about data security, privacy and ethical issues behind this. It wasn’t until I read I read “Instagram can now sell your photos for ads” on CNN Money that I knew about Instagram’s policy about selling your photos. I was shocked to read this because this is a person’s work of art, their masterpiece. It’s their property. They should own the rights to it. I took a class on mass media law and we discussed intellectual property in great detail among many other things, and to me it seems like that should be illegal for Instagram to do. People accessing big data and a person’s privacy is full of controversy. A digital heart monitor is another topic that questions who owns the rights to a patients digital footprint and who should control that information. You have to jump through hoops to access health files because of the strict laws the US has in place. But implants and new technologies like the one discussed in “Heart Gadgets Test Privacy-Law Limits” are putting these laws to the test.

Clearly, there are ethical issues behind the privacy of big data, what are your thoughts on the matter?

Have you ever been asked to provide an employer with your Facebook password, or any password?

Were you aware of Instagram’s policy? What are your thoughts on it?

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Information Aggregators

It is easier than ever to find out new information or share your own personal ideas nowadays because of the advancement of technology. But this information, while appreciated by everyone, is even more valued by marketers. According to the whitepaper article “From Information to Audience – The Emerging Marketing Data Use Cases,” this is probably the most significant commercial opportunity since the World Wide Web emerged. The ability to receive “big data” allows marketers to better understand consumer thoughts, meet the needs of consumers at the perfect time, and create and maintain long-term consumer relationships.

This big data can be obtained through various platforms like news websites, blogs, Facebook, and Twitter among many other methods. Along with that, anyone with access to the Internet can contribute to this data production. Consumers share thoughts on brands and products while also spreading industry and company information. It is key for marketers to understand this information. But, because anyone can share information through virtually any platform, it is essential to weed through the information to figure out what is actually reliable and use it to make customers happy and a profit.

The Whitepaper article included an example involving Catalina Marketing and how this company used the data with their clients. This marketing firm used sales information from both online as well as offline, making it easier to really comprehend what the data is showing.

 

Questions:

It is clear how these studies are beneficial for marketers, but do you think these studies are useful for consumers as well?

What is the best way for a company to take advantage of all of the “big data” online?

Message Testing

The ultimate goal: a successful advertising campaign to gain some type of positive reaction.

But, how do you reach this goal? Advertisers must test their messages to different audiences to make sure they are going to get the best results and are sending a good message. Last year I took an advertising campaigns class at the University of Florida. It was a semester-long class where we had to create a campaign for Eastern Florida State College (formerly Brevard Community College). From the secondary research, primary research, and creative design we did it all – and we won the best creative campaign in the class. In fact, some of our concepts are being used in the current rebranding. But this definitely wasn’t easy. Once we nailed down a few of our ideas we held some focus groups to test our message. We wanted to make sure that we were accurately targeting our audience and sending the right message. While this was only a school project and our message testing was done on a much smaller scale (and probably couldn’t be generalized), we would not have won without testing our message.

The article Developing Media Interventions to Reduce Household Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption discusses the message testing the city of Philadelphia conducted to test a media campaign they launched to reduce the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages. The goal of the city of Philadelphia was to help combat childhood obesity. Like my group did for our project, the city also held focus groups to decide what mediums to place their advertisements on and four potential media messages developed from this. These results were key for this campaign to be successful because otherwise it could have sent an incorrect message, targeted the wrong audience, or just be a poor campaign overall.

Culture also plays a role in advertising.

“Culture is the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one group from another.” – Geert Hofstede

When I studied abroad in Italy I read one of Hofstede’s books to understand how cultures differed in different countries as well as how advertising differed as well. While I was reading “Online consumer behavior: Comparing Canadian and Chinese website visitors” I thought about what I read in Hofstede’s book and reflected back to what I learned in that class. Knowing how two cultures differ and how their advertising differs will make you produce very different advertisements for each country. I found this YouTube video that shows McDonald’s commercials in different countries – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GzxpYrAGb3k. What do you think about how they altered their message for different cultures?

Questions:

1. Do you think it is important to take cultural differences into considerations when designing a website or creating an advertisement? What are some examples?

2. Does you company conduct some sort of message testing before publicly displaying a message?

3. What are some different ways you can test your message?

 

Eyetracking

What is it that draws your attention? Is it bright colors? Text? A certain design? The logo in the top left corner? Simplicity? Or, where do your eyes move on the page? These are questions that you personally may not have thought of but a web designer needs to know the answers to. But it gets more complicated than just that. Does your eye movement differ depending on whether you are looking at a computer versus a tablet versus a cell phone screen?

Studies have been conducted for decades to try and understand the way the human eye moves across the page. Advertisers, web designers, and journalists want to understand this to know how to better target their audience. Back in 1990-1991, Poynter conducted a study that searched to find out what people looked at in the newspaper and found that photos really attracted people, specifically color photos. Furthermore, the image was typically the focal point on the page and then the readers eye travelled to the headlines, followed by captions, and ending with the actual text. Then, in 2003-2004, another study was conducted but focused around web sites. They found that readers generally entered the page in the upper left corner, where the logo is typically placed. Along with that, advertisements in the top and left sections of the page attracted the most attention.

Now, these are just a few of the facts about eye tracking, there is a lot behind how people view a tablet as well that Poynter also conducted a study to see. It is our goal as advertisers and web designers to design a page that is easy to read and navigate, but also catch the human eye’s attention and advertise successfully. Understanding these points is essential to do this effectively.

Questions:

  1. I’ve discussed some of the pros of eye-tracking, but what do you think some of the cons are?
  2. What was your understanding of eye-tracking prior to now?

 

It’s not Outsourcing – it’s Crowdsourcing.

Crowdsourcing was a term that I wasn’t too familiar with. Sure, I’ve heard and understood the concept, but I didn’t know it was defined as crowdsourcing. So, for those of you, who like me, didn’t know what crowdsourcing meant I will define it simply, crowdsourcing is acquiring a service, content, or idea by distributing tasks to a large group of people.

The Web has made whatever service, content, or idea a person is searching for even easier to obtain. In “The Rise of Crowdsourcing” various examples are described of this occurrence. Take photography, for example. Years ago, people would pay hundreds of dollars for a photograph for advertising, websites, or anything else. But, it isn’t as easy for a photographer to make that money now. iStockphoto is a stock photo website that sells images for roughly one dollar each. Why would anybody spend hundreds of dollars then? To post or sell an image on iStockphoto you do not have to be a professional, any hobbyist, part-timer, or dabbler can join the effort – it’s just crowdsourcing.

IBM has also joined this “crowdsourcing movement.” The article “Jamming for a Smarter Plant” describes Jam, an “Internet-based platform for conducting conversations through brainstorming.” Jam allows students, business professionals, experts, and more to engage in conversation about particular topics from anywhere in the world.

This discussion of crowdsourcing made me think of Wikipedia – a website that solely relies on the general public to provide the content. Anybody is able to go in and edit a Wikipedia page, and while the company does try to fact check it some, how reliable is it? A lot of people refuse to use the website because they don’t think it is accurate. All of my teachers and professors in the past have forbidden us from using it. My boss is a huge advocate of the website though because it is a quick and easy way to look up a simple term that I may not have known. According to “Measuring Public Relations Wikipedia Engagement: How Bright is the Rule?” 60 percent of people believe that everything posted on Wikipedia is correct.

All in all, crowdsourcing has its pros and cons though. What are your thoughts on the matter?

 

Questions:

How often do you use Wikipedia to learn about a new topic?

What are some other examples of Crowdsourcing?

Have you ever participated in IBM’s Jam or a similar brainstorming session? What was your experience like?

Reputation Management

Have you ever been bored, or just plain curious, about what you can find about yourself on the Internet. So one day you finally decide to sit down at the computer and do a little search, see if anything interesting pops up. You may find awards and achievements, mentions in news articles, embarrassing videos, and social media websites, or anything else you may have ever been involved in. I don’t think I’m alone when I say that I have Googled myself on multiple occasions. And, I know I am not the only person who has put my name into a Google search either.

I was talking to my dad one day about six months before my sister got married. I told him I was going to help myself with a wedding website she wanted to create through a premade web service. She made her website live before it was actually completed though and had written a really nice paragraph about me because I was made of honor. To my knowledge, my parents didn’t know or see the website yet. When I mentioned it he said that he had seen the website, but my sister didn’t know he had seen it yet. I found out that my dad actually Googles my sister and me sometimes; he likes to check up on us and see what our online reputation is. The wedding website showed up on the first page of Google when my name was typed in.

While people aren’t generally Googling a person specifically, unless it is somebody well-known, companies are Googled quite often and have to try and maintain a good online reputation. Unfortunately, only 40 percent of professionals feel that their companies are prepared to deal with a social media-based threat according to the “Data Points: Social Faux Pas” article in AdWeek. Adding to this, the majority of people who use social media are between the ages of 18 to 34; this age group is three times as likely to complain about a brand or product via social media than those between the ages of 47 to 64. Complaints of a brand or product on social media sites can be extremely damaging to a brand if the company is not prepared to deal with it. Some people believe that social media creates relationships, and while it does have the ability to do that, social media mainly just makes relationships visible for the world to see.

Some companies are trying to actively maintain their image by studying their brand’s social echo. PR Newswire coined this term in “Amplifying Your Social Echo” and defines it as a “reverberation of conversations around your brand that occur in the numerous social networks where people gather today.” Companies need to pay close attention to what is said on various social channels like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and blogs. It is also important to note what the social echo is from each platform because of the different type of audience profiles from each platform. It is also important to note the content quality of a website, as discussed in “Online Reputation Systems.” Understanding all of these concepts all help create and maintain a positive image for a company.

 

Questions:

1. If you were in charge of a companies online reputation, how would you maintain a positive image online? If many people were talking negatively about your company, how would you handle that situation?

2. Have you ever posted a complaint to a company via social media? What happened?

3. Does the company you work for have a system for responding to negative social media?

4. Have you Googled yourself before and did you find anything surprising or interesting?

More than just a phone

It started with a simple Nokia pay as you go phone that was only used for emergencies and has evolved into a miniature computer. Four years ago, I didn’t have texting. And, I must confess, it was only a little over a year ago that I (finally) got a data plan. Now, my cellphone is an extension of my life. I can’t go anywhere without it – What if someone needs me? What if I need to get in contact with someone? What if I want to take a picture? Or, what if I just want to search the Web?

The technology of the cellphone is continuously developing into something bigger and people are moving forward with the trends. According to the Cisco Visual Networking Index (VNI), global mobile data traffic grew 70 percent in 2012 reaching 885 petabytes per month, and is projected to increase to 11.2 exabytes per month by 2017.

Here are some other interesting facts from the article:

  • Average smartphone usage grew 81 percent in 2012
  • The number of mobile phones is expected to exceed the world’s population by the end of 2013.
  • Smartphones are expected to surpass 50 percent of mobile data traffic in 2013.

It is obvious with such a rapid growth that marketers are going to capitalize on marketing to this medium, and QR codes is one great way of doing so. In short, Quick Response (QR) codes are a barcode direct cellphone users to specific online content. Various companies have used QR codes in their advertising. One company was Tesco. Their goal was to become the number one store in South Korea without adding more stores, which was accomplished through QR code outdoor advertising. Tesco made the store come to the people by creating virtual stores that blended into people’s everyday lives, like subway stations. All people had to do was scan the QR code of the product and it was in their shopping cart. Check out the video to see the whole campaign. Tesco really knew their market and understood how they could accomplish their goal. The ROI was tremendous for them, and this is just one example how QR codes can be used for marketers.

Questions:

Have you ever scanned a QR code? What was your experience like?

If you use a smartphone, do you think you could ever go back to having a phone without the Internet?

A Second Life

If you could live anywhere, where would it be? If you could be anyone, male or female, robot, or animal, what would you choose? If you could fly, would you? If you could live in a whole alternate world, have a second life, would you take advantage of the opportunity?

If you have never heard of it the best comparison would be to The Sims or World of Warcraft. Or, if you have never played those games maybe you have see the movie Tron: Legacy – a movie about a boy who goes looking for his missing father in a virtual world. Second Life allows people to create avatars and live in a virtual world. While playing I was able to choose what I wanted to look like in my virtual world. I could change my clothes, or morph myself into an animal. I could walk, run, and even fly. I went to the Bahamas and did some sightseeing, along with a few other places around the world. I was even able to talk to other avatars. I was a bit startled with a chat popped up and the other avatars were trying to talk to me. What is the proper etiquette for talking to another avatar? Do I talk like I am the “real” Michelle, or do I talk as if I am a completely different person. It was also interesting because I will probably never know the person behind the computer.

Anthropologists, more specifically digital ethnographers, study digital cultures and how the digital technology affects culture. It reveals that relationships are changing because of this, and that relationships differ online than in person. Are these changing relationships a good thing or bad thing? Well, it depends on the way you look at it, or who you ask.

How far can you take things in a virtual world until that world becomes yours? If you are married in the “real-world” can you have a girlfriend in your virtual world? Or is that cheating? That is just one example of the potential ethical issues that can arise from virtual worlds. NBC News wrote about a virtual world affair that affected a person’s life outside the computer. I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Questions:

1. Have you ever played a game where you lived in a virtual world? What was your experience like?

2. If you read the article I posted from NBC News, what are your thoughts on this controversial situation?

Social Analytics

There is no doubt that society is becoming more reliant on technology than it used to be. From the digital immigrants to the digital natives, most everyone uses the Web. So, what does this mean for advertisers?

Social media usage has been rapidly growing – an eMarketer report, “Worldwide Social Network Users: 2012 Forecast and Comparative Estimates,” details just how much. According to this article, the number of social network users around the world will increase by 18 percent from 2012 to 2013, from 1.47 billion to 1.73. Furthermore, by 2017, the global social network audience is predicted to be 2.55 billion.

With so many people using the Web and social media, it is essential for a company to know how this affects their brand. You can no just longer run an advertising campaign and see if your sales increased to know if there was some concrete ROI or if you just wasted your money. Did you increase sales? Did you gain Facebook Fans or Twitter followers? Are you trending on Twitter? There is a lot more to take into account with social media added to the picture.

“Today’s marketers are under-utilizing the large amounts of personal data their customers are sharing publicly every day.”

– Chad Warren, Adobe’s senior manager of social media products

But with social media in the picture, it is much easier to find out more about your consumer – although, not all companies take advantage of this. A good chunk of people fail to turn their marketing tactics into money. Marketers need to get to know their customers to ensure success. They are sending out signals in many different ways and it’s a marketers job to investigate. Customers are posting personal information on their Facebook profiles, tweeting information that allows people to access real-time, creating online pinboards with Pinterest, and more. These are all insights to your customer.

But, digging deeper – analyzing people and companies on social media is now necessary. HootSuite Social Analytics allows people to select from over 40 plus analytic modules, and is also easy to organize and share. Also, both Google and Adobe released tools that assist markers in tracking ROI through social media. Adobe Social is a bit pricey, but collects data from key social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, allowing you who has activity on any of those social media platforms and visits your website. Social reports, through Google Analytics, show a causal relationship between social media activity and sales. Did I mention this is free to use, but it does not provide date from Facebook and Twitter? There are some key differences in these tools, but they all have the ultimate goal of providing social analytics.

Questions:

  1. Do you think it is necessary for a marketer to use any of these Social Analytics tools?
  2. How do you think Social Media has affected the advertising world? Do you think social media is beneficial for advertisers or complicates things too much?
  3. Have you ever used any of these Social Analytics tools and what were your thoughts based on your interaction?

Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Surveys

Creating and analyzing online surveys is something I have come to love as someone who graduated with a degree in Advertising from the University of Florida. I conducted a few online surveys through Qualtrics in a few of my classes, analyzed the responses, and created an advertising campaign and marketing strategy from the results. Without these surveys, I don’t think I really would have had a clear vision of the campaign, or even understand my target market.

My final semester at UF I had to create a campaign for Brevard Community College as they transformed into a four-year state college, Eastern Florida State College. My group and I began by conducting secondary research to see truly understand what the college and its competitors currently do. But, we couldn’t stop there – from personal interviews to focus groups to ethnographic studies to online surveys. Each one of these methods of primary research had its advantages and disadvantages. But, online the online study provided us with quantifiable data.

The online survey was created and distributed in a timely and cost-effective manner, especially when comparing it to the other methods of research used. First of all, an online survey has global reach. However it is distributed, whether it is a simple link via email or appears while visiting a website, anyone has the ability to take the survey. Along with that, online surveys have a pre-screener built in. When I conducted the survey for Eastern Florida we only viewed and analyzed the results of the participants who met our needs. This in itself saved us time. We were able to control the order of the questions based on a respondent’s previous answer and target a person more specifically. None of these things would have been possible otherwise.

While there are many advantages we did find some disadvantages. Some people just didn’t want to take the time to complete the survey, making the response rate lower than the ideal. It was also difficult to control who took the survey. It was impossible to ensure we had an equal amount of males and females and a good distribution of ages that took the survey.

Since I have conducted surveys on my own I am probably more likely to take an online survey, or one in general, than someone else. But, I still am guilty of refusing to take them sometimes.

Questions:

  1. Have you ever conducted an online survey? If so, describe your experience.
  2. Do you think the results of online surveys are more or less valid than those conducted in person?
  3. What persuades you to participate in an online survey?