From Ogilvy to Zuckerberg: How did Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google change consumer research and targeting ?

Conventional (TV, print, radio) advertising often relies on research and targeting methods such as focus groups or demographic targeting to increase brand awareness and sales. These methods seem to be more and more outdated as targeting technology is already delivering better results.

A (very) short history of advertising research and targeting

In the past, as media was unidirectional (broadcaster to consumer), there were few ways retailers could efficiently target potential consumers. Advertisers would use consumer profiles and split purchasing options through demographic indicators (age group, location, education, sex etc.). By using statistic results they could outline marketing opportunities for certain demographic groups (Ex. “Women between 25 to 35 years, urban, having higher education are more likely to buy Product X”).

Having (theoretically) discovered a potential consumer profile they would then buy media in newspapers, radios or TV stations that would best appeal to that certain demographic group.

David Ogilvy
David Ogilvy

Of course this is just a skeletal description of the whole targeting process but it explains the process pretty well. Many companies have benefited greatly from this targeting and advertising system. Most of the brands we now know and buy were built this way. Even now, decades after the likes of David Ogilvy were setting up the rules on research-based advertising, the system is virtually unchanged.

“I notice increasing reluctance on the part of marketing executives to use judgment; they are coming to rely too much on research, and they use it as a drunkard uses a lamp post for support, rather than for illumination.” – David Ogilvy

How did the Internet change research and targeting?

Few could have predicted the impact Internet was to have on commerce and economy. Even less would have guessed how this initially “exotic” media would impact research and targeting.

20 years ago there was no marketing concept that could explain AdWords targeting and not be considered science-fiction.

Internet targeting and advertising renders most of conventional knowledge on research obsolete as technology has achieved what was once impossible. 30% of all human population is now in reach of all advertisers and they can now target more than just demographics.

Behavioral marketing is a concept that could not be possibly be achieved with conventional media. Using consumer behavior rather than demographics advertisers can target real time preferences and individuals rather than demographic groups. Say a user is known to have previously visited a car dealership website. He then browses websites in search of reviews on different car models. The car dealership could potentially target this exact user and serve him the most informative ads. Advertising ROI is sure to increase this way.

Some companies have become increasingly good at Internet research and targeting. One of them is now the most valuable company in the world in terms of market capitalization. Let’s have a look at how Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google use large data to target and monetize consumer traffic.

How did Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google changed consumer targeting ?

Amazon personalized recommendations

amazon logoAmazon is well known for its personalized products recommendations. How can it do this? Short answer: large data on consumer purchases and mathematics. Longer answer: Amazon holds a patent on its product recommendations which you can have a look at here (issued in sept. 2006). Although rather technical it focuses on certain key elements:

  • user profiling: Amazon holds valuable data on user demographics and previous purchases. Using this data it can map users in specific consumer groups. User profiling combines shopping cart contents, item ratings and recent purchases as purchase intents seem to change in time.
  • similar products information: say you bought three SF books. Similar products would be other books in that category. Some of these books would be more popular in terms of item ratings, reviews, views and purchases.
  • item affinity is the probability of some products to be purchased together. Say you are buying a Kindle on Amazon. You are very likely to buy a cover or case to protect your device. That means these products have a high affinity index
  • driver items are those products that are most likely to drive traffic to store. Again – the Kindle, Amazon’s best seller is not only a driver item but also a platform that insures further product purchases.
  • user path: the consumer will follow a certain path until it ads a product to the shopping cart or confirms a purchase. These paths are very important as they can be used to “guide” consumers to products they are most likely to purchase.

Using these information (and probably more) Amazon can first map users in consumer groups (1), extract popular, affinity and driver products (2), compile most profitable user paths based on previous history and other users actions (3) and than recommend the items most likely to increase basket size.

Recently Amazon announced the launch of its Kindle Fire product. This product is built on a Android platform and uses a proprietary web browser called Silk. The browser optimizes web traffic by routing it through Amazon’s servers. As Amazon already holds information on user profiles (users will have to login to synchronize their book collection) and now data on web traffic it can further improve its recommendations.

Apple Genius recommendations

apple logoAlthough Apple does not explicitly state it monitors iOS user actions it doesn’t deny it either. If it does, however, it might access a huge pool on users data such as web traffic, mobile purchases, locations, call history, social networking information (through access to contacts information, call history, SMS and iMessage history etc.). Basically everything there is to know on its customers profile.

For now the most visible way Apple uses data to increase sales is iTunes Genius, the music and video recommendation system. iTunes Genius uses purchase history and iPod activity to recommend potentially interesting songs, albums or videos.

Although iTunes Genius probably uses a system similar to Amazon’s it is not yet known to be as accurate. The performance issues are probably connected to the number in customers and items on sale. Amazon has a wider products inventory and a larger pool of potential customers. This leads to a larger database and increased accuracy.

Technology based companies have changed the way we think of consumer targeting and advertising. Innovation lead to profits and behavioral targeting will probably develop in the future. Tomorrow we’ll have a look at how two of the largest advertising – revenue based companies, Facebook and Google, use large data to improve consumer targeting. Stay tuned.

The UN hijacks the Internet

Some countries, including Russia, China and Iran, well known for their democratic efforts and respect for civil rights ( 🙂 ), seek more control over the Internet, through the UN International Telecommunications Union (ITU).WCIT logo

As this year’s World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12) is preparing for its December the 3th opening several documents have leaked on http://wcitleaks.org/  . Although these documents were not actually classified they were never made public. After they leaked the public opinion could see why: countries like China, Russia, Iran, Tadjikistan and Pakistan are asking for a complete change of the Internet as we know it.

What is ITU and what does it do?

The ITU was founded in 1865 to help regulate telegraph communications. Over the years it has evolved into an organization managing international telecommunications regulations (ITRs). As its last signed protocol dates back to 1988, previously to the invention of the Internet, some of the government representatives in the UN thought of how might the Internet be controlled. As a result some preposterous proposals surfaced on wcitleaks.org. Here are some of them:

UN proposals on Internet management

  • China proposed that governments should be in charge of internet traffic nation-wide. Online companies operating inside a given territory should use the Internet in “a rational way” or as WSJ puts it – handle over control and internet traffic information.
  • UN could handle online content however it finds appropriate
  • Russia and some of the Arab countries proposed access to Internet communications (like checking users emails, Facebook accounts etc.)
  • Iran and Russia proposed a charging method similar to international calls (users could be charged more for international traffic). Some European countries backed a similar proposal.

Why the Internet should stay just the way it is ?

putin - internet
Vladimir Putin, a well known civil rights supporter

I find such proposals not only misguided but also economically dangerous and short sighted. For the last 20 years the world benefited greatly from the Internet being a somehow free media. Yes, the Internet is now manged by some US based organizations but this structure brought us a level of information we have never seen. Almost one third of the world is now connected and free to share ideas. Education, economy and general well being – they all improved with the free Internet.

I discussed  the dangers of over-regulating the Internet in a previous article. At the time I had no knowledge of such disturbing news. Even more disturbing is the fact that public media is not yet taking as much interest as it should in this matter. Forget ACTA, SOPA and all the other things the Internet stood against. This conference is a turning point in human history, just like the invention of the Internet was.

Should the proposals discussed above be accepted and enforced we will see a huge set back in economic development, education and civil rights. After all – the Internet is changing the status quo in a civilization that has been so far lead by fear, ignorance and hate. In a world that faces poverty, over population, countries armed with nuclear weapons, can we really accept to bury this diamond in the dirt?

Further reading:

Facebook money is not real money. Yet.

The dollar
Like ?

First off –  a little introduction on money. When you think of money, what do you see? I bet you picture some coins, maybe banknotes, possibly your credit card. Think about this: in 2011 cash (the things we physically picture as money) in the US accounted for under 16% of money currently available (broad money).

As debit card and credit card adoption increases, as eCommerce grows more and more, the need for “narrow money” (coins, banknotes etc.) decreases. Most of our money exists just as bits of information in the financial system. I presume that in the future most of the currencies will disappear as we’ll move toward a more globalized approach to money, a world with one single currency. We do have a world bank, we have an international monetary fund – we will have an international currency.

We will strip money out of all their symbolic value and give them just one purpose: to enhance human collaboration and trade.

We accept and trust the financial system, not money per se

What we need is a world-wide acceptance of a certain currency, the universal ability to use that currency and a integration with the legacy financial system.

Call me crazy but I believe Facebook credits, the monetary system Facebook imposed on game developers could one day do that. If you think about it it’s not the currency we have to accept. It’s the system that’s issuing it. We trust Facebook with our personal data, our likes and dislikes, to some extent our social life. We could one day trust it with our money.

One might be skeptic about the idea of a Facebook – ran monetary system. However, Facebook is dominating the internet in terms of share of time and number of users.  The Internet is dominating human communication and in the future – trade. It is a matter of time until the electronic currency will shift toward a more Internet – oriented form.

If so, maybe George Soros was not wrong to buy Facebook stocks.

Does internet help education?

“The printing press helped education”. It’s pretty hard to argue with that. When Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press he had a simple idea in his mind: to help more people read the Bible. Also – make some money out of it (Gutenberg was a goldsmith so we might assume he had some economic motivations).

The printing press helped Europe escape the Dark Ages

 

The printing press

Back then The Church held a monopoly on Bible printing and distribution. Most of the Bibles were hand written in Latin and it was frowned upon, to say the least, to translate or own one. There were few people able to read, let alone read Latin, so the Church held the absolute truth as priests were able to interpret the Bible in any way they found it appropriate.

Johannes Gutenberg changes all that in 1440 with his invention of the printing press. He is credited with having printed the world’s first movable type book, a 42 line Bible.

The context was favorable as Europe was seeing a post-medieval rise in learning, the early notions of capitalism appeared and manifested themselves through a high interest in product efficiency. In just a few decades the printing press spread throughout Europe. This is not as impressive now as we take book publishing  and distribution for granted, we read our books on tablets or the Kindle but back then it was unheard of any technology to spread that fast. In under 4 centuries the book printing output rose from one million to over one billion books.

Soon people began printing more than Bibles. Authorship actually started meaning something. Back when the printing press did not exist the author was not really important. A copy of Platon’s Republic in Paris may have been entirely different from the one in London. Authors where sometimes unknown and most didn’t find any interested in writing something that brought no profit or recognition in return.

The sciences blossomed as people were able to exchange ideas in writing. The arts started blossoming as literature was finding its way to the masses. The first newspaper was printed in 1620, almost 200 years after the invention of the printing press. Illiteracy dropped as educational means were now available and the life quality increased.

We may never know how important the printing press actually was to the evolution of mankind but  we can guess that were it not for the printing press we might still be living in the dark ages.

There was a time when we didn’t have internet access

Imagine the world without internet. It’s pretty hard to do that now as you have probably spent at least an hour today sending and receiving emails, using Google, shopping online or reading the news on your favorite news portal. If you are older than 25 you might remember a time when the Internet was something closer to science-fiction than everyday utility. There was a time when you actually had to wait more then a few days to send a letter to someone across the globe.

How did the Internet came to be?

ARPANET

Back in 1950 a point to point computer communication between mainframe computers and terminals was developed. A decade later this led to the development of several networks and in 1970 one of these networks, the ARPANET, a military developed network, developed the concept of internetworking, basically a network of network. 1982 saw the implementation of TCP/IP, a protocol to allow interconnection. A few years later ARPANET was decommissioned and in 1995 the internet was commercialized.

Bam! Everything exploded! Well – not actually. At that young age the internet was still mainly used for scientific purposes and information exchange.

Soon, though, people started experimenting with email systems, eCommerce, self-publishing, and others such.

A big breakthrough in research and education were the search engines. Before Google there was Altavista and Yahoo. Yahoo was actually a web directory that helped users find websites based on interests. The development of Google meant people didn’t need to browse for hours to find what they were looking for (we might remember the days when a 64kbs dial-up connection was considered a luxury).

The internet and education.

Altavista

Now we can find almost any kind of information online. The search engines crawl billions of webpages on a daily basis, everyone with an access to a computer and  internet can easily publish an article and Amazon is already selling more instant-delivery eBooks everywhere in the world.

Some of the most important universities in the world now have free access to online courses. Have a look at this list to get a glimpse into how much information is available to anyone willing to spend the time to learn.

As  mobile internet consumption rises new education approaches emerge. Apple launched iTunes U, a collection of higher education courses in audio or readable format.  Hard to reach populations are actively taught through mobile internet connections.

Some of the most prestigious universities in the world have online courses that offer a degree with lower education costs for those in less economically stable areas.

The Wikipedia

Yes, “THE” Wikipedia is probably the greatest education feat in the human history. Human knowledge is now accessible for free to those that want to learn more, understand more. It features more than 4 million English articles and is available in 278 languages.

Wikipedia drove the paid print version of Encyclopedia Britannica to extinction as generous article contributors have made Wikipedia the go-to place for fast research.

Internet has changed many things for the better but education is the field that changed most. Never in our history has so much information been available to so many. I believe in a future where individuals are empowered, informed, educated. Internet has mad that possible as education and information became publicly available.

 

Is Facebook moral?

Many things have been said about Facebook. With more than 900 million users Facebook is changing the way we communicate. People share their thoughts, photos and stay connected to friends through the largest social network. 1 out of every 5 webpage views on the internet is on Facebook. That means Facebook is big and popular but is it moral?

Why question the Facebook’s morality?

Facebook is not just an website. It is a communication platform where almost 1 billion people gather daily. Facebook shapes these people’s reality through the information it filters. You must be aware by now that not all your friends’ posts appear on your all but just those that Facebook deemed interesting to you (“top stories”).  Having such an input on users outlook on reality means that Facebook controls at some incipient level the things we see and therefore the way we perceive reality.

Think about the way we usually perceive the world through our senses: sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing. Imagine one of your senses would be altered. Let’s say sight. If we weren’t able to perceive the colors we would believe the world is black and white and by consensus the world would be defined as black and white.

Social media in particular and media in general are filters that define our perceived reality. They help us build a mental replica of the world in our brain. Any alteration of these inputs alters our reality.

Think about what that means in terms of human control: you have one trusted source of information that is able to filter some details out of your reality. How does Facebook does that, how does Facebook filter information out of my news feed?

Is Facebook moral?

Facebook, Twitter and other social networks revolutionized social relationships. With a larger pool of potential mates users can find themselves a little to attracted to the idea of polygamy. A recent UK study even pointed out that a third of all recent divorces point towards Facebook as a contributing factor.

Users, especially young ones, point toward a certain depression caused by the social network. The reason seems to be the fact that they don’t always feel adequate among their social media friends. With others posting interesting status updates and photos regarding an unrealistic lifestyle (ever had the feeling that all your Facebook friends seem to be either travelling, partying or just enjoying a perfect life?) teens feel that they can’t measure up to that kind of lifestyle.

Facebook also seems to increase jealousy and affect romance as people can now find information regarding their partners they couldn’t have found in the past.

These things paint a pretty dark picture of the social network we thought to be spotless in terms of helping human relationships. That picture is not actually accurate, though.

Facebook is as moral as guns

Facebook caused divorces
Divorces are not caused by Facebook.

Facebook is just a bunch of code patched together. It does not cause infidelity, depression or jealousy by itself. It just helps these things, sometimes.

I will focus on the fact that one third of all marriages in the UK point towards Facebook as a contributing factor. Data shows that there is a slight increase in divorce rates in UK, but it can’t be caused by Facebook.

A 2011 study showed that there was a slight increase in divorces in England and Wales, in 2010. However the number of divorces per thousand married population have actually gone down in the last ten years.

More so, if you would look at the image on the right you would see that the year Facebook opened to users 13 and older is the same year the number in divorces started going down.

If Facebook was actually causing adultery and divorces the numbers would have gone up by 30% but they didn’t. If you are looking for a correlation the data points to an actual decrease in divorce rate.

Facebook can’t be blamed for choices people make

Adultery, lies, jealousy, depression are all  part of what makes us human. We make wrong decisions and we are willing to blame anyone or anything for our mistakes. Sometimes the lack of privacy that Facebook is known for exposes those mistakes. Of course people blame Facebook for their divorce. They blame it because they got caught.

Gift economy – an idea to change the world

We live in a society organized on the principles of scarcity as driver for profit and social recognition. Our free market system works on a pretty simple principle: people exchange goods with each other with the help of a monetary system. As a result the ones that are better at playing this game get more social recognition, live longer, better and attract better mates.

Open markets vs Centralized planning.
Capitalism vs. Communism

The last hundred years proved that the open market is a better response to people’s needs and wants than the communist economic theory. Communism failed to deliver the results it promised. Centralized economic planning eventually lead to mass social movements, frustration and eventual destruction of communist regimes. The communist governments were parasitic in essence, planned the economic development and backed their decisions through military force.

There are still some communist states at the moment and the highest profile is clearly China. With a booming economy one might wonder what did China do and other communist states (such as the former Soviet Union) did not.  First of all, given time, the Chinese regime will have to change its approach to governance. It already started doing so. Right now China is not as communist as we expect it to be. Collective ownership and central planning are rarely found in China’s economy as every business is at least partly private.

Although there is still just a single party, the almighty Communist Party, the economy is a mixture between capitalism and communism, with very few Marxist methods. Local leaders are evaluated based on economic growth indicators and are encouraged to find innovative ways of fostering growth.

Therefore – the one communist regime that did make it is not that communist to start with. Basically the Chinese government managed to reach a smooth transition to capitalism.

We can see that capitalism was a better bet than communism but is there something better than capitalism? I believe so and we can see this in a very old type of economy that resurfaced in the Internet Age: the gift economy.

The gift economy

Think about the the post you are reading right now – you are getting information that was distributed freely. It is hosted on a free blogging platform, developed as open-source software, based on an open-source programming language, having data stored in an open source database. This is an example of how “free” and “open” can happen. You are able to read this because I wanted to share this information with others, some people thought of the idea of hosting blogs for free, some other people contributed freely to the blogging software and some other people developed the tools to make this happen. Asking nothing more in return than gratitude and recognition.

“I can’t buy food with gratitude and recognition”. Of course you can’t but you gratitude and recognition mean prestige and prestige is a very good way to land a good job or deal.

Have a look at what some of the best developers in the world are doing: they write free software, they get recognition, they get people using their free services and then get founded by venture capitalists to expand their software into large companies. Take Facebook for example: it charges nothing, its prototype was built and distributed freely by Mark Zuckerberg. In time the social network made Mark very rich and it all started with a gift he offered to the world.

If you think about it, what we call wealth is basically a recognition of our contribution to the world. We provide a service or product, the price people agree to pay for this is just quantified recognition. That’s basically the whole basis for our current economy.

If we were to take out the monetary system we would basically have a gift economy that would cycle through groups of individuals.

Why did the internet develop a gift economy?

I believe the Internet is not just a technology. It is a world in itself. It has its own rules, its own citizens, its own localized governing groups (highly influential internet users that can provide leadership for their friends or fans). It must develop its own economy. As this economy does not (yet) have a specific largely spread monetary system (we still use offline payment methods) we needed to find a way to address this issue.

Books and ideas as gifts: Paolo Coelho allows people to pirate his work.

Gifts are the solution and intellectual property is exactly the kind of product we can offer without losing anything and at the same time gaining prestige and recognition. Best selling writer Paulo Coelho was talking about piracy and the S.O.P.A. (Stop Online Piracy Act) in some terms we would not expect from someone that makes a living (actually a fortune) from selling his books:

As an author, I should be defending ‘intellectual property’, but I’m not.

Pirates of the world, unite and pirate everything I’ve ever written!

The good old days, when each idea had an owner, are gone forever.
First, because all anyone ever does is recycle the same four themes: a love story between two people, a love triangle, the struggle for power, and the story of a journey.
Second, because all writers want what they write to be read, whether in a newspaper, blog, pamphlet, or on a wall.

If we think about it his actions are actually very sound in terms of business: he wouldn’t sell anything unless people would know about his work. The more people know about his work, the more prone to buying they are. Behavior economics principles state that we care about other people think and we are prone to do the right thing. We know about the writer as we have read his books online. So did our friends. We know that he should get some kind of financial incentive for the work he put into writing the books. The easiest way to do that is to buy the books.

As a result Paolo Coelho, a writer that somehow pirates his own books, has sold more than 100 million books. “This has nothing to do with giving away your work for free” you might think. Yes it does. Uploading a free Russian translation of his book “The Alchemist” resulted in an increase in book sales from 1000 to 1 000 000 books per year.

Shockingly … Africa still has a poverty issue.

Piracy and Gift Economy

Piracy is an issue of great debate this days. Supposedly this form of information sharing is harming the media industry. I guess piracy plays its part. However, piracy is the cause AND effect of increasing knowledge, curiosity and need to access information.

Wealth distribution inequality

Wealth is not distributed equally. Not by a long shot and the gap is increasing fast. Here are just a few facts (Sources: The Conference Board of Canada, Fight Poverty):

  • 42 % of world income is distributed among the first 10% of world’s richest people
  • 1 % of world income goes to the poorest 10% 
  • half the world’s population lives with under 2 $ per day
  • 20% of the population consumes 86% of world’s goods

Those numbers are astonishing and poverty is not going to go  away unless we do something about it. Foreign aids do not help as corruption seems to go hand in hand with poverty. State loans don’t help either as the poorest countries seem to be the ones most prone to impose the repayment of loans to their already impoverished citizens. Humanitarian donations and philanthropic concerts performed by Bono don’t work either as they usually help the ones that need it less: the rich and powerful.

There is however something that does work: education. Studies showed that education is very effective in fighting poverty. Educated individuals improve their own life quality and help economic development.

Empowered, informed, educated

Empowered, informed, educated should be the three words on any agenda that addresses poverty issues. With the proper infrastructure anyone in the world can have access to information that can make the difference between famine and prosperity.

The gift economy can help those in need more than money can. Right now the motivated individual can find all kinds of information online regarding all sorts of topics from survival techniques to quantum physics and advanced health courses.

India GDP Growth
Source: http://www.marketresearchanalyst.com/2008/01/06/indian-civil-aviation-market-posed-for-growth/

Internet is already helping lives. The information should be free if we are serious about addressing world issues. Piracy helps. Software companies are outsourcing their IT departments to countries like India thus lowering costs. Fun fact: piracy rate in India is 64%. Do you see a correlation there? I do. Those people needed to learn  and increase their revenue before they could pay for software. If they would not have had access to software and information they would have never had the kind of skills that allows India to have the economic growth it has (see chart).

Looking at numbers and charts we cannot fully understand the impact gift economy and information sharing has had on countries like India. But think about the numbers of lives that were saved, the millions of people that could afford to eat each day and the impact this has on the future to better understand the bigger picture.

Gift economy is changing the world

Many people are worried about the impact gift economy has, the way information sharing is changing the world. That’s why we are seeing more and more talks regarding things like SOPA, ACTA or other intellectual property management acts. The media is changing, software is changing, access to information is changing and that means less money for those in control right now. It also means a better future, a future where everyone actually stands a chance at living a decent life.

There are 7 billion people in the world right now and the numbers are growing fast. Relying on centralized organizations to improve life is not the way to go. The individuals need to be empowered, informed and educated if we are to survive the next millennium. The gift economy is still in its youth but things are moving fast in the age of Internet. Ideas spread fast and the gift economy is the kind of idea that changes civilizations. As Voltaire said:

“An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come.”

Behavioral Economics and Social Media

Humans are not usually rational. The neoclassical economists were wrong. We don’t make the best economic choices given more information. We do not plan for the future. We care about what others think of us. We act on impulse. All these things are the basis for Behavioral Economics Theory.

This (rather) new economics theory has caught momentum and is now one of the hottest topics in theoretical economics. Well… as hot as an economics theory can be. It blends psychology and neoclassical economics (the thing we generally call economics) to help explain why we act the way we act and to help policy makers increase the likelihood of better economic decisions.

There are many variables and a lot of information on the subject but for a better understanding we can look at some principles outlined by The New Economics Foundation:

  1. Other people’s opinion matters: we take great interest in what others think or do. We don’t usually get informed on economic topics. We usually copy behavior and decisions. Why? First of all we are a social species. We want to be socially acceptable and we can do that easiest by mimicking. It’s also easier.
  2. We are creatures of habit: even if what we do is economically wrong we will continue doing it out of convenience or because we have a habit that forces us to do what we do.
  3. We want to do the right thing: we have an innate sense of justice that leads our behavior. Most of us pay our fines not because we might go to jail but because “it’s the right thing to do”. We help others because it makes us feel good, not because there is any financial incentive in it. Actually such incentives may actually be counter-productive as they take out the primarily motivation – doing the right thing.
  4. We act according to our self image: we care about our commitments and we like to stand up for what we believe in. We see ourselves in a certain way – that leads us to certain kind of behavior in order to avoid cognitive dissonance.
  5. We are more loss averse than gain interested: we hang on to what we believe is ours. We treasure our possessions more than we value what we could potentially gain.
  6. We are not very good with data: we don’t really understand numbers, we’re bad at calculating probabilities and we take decisions based on how information is presented to us.
  7. We need to feel empowered to take action: too much information can lead to the inability to act. Too many options make us feel helpless. People need to have a clear understanding on how their actions affect the world around them to fully commit to any activity.

Behavioral economics in social media

Feelings, sharing, likes, friends, fans are not words we usually hear in business economics. We do hear them pretty often these days in social media. Business are starting to understand the importance of customers behaving socially. Social behavior is what drives companies to success or into the ground. There are no formulas in financial economics that can describe the feelings people have toward one company or another.

Classic economic behavior can be described in numbers on a spreadsheet but is not the way real people act. It is a flawed economic model in an economy that results in debt and frustration. The first result can be seen in the financial models we’re currently looking at. The second one cannot.

There is a growing media that helps express and amplify the principles of behavioral economics. That is the Social Media. With the growth of such social networking companies such as Facebook or Twitter, people started acting more and more connected. We now have an way of observing behavior with the help of social media. As it turns out all the principles of behavioral economics can be seen in social media. Let’s have a look at them:

Behavioral economics principles at work in Social Media

  1. Other people’s opinion matters: we care what our (Facebook) friends think of us. That’s why we share interesting quotes, we “like” only certain brands and we are very careful before posting something online.
  2. We are creatures of habit: first of all have a look at your behavior today. You have probably checked your Facebook timeline or Twitter profile at least once today. Why? Because you are accustomed to Facebook. You can’t give up checking the news, the photos your friends posted or the new products your favorite brand advertised on Facebook. Increase in mobile internet popularity is only enhancing this behavior.
  3. We want to do the right thing: people are sharing more and more social causes through social media. With over almost 1 bn users, Facebook acts as a catalyst for social causes. Social causes spread fast and users are very likely to share social messages. But that’s not all. Individuals as well as organizations now know that anything wrong-doing can have a long term negative impact on their life. Here is a video of a police officer pepper spraying demonstrators that quickly lead to a large negative social media response. If you were to search Google for the phrase “Sgt. Pepper Spray” you will find no less than 213 000 pages that frown upon his behavior. Eventually his email address and home address leaked to the internet. You can imagine the outcome.
  4. We act according to our self image: People have a certain self image that translates into social media behavior. For example: Barack Obama’s “Hope” presidential campaign was not really about the soon to be president. It was about the people that he represented. People found in the campaign a positive message for change. They’ve seen that the presidential candidate expressed a need for better people to run the country. People such as themselves. A lot of Obama’s success story happened on the internet where people expressed their views on “Change”. The messages they’ve spread were positive expressions of self image. People were not “like”-ing Barack Obama. They were “like”-ing themselves and the way they wanted their friends to see them.
  5. We are more loss averse than gain interested: Think about how often you see messages like “don’t lose the opportunity”. Why? Because they work. Groupon cashed in on the feeling people have regarding limited time discounts. So did Woot. Using loss-aversion works really well in online retail.
  6. We are not very good with data: If neoclassic economics theory would be true and if we really were rational beings, Groupon would never had caught on. Buying a discounted sky dive or a night lamp when we have ten already does not make sense economically. However, people did buy those things. Why? Because social media goes hand in hand with presentation bias. Suppose we see a 70% discounted offer on blue handkerchiefs that were already bought by 300 people. We think – “oh my, I must buy that handkerchief now or they will go out of stock. Look – 300 people already bought it”. The information has been framed (70%) and enhanced by other people’s behavior. We do not think whether we need the handkerchief or not, whether it is an economically safe behavior. We see the deep discounted price, we see that other have already bought this (see point number 1.) and we “need” to buy the handkerchief. Now.
  7. We need to feel empowered to take action: there are millions of products on Amazon. Billions of web pages indexed by Google. If we were to browse rather than search we would probably get frustrated and quit. However – we still use Amazon and we still use Google. Why? Because of targeting. Both companies dig through millions of terabytes regarding other people’s behavior to serve us the products and results we are most likely to buy or open. That makes our choices easier and we feel empowered to act.

I believe behavioral economics are here to stay. The kind of human behavior they explain has always been here. Social media is just acting as a catalyst to this kind of behavior. If we are to look deeper into behavior economics we need to use social media data to better understand the way we act and how can we get to economic results. The internet economy is growing at a faster rate than any other sector because successful online entrepreneurs already know the seven principles outlined here even if they’ve never heard of behavioral economics.

Internet in my car?

The internet connected car has been a great concept for quite some time now. As 3G connections  become more and more popular and 3G coverage extends to even the most remote areas car manufacturers have seriously taken into account adding internet to your car.

iSuppli’s telematics analyst Richard Robinson expects 25% of all cars to be internet connected in the next 5 years. Changes in auto industry in-car entertainment are expected to be as great as changes in entertainment post and pre dial-up internet connections.

audi connect
Audi Connect will be available to the 2012 luxurious models Audi A6, A7, A8

Intel expects the internet connected car to be the third fastest growing technology, after smartphones and tablets. Audi, Ford, Kia and Nissan are among the first to adopt such technology. Audi has equipped the A7 with a Wi-Fi system callled Audi Connect that turns the car into a hotspot able to host 8 connections at a time.

Ford has also jumped the wagon with its Microsoft powered Sync My Ride and has solved the connectivity issue with a simple internet stick solution.

In car internet killed the radio star

In car internet radio is now an option with MyFord Touch as drivers can tune in to their Pandora accounts and listen to their favorite stations.

Google, Apple, Samsung, Microsoft and LG are already testing connected cars concepts and gadgets. Google has recently confirmed that their self-driving cars have passed the 300.000 miles threshold incident free.

In car internet is surely to develop into a huge industry that will benefit car makers, entertainment and media companies, telecom operators, mobile device producers and of course – the buyers.

How does internet change the auto industry?

As consumers get more attached to their mobile devices and start expecting everywhere connectivity the auto industry will start monetizing on this trend. But that’s not all. What else should we expect? Here are a few consequences of increasing in car internet adoption:

  1. Increase in popularity and subscriptions to internet radios: there is a 52 minutes daily timeframe when 44% of all Americans listen to in-car radio. That margin will turn into revenue streams for internet radios and other internet music streaming providers.
  2. Location-based advertising will lead to a decrease in outdoor advertising: as advertisers will find it easier and more efficient to target consumers on their daily routes, by estimated income and purchase intents, billboards will become obsolete.
  3. Car traffic and mileage optimization: having large data available car manufacturers or internet services providers can offer the best real-time routes for faster navigation and better mileage.
  4. A new class  of in-car entertainment devices: GPS devices had a huge increase in popularity and sales as they were fitted to cars. So will the internet ready entertainment devices.
  5. Increase in driving safety: as more and more cars will get connected they will be able to pair and increase safety by automated collaboration.
  6. Increase in audio books sales. Audio books streaming. So far we got accustomed to listening to audio books on CD’s. With in car internet we will see more and more subscriptions to audio books streaming service. Amazon will surely benefit from this.
  7. Car hacking.  Car software security software. We don’t really expect our car to be “hacked” but this will surely happen. Where there is a connection, there is a potential breach of security. Software security companies will have offers specifically targeted to internet-connected car owners.

Key takeaways:

  • in car internet will happen. get ready
  • in 5 years 25% of all cars will have internet connections
  • there is a great business opportunity in providing connected car owners with car specific internet services