Marketing research and the Panopticon
October 26, 2009, 4:33 am
Filed under: targeted advertising | Tags: , , , , , ,

Jeremy Bentham designed the Panopticon prison in the late 1700s, the premise of which being one person could monitor many without the prisoners knowing if they were being watched. This effect is similar on social networking sites- as no one knows who or when people are viewing their profile. As a result many people will create and alter their profiles with their friends or other in mind.

From a marketers perspective this can be both a dream and a nightmare as on one hand you’ve got this clearly defined market of conformists, but on the other hand- these people might not be the long term serious customers your business is after. So in this sense it is a dual edged sword as the person we see online is not necessarily the person we are actually marketing to. Although this concept affects all forms of marketing research to an extent, on the internet it is far easier to fake identity.

As an example, I might not be into skateboarding, however, because all my friends are I might list them as one of my interests. Because of this, any targeted advertising may assess my profile and judge that I a suitable candidate for a skateboard company to market to- when in actuality, I wouldn’t consider purchasing anything from them. Indeed the reverse is also true- I may omit that I am a Michael Buble fan from my Facebook because I fear ridicule from my friends.

Similar results can be seen in online surveys and groups. It is all too easy to join a Facebook group, for an albeit worthy cause and do nothing more about it- basically using your profile as a badge to demonstrate what you stand for, even if it’s just for appearances. This is becoming all too common, with causes and interests becoming superficial accessories to social networking profiles.

Caplan has written a paper on what he calls problematic internet use which studies the use of the internet in social networking situations as opposed to real life. In the paper he highlights people with lower self confidence are more likely to use the internet for socialising. His results are relevant to this post as they highlight the change in person that occurs between the internet and the real world.

So does all this render a great deal of online marketing research void? People are displaying themselves as they want to appear- not as they actually are in real life.


Twitter Hawk- super spam or a welcome hand?
October 25, 2009, 9:48 am
Filed under: targeted advertising | Tags: , , , , ,

Twitter Hawk is a web company that monitors twitter posts and auto replies with advertising in predetermined situations. For example, if advertising a new Italian restaurant in Sydney, Twitter Hawk would monitor postings for people looking for Italian food within a predetermined radius of the restaurant. If a person posts a tweet with something like “I could really go for some pizza” and are within the geographic target market for the restaurant- Twitter Hawk will send an automated response to the user with details of their client’s restaurant (costing the client 5 cents).

From a marketing standpoint, this is a great idea as it can directly target people with information they seek, somewhat like advice from a friend when they are looking for something. On the flip side, although tweets are posted to a public audience, the fact that they can be then used to target us with advertising is intrusive- just like the tracking scripts and spyware already addressed in this blog.

How can we oppose this? Well realistically we can’t, save getting rid of our Twitter accounts or being extremely careful about what we tweet about- but then where is the fun in that? Why should I have to carefully construct my tweets so some aggressive marketer can’t spam my account? STFU Twitter Hawk!

October 25, 2009, 5:02 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

Just for fun: Twitterature!

Facebook’s lifestream
October 25, 2009, 3:35 am
Filed under: images | Tags: , , , , , ,

In april of last year facebook announced that users would be able to import material from delicious, flickr, picasa and yelp. This extends beyond my theme of images and into something else, but I think it is an interesting because it demonstrates something significant about social networks at this point in time. Although our topic is as broad as social networks and personal histories, we have primarily discussed this in relation to facebook. Facebook’s primary feature is the news feed, which streams the activities of all your friends to be viewed in one place. Now you can add content from your other social networks to this feed. At the moment the list of participants includes not only flickr, picasa, delicious and yelp, but also digg, google reader, youtube,, pandora, photobucket, hulu and kiva. You can also import content directly from your own blog or rss.

image from javier.reyesgomez on flickr

I was thinking of importing my delicious account just to see what it would be like, but I’m not sure I really want everyone I know to see what I bookmark. It has nothing to do with what I bookmark on delicious and a lot more to do with the concious and very apparent decision to import this content. What kind of impression would it give that I want everyone to my bookmarks? The other thing which kind of disturbed me was the amount of information this would give my facebook friends. It’s not really anything private, it’s actually pretty mundane stuff and I think this is what bothers me. There are just certain really ordinary things that I like to be able to do without feeling as though everyone I know is watching. I’ve always been a little bit like this in everyday life. As a kid I hated that my brother and sister would follow me around watching me cook or paint or whatever. This feeling is also related to the fact that facebook tends to break down the boundaries of the different social spheres we inhabit. Usually you give different appropriate information to different people in your life. It’s almost as though the different social networks we participate in online are a replacement for the different kinds of relationships we have in real life.

But how do behaviours change when we feel we’re being watched? Do you think facebook will become a kind of hub of social networks? Is facebook creating a panoptic society?

ps: the facebook news feed changed ever so slightly this morning. Already people are signing up for groups like “please give us our old news feed back”. This happens every time the function or the layout of the site is changed. I can’t remember thiss ever having an effect. But maybe I haven’t been paying all that much attention.

TweetPhoto and TwitPic
October 23, 2009, 8:42 am
Filed under: images | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I’m not entirely sure why tweetphoto and twitpic should co-exists. Both allow users to upload a single image at a time. Pictures are streamed as thumbnails. Users can comment on pictures and subcribe to certain image feeds. Both present a very differnt way to viewing images than a traditional phtoto album or even a facebook album. One of the main reasons I can see for the appeal of this kind of photosharing is portability. Viewing a traditional album on the move is physically inconvinient. Viewing an entire facebook album or flickr stream could be tedious, even ineffective. Twitpic and TwiiterPhoto are designed for mobile internet use. Users can share photos from their phone instantly with their entire network instead of sending them off to one person at a time. Viewers are able to interact, making their experience more social.

The biggest difference I can see between the two is that TweetPhoto advertises Facebook compatibility. On the homepage it says: “TweetPhoto is a photo sharing platform for the real-time web. Instantly share photos on Twitter and Facebook.” While different social networking sites are naturally competitive, convergence of content seems to appeal to users and is often pursued by the sites. Twitter updates can be linked to facebook accounts, meaing that users don’t have to divide content between multiple networks. It is interesting that facebook and twitter have come to such an arrangement. It seems to be mutually beneficial. It is convenient for users to have accounts with both.

More on content convergence later.

Facebook for Market Research

A recent posting by has highlighted the potential and effectiveness of market research done via Facebook. Author Ray Poynter explores the online marketing process and how Facebook is making that process far more streamlined both in terms of cost and time.

Poynter’s posting highlights marketing research done in a much more upfront fashion, rather than the sneaky data mining, browser hacking, JavaScript lurking methods I’ve identified in my previous postings. He suggests that by creating online polls and groups markets can test the waters before jumping straight into in depth market research.

Through participation in groups, surveys and polls we are willing participants in market research, unlike the other formats where our privacy is invaded, often without our knowledge.

October 22, 2009, 1:21 am
Filed under: images | Tags: , , , , , ,

You’ve probably all heard about films of bullying making it onto facebook. I’ve been reading up on the incident at Rivington and Blackrod High School in which schoolgirl Amy Knowles was filmed attacking Chantelle Smith. The film was put on facebook by another student, allegedly without either of the girls being aware the incident had been filmed. The act of bullying in itself does not seem more news-worthy than any other incident of bullying. What made this into an international news event was the use of social networking site facebook to distribute the film of the girls fighting. The distribution of the film can be seen as cyber-bullying. Facebook has objectionable content controls in place, through which facebook users can report content. It is interesting to note that commercial media sources have now made the footage viewable on their websites.

You can read an article about the Amy’s apology and access footage of the incident here.

I guess this incident highlights both positive and nagative consequences of media sharing within social networks. Access to this kind of publishing is not highly restricted, anyone can post any kind of content and it will be available for viewing within minutes. Facebook does have ways of regulating content after it is published, but this relies on the cooperation of users. Facebook admits that illegal and offensive material will inevitably appear on the site. This access to audience and media can act as a tool for potential bullies, however it can also be seen to raise awareness of neglected issues. Although bullying is not a rare occurance, it is rarely reported on in mainstream media. Perhaps it is a good thing that there is proof of what happened and that the media have paid attention. Then again, Amy might disagree. Taken out of context the footage does not convey the full extent or nature of the bullying.