When I was a reporter for the Cumberland Business Journal, I learned to live by data. We covered business news in 14 counties, so each month I ran business licenses records, unemployment numbers, building permits, real estate transfers, bank deposits, sales tax collections, etc. As a reporter, I had to learn how to interpret the data for our readers and work with our graphic designers doing layout for the paper on how best to visually represent that data in charts and info graphics. Data can be a reporters best friend, and it is key you understand how to use it because it can and will be used against you if you don’t understand it. I’ve had bank owners argue with me about how I presented data that put them in a not-so-positive light, but I stuck by the numbers and my interpretation of them. Make data your best friend and don’t let others take advantage of your ignorance. Understand it and own it.
This week in my Social Media Theory & Practice class, the articles up for review centered on the social media juggernaut of Facebook. The first article, “Facebook, private traits and attributes: Predictions from digital records of human behavior,” describes the effect of Facebook and Big Data and the issues they raise for privacy concerns. As a marketer, Big Data is a trend I follow and am actively involved in. This trend refers to the vast quantities of personal information collected by corporate companies/social media sites. With Facebook essentially functioning as a personal directory and diary cataloging major and minor life events, that data is a goldmine for marketers like me who want to get the most mileage out of my dollars invested in targeting the right audience for my marketing messages. Probably like most millennials, I am not too concerned with privacy settings on my information. I think that it is the user’s choice to participate in these forums and that they need a certain level of transparency (doesn’t mean I agree when people use their Facebook to air all of their dirty laundry — sometimes it is TMI).
But I think the trend in social media used with Big Data is of course to use what is collected to better target advertising to the consumer. I think the scarier trend here is how healthcare has caught onto this trend and uses Big Data in a way that directly affects your bottom line and insurance. For example, in order to have lower insurance premiums, many state employees participate in the Partners for Health program. This is a great program and does keep me many to take better care of their health, but this program also collects lots of personal data that is shared with the insurance companies. Eventually, I could see this data correlated with your lifestyle behaviors (culled form your social media use), and suddenly there is a large directory of not only your consumer info but tied with your health info. I may be a little too Orwellian in my thinking here 🙂
I was not able to read the book “The Facebook Effect” by David Kirkpatrick. However, I did read a New York Times review of the book. The reviewer said the book could be divided into 2 sections — one on the personality of Mark Zuckerberg and the history of Facebook and the other on the impact of Facebook. The second part actually sounds more interesting pertaining to the personal, cultural, global, economic and political impacts of Facebook. Since as author Clay Shirky noted in the book we read by him, we are experiencing this historic phenomenon in the rise of online, social communication, so while we are experiencing it, we don’t know for sure how this turns out on the other side in say 20 years from now.