The work I do requires that I study people’s (ie: consumers) behaviour and how it is affected by external influences. This in turn affects their decision process in terms of many things: the products and services they purchase, how they react to advertising, what type of content will compel them to take action and so on.
Of course, one of the most influential external stimulus in the last while has been the Internet and everything related to it. Social media, gaming, connected devices, mobile devices, information overload…
It is fascinating to see how people are affected often without realizing it. For example, I have seen significant behavioural changes in my students over the last decade and a half. Attention to detail, punctuality, quality of assignments, in class participation and overall results have most definitely been negatively impacted.
Some professors ask students to put away their mobile devices during class. A few even ask that mobile devices be turned off and left at the door. I decided not to do that. Instead I allow my students to use their mobile devices but for a useful purpose, searching for information that will contribute to the content and their understanding of the course material. I do ask that they not take calls, texts or play games, during class and if there is abuse I will restrict use from that point on.
I’ve only had to do this twice in the last 6 years.
That being said, even though their devices give them access to unlimited information, and I have given them permission to use them in class, I find it interesting that they don’t have the reflex to use them for information searches.
As a student, I would have given my left … well, a lot... to have access to such a device.
In any case, as a marketer and entrepreneur you also need to understand the impact of the cyber effect. I borrow this term from Dr.Mary Aiken who has written an excellent book that discusses how the Internet is changing the human psyche.
In recent days we’ve been hearing a lot of coverage on the news about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. The latter was contracted to work for Trump’s presidential campaign.
According to Christopher Wylie who worked for Cambridge Analytica, the company is a “Full-service propaganda machine”. He goes on to say that “if you can control all the streams of information around your opponent you influence how they perceive that battlespace and you can then change how they will be influenced and react.”
You might want to watch The Guardian interview. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FXdYSQ6nu-M
In a nut shell, what they did was collect tens of millions of Facebook profiles, analyze them in order to understand how to influence people in order to “change their perception of reality” by providing content that they would find on Facebook and that would affect their behaviour with respect to the election.
Cambridge Analytica call it Data driven behaviour change.
Marc Turnbull, the company’s managing director said the following in a hidden camera interview about how they target voters: “It’s no good fighting an election campaign on facts because actually it’s all about emotion. The two fundamental human drivers are hopes and fears and many of those are unspoken and even unconscious. You didn’t know that was a fear until you saw something that just evoked that reaction from you.”
So that’s how it’s done. You create compelling (and possibly false) content that favors your objective which plays on people’s hopes and fears, publish it in social media and watch it propagate.
I’m hoping it isn’t surprising to anyone that this would happen. The social media business model is, after all, to get as many people as possible to indiscriminately use a software application to communicate, share their hopes and fears with their friends and sometimes the entire planet.
And all of this is free to use. They make money by selling advertising opportunities to companies that want to sell you products and services. As a marketer you can create an add and choose with a fair amount of precision, who will see it. And it works quite well. I use it all the time.
The difference is that when I use social media advertising, I don’t publish false or fake information.
As a consumer you must address the content you see with, as Christopher Wylie says: “a healthy dose of scepticism.” Question what you read and make up your own mind as to its veracity and accuracy.
Remember that if something is free, you are the product.
As a marketer, provide value in an authentic manner. You must absolutely do whatever you can to understand your target audience’s hopes and fears and use that knowledge to present solutions that will help them solve problems or enhance their life.
But you MUST NOT try to change your readers’ behaviour by putting forward false or inaccurate information.