Big Data: Security, Privacy and Ethics

This weeks reading material explored security, privacy and ethical issues surrounding people’s online data.

Two articles discussed the issue of potential employers requiring candidates login to their Facebook profiles or provide the password. I agree that requesting someone’s Facebook password crosses the lines of privacy violation because with a password, someone can see personal communication that is not available to the public. It’s nice to know that Facebook is taking a stance against employers that do this, as explained in’s article Can Employers Legally Ask You for Your Facebook Password When You Apply for a Job?  It is their responsibility  to protect user information and privacy and they already skate the line on this issue when it comes to using user information for advertisement targeting.

That being said, we’ve been hearing for a long time about the practice of employers making people login to their social profiles and of social networks using user information for marketing. With this knowledge, people should be cautious not to post anything online that they wouldn’t want everyone to see. It’s common sense, really. My company recently required everyone attend a HR education webinar on Social Media etiquette and your privacy rights as they relate to your professional life. The webinar reiterated a lot of the things the articles from the reading said, so it was nice to know that my company opposes asking potential and current employees for access to their social media profiles. I thought it was also a good idea to educate people on what is and isn’t acceptable social-media etiquette so that every employee has a clear understanding of what is expected since this is such new territory.

As far as Instagram repurposing user pictures for advertisements, I’m not surprised. First of all, because Facebook bought Instagram. Secondly, people can’t think that services like this are offered to them for nothing in exchange. That’s not how business works. If the service is free, the company has to be making an income somehow. It just emphasizes the point to only post what you wouldn’t have a problem with the whole world seeing on the internet.

Another interesting perspective on user data is from health-related data. I do think that we should use the technology to help patients stay up-to-date with their health. Empowering patients to be proactive about their health is essential to improve their conditions in many cases. However, as explained in WSJ’s Health Gadgets Test Privacy-Law Limits, the software and tools to interpret the data to patients in a way they can understand is not yet developed. Having worked in the healthcare communication industry, specifically for technologic devices, I agree that patients should not be provided raw data without context or explanation because most of them don’t know how to interpret it. Not to imply they are dumb. The fact is the majority of them do not trained to evaluate the data. It is the responsibility of healthcare providers and organizations to use technology to help educate, care for and make healthcare more accessible to their patients.

The ability to collect real-time data about these conditions is just expediting the process of scientific and medical research that normally involves a lot of funding and official studies and analysis. The automated collection allows us to collect far greater amounts of data, faster, and cuts down the analysis time drastically. I am interested to see how this helps progress medical knowledge and treatment.


  1. Would you have a problem with a potential employer looking at your Facebook?
  2. Have you ever been asked to share your Facebook with an interviewer or employer? (I haven’t… but my company is very against that practice.)
  3. How much access do you think patients should have to their data?

Using Information Aggregators and Data for Online Marketing

This week’s reading From Information to Audiences: The Emerging Marketing Data Use Cases, A Winterberry Group White Paper was particularly interesting to me because it describes the environment surrounding my current job, as an campaign manager at an agency trading desk. I manage real-time-bidded (RTB) campaigns. We also call it programmatic advertising. Programmatic refers to setting different tools to automate the online marketing process.

I use demand-side platforms (DSPs) to create, automate, run and optimize the campaigns I manage. In these DSPs, you create campaigns using different tactics. The main targeting tactics are predictive, behavioral, contextual, and retargeting. Predictive targeting has minimal parameters with a goal of building your audience pool, and you usually bid lowest for this tactic. Behavioral usually involves targeting different data segments, like the white paper explains. Because the campaigns I manage are for very large brands, data providers actually build custom data segments based on what the brand’s planning team decides will be best. Contextual targeting refers to placing ads based on the content of the page. This can be done through keyword lists, site lists. There are also companies that provide content “concepts” to use at an additional cost. Retargeting can be based off of site visits, ad clicks, or other specific actions you program it to target off of. We often run different creatives for the different tactics, and sometimes test multiple creatives per tactic to see what performs better.

You dictate all of this in the DSP, and make sure everything needed outside of the DSP is set up, as well. For example, you must work with agency counterparts to ensure set up remarketing lists, conversion beacons, custom data segments and creative creation. If these things aren’t set up properly, your tactics will not perform as they’re supposed to.

As the campaign runs, you monitor it for performance, budget pacing, and make optimizations to improve overall performance. We do see that programmatic/RTB advertising is more efficient and effective for clients. It allows us to reach audiences more likely to act, on a large scale of inventory, at lower prices than traditional digital ad space buying.

Also, this white paper was written in 2012, and this movement has progressed rapidly since then and continues to do so. 10 Stats That Prove Programmatic Buying Has Become Critical provides a lot of insight into the future of programmatic buying.

As far as the reliability of the data, that’s something that is a constant priority and investment, from all parties concerned. From the results we have seen, it is definitely a significant improvement in effectiveness and efficiency, which I think shows in the directives to move more media spend to programmatic in the future.

Also, I’ve read people’s concerns about the massive data collection, however, all of the data collectors and aggregators are held to very high security and accountability standards, and there are legal consequences for violations. Also, if people are concerned about it, they should keep in mind that traditional data collection was all personally identifiable (name, address, phone number, etc.) and stored in large databases, so one could argue that this is technically more safe.

Message Testing

Both articles from this week’s reading explore the concept of message testing to determine how different strategies and tactics work across different audiences.  Online consumer behavior: Comparing Canadian and Chinese website visitors studied and compared how Canadian Students and Chinese Students (both in Canada) and how different emotional factors influenced how the two demographic groups interacted with and preferred their online information.

Developing Media Interventions to Reduce Household Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption was about a public health campaign to educate the Philadelphia area about the dangers or high sugar consumption in sweetened beverages. This campaign was started with a study of what kinds of messages were most effective for their target audience and then built the campaign based on the study’s findings. This study and campaign were not focused on internet user behavior, where the first one was.

I believe that understanding your target audience in every way possible is the key to persuasive communication efforts, whether it’s advertising, public interest, or otherwise. That way you know how to craft your message to obtain the desired behavior from your audience. This is also true for political campaigns. I think that’s a good example of where a lot of money, talent and effort goes into researching target audiences and addressing what they want to hear. For example, Barack Obama is on social media now…. Why? Because the entire nation is on social media. It’s to reach and engage followers because that appeals to them.

Studying an audience and testing the outcomes of different messages is valuable because you understand how they view your issue, which makes it easier to identify opportunities and challenges and how to approach them. Also, media planners or researches could be incorrect about what messages will be most effective, so it’s important to test them. This can provide insights on how to further improve messaging and audience understanding.  For example, the Sugar-Sweetened Beverage study found that people were less likely to respond to images of obese children than other messaging tactics. It is important to understand and confirm these things to maximize the effectiveness of the campaign.

You can also apply this to advertising campaigns by running tests of different kinds of copy, creatives, media inventory, etc. to see what works best for the current campaign. Clients usually find those insights helpful, too.


1) How much do you research target audiences in your current role?

2) If so, do you think your organization puts too much or too little priority on audience understanding?

3) Do you have any experience with studies or campaigns that use split-testing or message testing as part of their efforts?



Eye & Click Tracking Technology to Improve Web Design

Prior to reading this week’s material, I was familiar with eye-tracking research as applied to web design and SEO. The whole concept of working hard to get your website in the top Google search results is based on eye-tracking research that shows the majority of users only click on the first few results. So I had already seen the heat maps and related info from the Google Maps whitepaper.  Additionally, several best-practice principles of web design layout are derived from eye-tracking technology, which I’ve read the background information on.

It was interesting to read more in-depth about the research methodology of eye and click tracking. I always wondered how they actually tracked the clicks, and I like how Eye Tracking Technologies: An Introduction detailed a few technologies researchers use to track eyes and clicks. These studies are useful in understanding how to best design for and communicate with our audience. 

One recent application I’ve seen of eye tracking research is studying internet user engagement with advertising. This article  explores how eye tracking research is being used to find which ads resonate with users, and how a new push in the online advertising industry is paying only for ads that were actually seen by the user, since many are not. 

“Viewability is nice, but viewability just means that an ad is within the viewable area of a screen,” notes Bander, adding: “It doesn’t mean a consumer is actually looking at your ad.”

Since I manage online advertising campaigns, I deal with different technologies we use to monitor the viewability of our ads and listen to vendors presentations that try to highlight how their product offers advanced viewability and interactivity features.

It’s interesting to think of what future applications we can apply eye and click tracking research to, since the research method has been around for 100 years and progressed with all the changes in communication in that time. 


  1. Can you reference any eye-tracking research that influences your work?
  2. Do you think you read information on a screen the way that research shows most people do? If not, how do you differ?
  3. The term “digital native” refers to someone who is among the first adults who don’t have strong recollection of life before digital. Do you think this population is disadvantaged in any way? (The advantage is clear.)


Crowdsourcing is a great example of how technology can improve our problem-solving methods in ways not possible before. The IBM Jam Report and The Rise of Crowdsourcing illustrate how crowdsourcing allows streamlined collaboration enabling us to solve problems faster and more efficiently.

If you think about it, we often solve problems in this manor anyway. For example, at work, emails are often in a chain, so if there is a problem, everyone can add input and work together to solve the problem faster. A lot of times, you can find what you’re looking for by emailing the right person. Also, it’s similar to people posting to social media to ask peers for advice/thoughts on something.

Wikipedia is an earlier example of Crowdsourcing, however, not as ideal because there were a lot of issues with the integrity, and, consequently trust of the site. This is because “anyone can edit it.” However, I’ve tried to edit it and my changes were deleted within a few minutes. And I didn’t do anything obvious what-so-ever. So I’m curious to know who finds it easy to edit the articles on Wikipedia. I also heard from others that editing content on Wikipedia was very hard. Given, this was more recently, so it was after the big movement to monitor and make sure Wikipedia’s information was trustworthy. It was probably a lot easier to randomly edit Wikipedia content years ago before these security measures were in place. I feel like now it’s pretty trustworthy though. I always cross-check sources, which should be done anyway.

I thought Jam (from IBM Smarter Planet University Jam) was a great example of how social and organizational problems can be solved through crowdsourcing. I also think it’s great for the student participants to get that kind of experience with real-world problem solving and to collaborate on such a progressive project.

While Jam is a more theoretical example, the company InnoCentive is a real example of how effective crowdsourcing can be. Leading companies used InnoCentive to solve scientific problems their in-house researchers could not. It demonstrates how essential diverse collaboration is to innovation.

“InnoCentive’s chief scientific officer [said] more than 30 percent of the problems posted on the site have been cracked, ‘which is 30 percent more than would have been solved using a traditional, in-house approach.'”

I think crowdsourcing programs like Jam and InnoCentive could be useful in a lot of government problem solving, as well. If you think about it, they could replace the government all together if executed properly. It would be an interesting twist on technology and democracy.


  1. Can you think of more applications of crowdsourcing?
  2. Would you participate in crowdsourcing activities like the ones from the readings?
  3. Do you feel like Wikipedia is trustworthy?

Reputation Management & Environmental Scanning

Online reputation management focus on building customer loyalty for your brand or company. The MITSloan article on stresses that rather than baseline marketing, reputation management is corporate defense. The goal is to create and nurture a following of brand ambassadors. This article then advises brands use a 4-step strategy to guide their rep management initiatives. The first step is to identify a goal. From there, decide which areas of the business to focus on to achieve those goals. The end goal is building a great reputation with its customers and clients to motivate them to remain loyal to your brand. I found this article very helpful, especially for people who don’t understand rep management through social media very well.

The idea of rep management is to aggregate and nurture this following consistently, so that in times of crisis or negative media, social or otherwise, a brand can address the issues to this audience easier and because a lot of times, they will come to a brand’s defense… or, when things are good, they will promote the brand.

The AdWeek article Data Points: Social Faux Pas provides a great visual snapshot of how consumers interact with brands online and for what reasons. It also shows that younger people (18 -34 years old) turn to social media more than people ages 47-65. People usually interact with a brand’s social media to share experiences, good and bad, and to share or seek more information. This provides brands the opportunity to interact positively with it’s followers and build relationships.

Another key component to online rep management is environmental scanning. It helps a brand’s social media team work more efficiently and thoroughly by scanning the online environment for keywords relevant to your brand. One example of this is Twitter’s TweetDeck, but there are more in-depth scanning tools, like TARGUSinfo, mentioned in PR Newswire’s Amplifying Your Social Echo. This article also gives a lot of strategic advice on handling different types of situations and practices to implement to most effectively manage a brands online rep.

Another feature of online rep management is that every online interaction can be measured through social analytics. This gives brands the ability to analyze interactions in-depth and gain insights to guide future efforts. The ability to directly correlate ROI with online rep management is not always easy, but experts believe this will be possible in the future.


  1. Do you feel your company is fully equipped to deal with negative social media responses? Why or why not?
  2. Have you experienced interaction with a brand/company over social media? How did it go?
  3. Are there any companies that you think have exemplary social media practices, particularly in the online reputation management area? If so, which ones and why?

Measuring Social CRM ROI

Determining the ROI of customer relationship management (CRM) using social media strategies has become easier with tools like Google Social Analytics, Adobe Social (part of the Adobe Online Digital Suite) and HootSuite. There was a bit of lag in the development of tool like these in relation to the growth of social media, but now I’m noticing more and more of them.

The big question is how do “likes” “shares” and other social interactions translate into monetary terms? Is it really worth it for a business to devote a large budget to social media? How can we use social media strategies most efficiently? These tools help business answer these questions.

Social CRM’s a Tough, Worthy Goal, is a great real-life snapshot of successful CRM through social medial translating to ROI. The article provides compelling examples, like this:

[Bank of the West] has since found that about 38 percent of the variation in its online account openings can be attributed to direct referrals from social media sites. The firm marks a similarly significant referral rate to its branch locator page from such sites.

I find it interesting that the banks mentioned in the article were using analytics systems developed in-house for at least some of their measurement.

I think that out of all the social CRM tracking tools, Adobe Social is probably the best. I have not used Adobe Online Digital Suite, so I can’t say for sure, but that’s my educated guess. I would love to try it out. I think this because you almost always get what you pay for. Also, I’ve used HootSuite and wasn’t overwhelmingly impresses with it, and Google’s Social Analytics don’t go as in-depth. Additionally, I just really love Adobe products because in my experience, they are superior.

I used HootSuite to manage social pages for clients, and I don’t like that everything you post using it says “Via HootSuite” after. Also, for most links you post using it, it generates a new link, so it changes the link referral path, which I also didn’t like. They do have a lot of cool analytics features though, especially for companies that can’t afford the Adobe Online Digital Suite.

Online Surveys for Research

“The Value of Online Surveys,” a study by Joel R. Evans and Anil Mathur, evaluates the pros, cons and effectiveness of online surveys as a research method.  The study found that “if conducted properly, online surveys have significant advantages over other formats. However, it is imperative that the potential weaknesses of online surveys be mitigated and that online surveys only be used when appropriate.” It then provides detailed breakdowns of the specific strengths and weaknesses and best practices for conducting online surveys.

Online Survey Tools

I’ve used both Qualtrics and Survey Monkey. I think they’re both similarly easy to use. One observation is that 3 years ago when I used them, Qualtrics looked more professional and I thought their reporting was put together a little better. After looking at both of them again recently, it looks like both have developed significantly, and Survey Monkey especially seems to have made changes that make it more professional. That being said, Qualtrics and Opinion Lab seem to offer more comprehensive business solutions, based on how they present their offerings. For example, Qualtircs offers a “Research Suite,” “Site Intercept,” and “Qualtrics 360.” Although these could be functions easily availible in Survey Monkey, they don’t present them that way and depend on the potential customer to figure out how to apply all the features, which I don’t think is as effective.

One thing I found particularly interesting is that while Qualtrics and Survey Monkey’s websites are very similar in terms of structure and information presented, Opinion Lab’s differs in a few significant ways. It focuses on mobile immediately, which is a growing focus for business, since both web usage, development and ad spend is projected to continue shifting heavily toward mobile. Also, it includes CTAs (Call-to-Actions) that are ROI-focused like “Increase online conversion” and “drive foot traffic to your store.” So to me, it seems to address business goals more than the other two, at least in terms of marketing.

Another really interesting thing is that both Qualtrics and Survey Monkey allow companies to integrate their surveys with Salesforce, or other CRM applications. This means you can program the surveys to trigger off of certain actions completed on your site. I think this is a neat feature from a development and business perspective, but that some people may find it intrusive. I did not see this feature on OpinionLab’s website, but that doesn’t mean they don’t offer it, too.

Qualtrics and Opinion Lab don’t give pricing details online, which leads me to believe they are more expensive than Survey Monkey. This may make Survey Monkey better for smaller businesses, although it’s quite possible that if the user designing the surveys is an expert research methodology, they are all equally as effective. It would be interesting to see comparisons between the products or expert reviews/analysis.

I used Qualtrics to test out designing and launching an online survey, and I thought it was very easy to use and the reporting was easy to understand.


1.) What tactics have made you decide to take online surveys before?

2.) What is your general opinion of taking surveys online, as a user? Do you prefer it over more traditional methods?

3.) Do you have any privacy concerns with online surveys? Qualtrics, Survey Monkey and Opinion Lab all guarantee security, but is that enough?

Website Analytics

Having worked in SEO and Online Marketing for almost two years now, I’m very familiar with how to track and use website analytics. Google Analytics is definitely the most prominent and well-developed tool for doing so. Social media sites for businesses also offer analytics to their specific platform, which are helpful and can be linked to Google Analytics to get an overall picture.

Although there are other tools and software for this, most of them require you to sync them with your site’s Google Analytics so they can pull the data. Otherwise, they won’t work. One example of this is SEOmoz. This software is designed to aid in SEO efforts. One big reason we used it is because it shows your site’s rank for certain keywords, which Google Analytics does not. It also helps you prospect new opportunities to optimize your site and provides access to an online community with lots of great learning resources and the ability to ask questions. However, if you don’t link your Google Analytics account, the tool has basically nothing to work off of.

Having worked in this industry for a while, I have seen development changes and improvements in Google Analytics, like the addition of social metrics, which require you to sync your social sites with your Google Analytics.

One big thing that a lot of people don’t realize is that it’s imperative to set up Google Webmaster tools with your site. This enables Analytics to pull a lot more specific data, such as keyword-tracking data form your site. It also offers a different set of insights as Analytics.

Google analytics also gives you the option to set up conversion metrics on your site to evaluate if your visitors are doing what you want them to, basically. For example, you could set it up based on quote requests, contact form submissions, purchases, anything. This is particularly valuable for e-commerce sites, but may bot be applicable for all sites.

Other tools I found useful:

  • Visitor flow charts – Graphically represents the traffic flow on your site. Shows what pages visitors enter your site on, and the sequence they visit the other pages in your site. (Note: this is based on total traffic flow, not specific users.)
  • Keyword breakout – When you are looking at traffic based on keywords, you can type specific keywords into the search bar to get the info for them. This was helpful for reporting progress to clients.
  • Reporting – The reporting for this tool is pretty easy to use. You can export any configuration of data you’re viewing into either a PDF or excel sheet. You can also run very specific reports, and automate these reports to run regularly, if needed. This saves time and is very easy to do.


1) How much access do you give clients to their Google Analytics?

2) If you give them full access, do any of them use it? (Most of mine never even looked at it on their own.)

3) Have you used Google Analytics in your career? Did you find it easy to use?

Reaching The 21st Century Audience

The term millennials is defined as the part of the U.S. population born between 1981 and 2000. Understanding this segment is valuable to the communication industry because of it’s size and potential spend. 

A few unique factors define this generation, such as

  • familiarity, if not obsession, with technology
  • short attention span, due to constant expose to a variety of stimuli
  • more difficult to connect with, convince and entertain

These factors create a unique set of consumer behavior in this population. For instance, they have a lower chance to be persuaded by TV ads and higher brand loyalty than older generations. While ads less often capture their attention in the first place, they do however have higher ad recall for those they do pay attention to than other generations. They are also more engaged with the messages in front of them than older generations, for both TV and digital. They are more engaged with digital overall, performing better with digital ad testing than they do with TV and than older generations do with digital. 

Given this information, communicators must take a new approach when trying to reach this generation. Understanding they have a shorter attention span, partially because of ad overload, challenges communicators to develop new, unique creatives and messages to capture this audience’s attention. Because they spend much of their time online and are more engaged with digital messages than others, understanding and implementing online features that facilitate site use are essential. This is where User Experience Design is key.

For digital commerce, user-focused site functionalities drive performance by making it easier for the consumer to find the information they want, shop in ways convenient for them, and trust the e-commerce store with their private information. Social and mobile commerce is also largely effective, but similar user-focused functionalities unique to each channel are just as important. Functionalities include security, the ability to filter and search for specific products or information, and user reviews. User reviews have proven significantly influential because it helps people trust a product more and increases sales (source: Therefore, the reviews and recommendations feature is something that should be included in all e-commerce sites. The fact that sites and online communities like Yelp and UrbanSpoon exist for the sole purpose of reviewing products, companies and places shows how important this is to the modern consumer. Google even added this feature to it’s business search system recently because it saw the value it provided internet users. 

Furthermore, developing an in-depth understanding of your target audience and brand reputation among them is just as important as ever, with new tools like Q Scores to do so. 

Questions from the reading:
The data for the millennials study is based on all women. Is this really an accurate representation?

Can we expect the generation younger than the millennials to have the same behaviors, or will this shift toward technology create even more change in this audience?