The risks and rewards of online tracking

5 Nov

“Privacy is dead. Get over it.”

So said social media consultant Jay Baer to us yesterday at our mini T-CAAN West social media summit in Victoria.

What he meant was that our content is out there and being viewed, scrutinized and evaluated – and not just by the people you have chosen to engage with in social media spaces. The spaces are watching; the monitoring sites are collating; people you’ve never met are checking you out.

If you’re a marketer, this is game-changing.

Facebook, Google and Twitter target ads based on user’s content and online behaviour. This is not news. So if you’re getting loads of hot Russian babes seeking you out for long-term companionship on Facebook, go back and check the things you “liked”.

Marketers can so effectively target their advertising by age, location, interests and online behaviour, the efficiencies are through the roof.

An example Jay shared: He was recently targeted with a Proactive ad that asked: “Which of your girlfriends has the clearest skin?” accompanied by the headshots of 6 women who are his Facebook friends, including his wife.

Tracking is becoming more sophisticated daily. But not just tracking performed by moles in basement data-mining labs. It’s accessible to anyone.

By example, if someone leaves a nasty comment on your blog (NEVER happens to us, mind you), you can find out if they’re a real contributor or a nutbar with a site like Klout, which evaluates the influence of Twitter users. Someone with a high Klout score is well-regarded and their content is valued, so you need to pay attention. A low score means far less influence. By the way, you should respond to both.

Tweetstats, a free and harmless looking monitoring site, allows you to track what time of day particular users of Twitter drop their 140-character bombs, so you can target your messages to them when they are most likely to be online.

Targeting key influencers is pointless if you are trying to connect with them when they are sawing logs or painting their toe-nails.

For businesses and consumers, the risks and rewards of social media are growing daily.


14 Responses to “The risks and rewards of online tracking”

  1. Amy November 5, 2010 at 6:53 am #

    That Proactive example is frightening! Did I sign away the rights to my photographs to be used in advertisements when I got my Facebook account?
    This is one reason why I like twitter over FB – it seems less invasive. Yes, in FB you can adjust your privacy settings and whatnot, but you are still encouraged to post pictures and list all kinds of information about yourself. And then when people tag you in their photots your privacy can go out the window. On twitter, you pretty much can just link to your blog and have a profile pic. That’s it. If I did that on FB, people would think I’m an anti-social bitch.
    Don’t get me wrong, I loves me some social networking and the interweb, but sometimes I envy those people who have managed to stay off the grid.

  2. dougbrowncreative November 5, 2010 at 7:10 am #

    I think even Jay was a bit freaked out by the Proactive ads. But as long as we continue to give only passing inspection to the privacy laws and post all manner of personal information online, it will come back to freak us. The good news is that, when done well, this targeted advertising means a lot less irrelevant messages. Note how they targeted a guy about his girlfriend’s skin. Interesting strategy. Thanks for the comment Amy. Of course you’ll soon be receiving messages from Interweb marketers asking if friends think you’re an anti-social bitch,

  3. westcoastthoughts November 5, 2010 at 7:32 am #

    This is just a question Doug.

    I follow you on Twitter as your well aware but a few days ago I clicked on one of your tweets but could’nt access your blog and when I looked at the URL there was a click tracking feature at the beginning of the URL since when this happens on my browser all I get is a 1×1.gif (Safari).

    It is impossible or almost impossible not to be tracked these days on the net, regardless of what fancy feature you use and I’ve installed numerous ones over the years not be tracked.

    The only way I see I can get some anonymity is use multiple aliases even if the point to the same IP address.

  4. dougbrowncreative November 5, 2010 at 7:56 am #

    These tracking features are pretty standard practice with WordPress blogs Westcoastthoughts. But what was your question?

  5. westcoastthoughts November 5, 2010 at 8:11 am #

    Are you or were you using Click Track on your tweets a few days ago?

  6. dougbrowncreative November 5, 2010 at 8:25 am #

    I have never deployed tracking devices on Twitter. Nor have I ever tried to cloak my identity in any way. I will ask around about click tracks on Twitter. Can you recall the tweet?

  7. westcoastthoughts November 5, 2010 at 8:33 am #

    Not off hand. I’ll go back and see if I can retrieve it. It might have been WordPress that was doing the blocking, but I have seen click-tracking on other tweets from other people on twitter.

  8. tom November 5, 2010 at 8:45 am #

    It’s worth adding that tracking tools will give you very accurate info on the metrics that they track… and nothing else. An individual may have low influence, or reach on Twitter for example, but have huge influence in another medium.

  9. westcoastthoughts November 5, 2010 at 8:46 am #

    Went back and found this URL [] Still can’t access you blog with the link on twitter but can access you blog onto days link.

    Not sure what is going on.

  10. dougbrowncreative November 5, 2010 at 8:58 am #

    > Tom that’s an “awesome” point. Not everybody cares about Twitter. Influential bloggers – who can be tracked at such sites as, and – may not even be on Twitter or Facebook.

    > Westcoastthoughts, I’ve gone back over my Twitter links to that post and found them all working without Click Track. It’s possible one of the anti-tracking devices you are using is blocking the link…?

  11. amy joseph November 5, 2010 at 9:32 am #

    How well is this content-based checking working out? I am followed everywhere I go on the internet by jock strap, and male g-string ads. WTF? I get that Air TransAt follows me around because I visit travel sites, (and I hate it because I hate their ads) but the Ebay naked G-string department need to go back and redo their programming.

  12. dougbrowncreative November 5, 2010 at 9:45 am #

    I get those too!

    Er, no I don’t.

  13. westcoastthoughts November 5, 2010 at 10:18 am #

    I believe I have found the culprit. It’s your little photo of yourself and a ad blocker I have installed is blocking your gravatar “sometimes” since it’s a javascript that is being used from a different domain. Mine is coming from the same site but I believe I’ve got a cookie for it, yours I don’t.

    These three domains I’ve whitelisted that were getting some what trashed when loading you blog.

  14. dougbrowncreative November 5, 2010 at 10:24 am #

    Good work on solving that mystery Westcoastthoughts.

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