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Big Brother (and Everyone Else) Is Watching You

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In George Orwell's classic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, we were introduced to the concept that "Big Brother is watching you." Sixty-three years after the novel's publication,  Big Brother is not the only one we have to worry about. It's everyone. Your private life is forever over.

Here's a quote from the novel.

"In the past, no government had the power to keep its citizens under constant surveillance. The invention of print, however, made it easier to manipulate public opinion, and the film and the radio carried the process further. With the development of television, and the technical advance which made it possible to receive and transmit simultaneously on the same instrument, private life came to an end."

Today, we've taken it even further. Digital technology, social media, and instant access to data has turned our society into perennial Peeping Toms, snoops, busybodies, yentas, task chair critics, citizen journalists, and purveyors of all kinds of content. And I'm not just talking about the marketers!

We have risen to the occasion that presented itself---open forums to express ourselves---whether for personal or business purposes. We jumped on the social media bandwagon to be heard. In this crazy world, all we want is to matter. Now, our fans and followers feed our egos daily, only as long as we keep contributing to the feed.

Some of us hide behind the anonymity of alias profile names to avoid any connection to our "real" selves. But, how hard is it to be found out? Our lives have become open books to all who seek to read them.

As marketers, many of us are early adopters, experimenting with the next new thing as if our lives depended on it. We have a strong need to share what we learn and know, so we have become digital explorers in the proliferating media channels.

According to Beverly Macy in the Huffington Post, "As we continue to turn to the Internet to watch, consume, and share entertainment, big brands are building media channels... [Companies] are finally acknowledging that social media has become the new rocket fuel powering all aspects of the organization today."

What does this mean to marketers? More channels to attract target audiences. Increased online marketing budgets. More rich data about prospects and customers. More competition for the smallest piece of market share.

And what does this mean to us as consumers? More places to get lost online. More marketing messages and conversations around those brands. More free stuff to entice us. More sharing. And more information about us online.

Everyone is watching. Are you?

(Photo courtesy of Bigstock: Spying)


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A Canadian who relocated to the U.S., Elaine Fogel is president and CMO of SOLUTIONS Marketing & Consulting LLC, a boutique marketing and communications agency located in Scottsdale, Arizona. During her career, Elaine has worked for, and with, many organizations, associations, and businesses, across North America, on marketing strategy and communications tactics.

From her earlier agency career assignments freelance copywriting Procter & Gamble, Nestlé Carnation, and Kraft materials, to “inside” senior-level marketing positions, Elaine’s passion for marketing has evolved to helping clients reach new heights through strategic brand-building, integrated marketing communications, and customer orientation.

She has been a contributing writer for The Business Journal and her articles have appeared in many publications, including the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Marketing News, The Arizona Republic, Advancing Philanthropy, and several association publications. She has been interviewed by CNN, Connect Magazine, and The Capitol Times, and her content was included in Guerrilla Marketing for Nonprofits by Jay Conrad Levinson, Frank Adkins, and Chris Forbes. Nonprofit Consulting Essentials by Penelope Cagney. and Share of Mind, Share of Heart by Sybil F. Stershic.

Elaine is a Faculty Associate at the Arizona State University Lodestar Center for Philanthropy & Nonprofit Innovation and a professional member of the National Speakers Association – she does keynotes and presentations on business and nonprofit marketing, branding, customer orientation, and cause marketing at conferences and meetings.

Elaine’s career has also included stints as a cookbook author, teacher, singer, and television show host. A golf and tennis enthusiast, Elaine is enjoying life in the sunny Sonoran Desert while serving clients across North America.

Solutions Marketing & Consulting: solutionsmc.net

Speaking: elainefogel.com

Elaine's Blog: http://elainefogel.net

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Comments

  • by Paul Barsch Mon Jul 30, 2012 via blog

    Elaine - great awareness article! Two things. First, everyone should read 1984. I'm constantly surprised how many have not. It's a real wakeup call, albeit a disturbing one.

    Second, the Economist had a very recent article on surveillance society techniques that also might be of interest http://www.economist.com/node/21559331

  • by Phil Lauterjung Mon Jul 30, 2012 via blog

    Thanks for your post. I have said for a long time that privacy has become a myth. All the people getting riled up about Facebook and their privacy "gaffes" don't seem to get it...it's over, there is no more privacy.

  • by Holly Mon Jul 30, 2012 via blog

    I think it is fascinating just how much algorithms can "learn" about users. Search patterns, likes, posts - all this information feeds into what advertisements a user will see. From a marketing standpoint, it's fantastic: we can narrowly define exactly who we are after and make sure that they receive the right message that will lead to a purchase or subscription.

    From a consumer standpoint, it is a little worrisome. I recently wrote about how Facebook had figured out I was engaged based on the searches and pages I liked. Before we even made the "official announcement" and changed our profiles, I was seeing advertisements for wedding-related products: http://www.cookerlypr.com/2012/07/big-brother-facebook-is-watching.html

  • by Elaine Fogel Mon Jul 30, 2012 via blog

    Thanks, Paul. The article you mention has one powerful piece of information for which we should all take heed:

    "Metadata (the records of who people call and e-mail, and when, as distinct from the content of conversations) can now be amassed on a vast scale, and run through powerful software that can use it to create a fairly complete portrait of a person’s life and habits—often far more complete than just a few recorded conversations. It deserves more protection than it now receives."

    The Twilight Zone musical theme lingers in my head. :(

  • by Elaine Fogel Mon Jul 30, 2012 via blog

    Unfortunately, I agree, Phil. Check out the article that Paul provides. Scary stuff.

  • by Elaine Fogel Mon Jul 30, 2012 via blog

    Read your post, Holly, and you capture the marketing benefits well. The rich data marketers gain from access to consumers' electronic habits makes digital marketing highly effective for targeting the "right" audiences with the "right" messages. That makes marketing campaigns more cost effective and easy to track.

    Perhaps, digital marketers and the marketing profession, in general, are not doing a good job conveying the rationale for this approach, nor the benefits to consumers. Most social media channels are free. If users don't want exposure to marketing messages, then they would need to pay fees. Either way, someone needs to cover the operational costs.

    Privacy policies and legislation allow us to control who sees what and when with our own accounts. But, it cannot control what others post about us. i.e. high school photos, newsletter or newspaper articles, employer communications, etc. Unless one is living under a rock, or is of an older generation, it's likely that s/he has personal information posted somewhere on the Internet.

  • by Tobias Schremmer Tue Jul 31, 2012 via blog

    Some real gems in here, Elaine, thank you. Particularly, "Now, our fans and followers feed our egos daily, only as long as we keep contributing to the feed." Well said.

    P.S. I'm going to dust off 1984 and give it a read.

  • by Elaine Fogel Tue Jul 31, 2012 via blog

    Thanks, Tobias! Let me know your thoughts after you re-read the book. :)

  • by Holly Tue Jul 31, 2012 via blog

    Better PR for PR & marketing, then? ;)

    Great point in your third paragraph. But if we can't control what others post, does that mean consumers should simply accept our Google overlords? I think it will be a challenge to find a solution that both benefits and respects consumers while still allowing for targeted marketing, but I do think a solution can be found.

  • by Elaine Fogel Tue Jul 31, 2012 via blog

    I know exactly what you mean about having Google overlords. Imagine how challenging it is when businesses have to deal with so many online review sites in addition to their social media pages. Negative comments can kill a good brand, or at least make consumers think twice about purchasing its products or services.

    Holly, if you come up with a solution, I want to buy shares! :)

  • by P Michael Campaigns Sat Aug 4, 2012 via blog

    Methinks that the honesty with which we use social media needs to move to same arena with 'handles' like CB radio did in it's day. Since the honesty needs to go both ways, vis a vis privacy(which FB now calls data use, as in data mining), I have adopted nom du net approaches for most social networks.

    Patrick D.

  • by Elaine Fogel Sat Aug 4, 2012 via blog

    So, Patrick Dacre isn't your "real" name? :)

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