Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Social media, dunderhead edition

Update No. 2: Be sure to check out Ken Mueller's knowledgeable comment at the end of this post. Bottom line: "This is more about Facebook than it is about Sundance."

Update: Well, Sundance's Facebook marketing may be a little hit-or-miss (see the body of this post), but on the stuff that really matters, it seems the company is on the ball. There was a snafu with Debbie's dress delivery - it was not Sundance's fault, yet Debbie tells me the company's customer service people went above and beyond to resolve it. They got a new dress expedited to her, and were, in her enthusiastic words, "absolutely fantastic." I'll repeat that: "absolutely fantastic." So, if only they had that dress in my size ...

* * * * *

So, Debbie’s daughter is getting married, and Debbie wanted a new dress for the occasion. After a fair bit of online searching (all conducted on her computer, btw), she selected this “Universal Cool Dress” from the Sundance website, and it is now on its way to her.

Imagine my surprise when a link to the dress appeared this morning on my Facebook feed, with the caption, “We thought you might like …”

To spell out the obvious, this is both creepy and stupid.

Creepy, because neither I nor anyone else has ever visited the Sundance website on my computer. So the only way they’re getting to me is via Debbie’s friend list. That's pretty intrusive. 

Stupid, because how the heck could I possibly be in the market for this dress? Debbie already bought it. And it’s not as though I’m going to wear a drape-front dress, no matter how lovely it is. (“We thought you might like …”?! *Shakes head*) Did Sundance just spam Debbie’s Facebook friends without first bothering to check which ones were male?

Come to think of it, even just spamming Debbie’s female friends would be stupid. Suppose Sundance shows Woman B the dress that her good friend, Woman A, just bought. Woman B likes it, buys it … and they end up wearing it to the same important social event. Think the twosome will coo, “Thank you, Sundance!” over the canap├ęs?

So, as I said, creepy and stupid. Two adjectives that warm the cockles of every advertiser's heart.

I really hope the NSA’s algorithms are better than Sundance’s, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

1 comment:

  1. Ha. Well, I'll give bit of explanation here. This is more about Facebook than it is Sundance. It's a rather simple algorithm similar to what Google does. Not only are they taking your searches in to account, but the activities of those close to you. The assumption is that if your friends are interested in something, based on your friendship and affinities, you might be as well.

    Granted, these things are far from perfect, but...consider this. Let's say my daughter is looking at something. This way I can find out what she likes and perhaps buy it for her as a gift. I think the scenario you paint is a possibility, but not a probability. And companies are willing to take that risk.

    Someone you now interacted with Sundance, and Sundance placed a paid promoted post that probably targeted fans and their friends. Maybe they didn't narrow it to just women, I dunno. But...that's how it happened.

    Finally, remember, we are on Facebook. By being there we agree to their terms of service, and that's part of how they use our data. Sundance doesn't know who you are. They are merely tapping into Facebook's data and making a buy based on all of that.

    Creepy? I think that's in the eye of the beholder. The price we pay for a more customizable web experience (and it will get better) is that we need to give up some level of privacy.

    Stupid? Probably not. It all depends on what the ROI of that particular promoted post is.

    Anyway, that's my two cents. At least you know how they are using your data. Just think how much they, and Google, and yes, the NSA, know, that they aren't telling you...