Fake news is killing us dead (thanks Facebook)

[cs_content][cs_text]My friend Fritz’s six-year-old son likes to say “I’ll kill you dead!” but of course he doesn’t mean it and won’t act on it (god forbid).
Tim Cook was quoted yesterday in an interview with the Independent saying fake news “is killing our minds” and tech companies should do something about it. I sure hope he will put Apple’s considerable resources behind doing something about it.
Tech giants have the financial wherewithal, and I would argue, moral responsibility to elevate the quality and accuracy of all content they have influence over.
It’s commonly acknowledged that social networks, by prioritising clicks and eyeballs, are creating echo chambers that are killing critical thinking, allowing fake news to thrive.
Here’s an interesting quote from Steve Jobs (emphases mine):[/cs_text][x_blockquote cite=”” type=”left” style=”font-family: ‘oswalddemi-bold’;font-size: 20px;”]When you’re young, you look at television and think, There’s a conspiracy. The networks have conspired to dumb us down. But when you get a little older, you realize that’s not true. The networks are in business to give people exactly what they want. That’s a far more depressing thought. Conspiracy is optimistic! You can shoot the bastards! We can have a revolution! But the networks are really in business to give people what they want.[/x_blockquote][cs_text]Facebook is making it easier to report fake news, but that would require consumers to think critically and be able to identify fake news in the first place. I think it’s time social networks accept they owe society a duty to curate content, because of their tremendous influence. It’s crystal clear why they are reluctant: they want to avoid liability for harmful or illegal content that slips through their vetting. That’s a cop out. If the New York Times, or any traditional media, can accept the risk of being occasionally sued for content they produce or curate, and accept that as a cost of doing business, why can’t a giant social network with billions in cash do that?[/cs_text][/cs_content]

Targeting 101 (or, calling them Millennials is so 2014)

Labels are just labels. People are messy and contradictory.

Our need for patterns helps us make sense of the world, it’s how our brains are wired, but it doesn’t always make it easy to predict behavior. In fact, seeing patterns and labelling a group as a stereotype can be counterproductive these days.

We were tasked by a client to “target millennials” for a campaign, so we conducted research and created a series of personas of this group, including “affluent millennials”, “lifestyle millennials” and so on, within a certain geography. Labelling a specific age segment with an aspect of their generation’s consumption habits can be risky, but it was useful for the campaign because we were mapping specific product attributes to specific behavior. What we couldn’t get the client to understand though, was that they could target product attributes to behavior while ignoring common demographics like age, income and gender.  For example, there are people in their 20s who will pay over a hundred dollars for a nice cab sav, in the same way that there are forty-year-olds who skydive on vacation. You may call them the long tail, but bucking trends is the trend these days.

So what is the new approach to targeting?

Target by behavior, not gender or age. Microtargeting on social platforms makes it relatively straightforward to deliver content to targeted audiences, but many marketers make the mistake of targeting by broad stroke demographics, not behavior. Not all Justin Bieber fans are aged between 14-25; many scuba divers are above 55. Age is no longer a reliable predictor of behavior. Targeting affluent travelers? Aim your social content at people who have traveled overseas at least once the past month, and who have liked the brand pages of relevant airlines and high-end hotel groups.

Mine data to spot non-obvious patterns that predict future behavior. For example, Target, a large American department store, identified 25 products that women expecting commonly purchased together, and sent coupons to them. In the process, they inadvertently outed one girl’s hidden pregnancy to her dad. Here’s what happened:

[A] man walked into a Target outside Minneapolis and demanded to see the manager. He was clutching coupons that had been sent to his daughter, and he was angry, according to an employee who participated in the conversation.

“My daughter got this in the mail!” he said. “She’s still in high school, and you’re sending her coupons for baby clothes and cribs? Are you trying to encourage her to get pregnant?”

The manager didn’t have any idea what the man was talking about. He looked at the mailer. Sure enough, it was addressed to the man’s daughter and contained advertisements for maternity clothing, nursery furniture and pictures of smiling infants. The manager apologized and then called a few days later to apologize again.

On the phone, though, the father was somewhat abashed. “I had a talk with my daughter,” he said. “It turns out there’s been some activities in my house I haven’t been completely aware of. She’s due in August. I owe you an apology.”

You can read the original New York Times story here.

In a nutshell, as marketers we should start with behavior, instead of making assumptions based on demographics. Straightforward and obvious, right?