From the blue “e” to the white “f”

Remember when the average Joe thought that Internet Explorer’s blue “e” icon somehow stood for “the Internet”? You thought that was bad?

Many in the world are at risk of growing web-literate, so to say, thinking that the Internet is a white “f” on a blue background on their Android phone.

And any time you speak of “Social Media”, you’re doing them a favour.

Facebook, plus of course Instagram, Whatsapp for those who like things simple, and their own Messenger, which they are styling after Line and WeChat and trying to make into a platform in its own right, is not “a” Social Network, but rather THE Social Network. The new AOL, as Jason Kottke said back in 2007. Facebook is what we used to have before Facebook, i.e. the Open Web, but behind closed doors, delivered very well and a bit sanitised. There are plenty of reasons why you should be worried.

One of the main reasons why I am worried is precisely because you are not.

Clickable Ads on Instagram

Clickable Ads on Instagram are a shock to me even if I’ve been saying that so-called “Social Networks” are just ads platforms for longer than I can remember.

The following is from my upcoming little E-Book…

Together with Web2.0 came the horrible but very telling idea of User-Generated Content (UGC). According to this crude view of the world, people were using – or being used, and being duped into using, if you listen to Richard Stallman – Web-based tools little more than to provide content against which advertisers could place their ads. Then at some point the whole circus started being called “Social Media”. Why the word “Media”? Are Social Media what Social Networks become once you have to try to monetise them by sticking ads all over the place?

I’m not surprised at all that Instagram is pushing towards more ads. Nor am I surprised that the ad they chose to show in their short video about the new format, the so-called Carousel Ads, is about a non-profit that helps kids in Africa.

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Lies, Damned Lies, and Mobile Lies

This is the bad faith logical fallacy crap that passes for “research” in the marketing world: counting not the number of people who bought a product out of those who saw an ad, but the number of people who saw an ad out of those who bought a product. Which, if you too have a retarded conservative party which is against the liberalisation of soft drugs in your country, which you probably do, would be like counting not the number of people who make the jump from weed to heroin, but the percentage of people who do heroin who smoked a joint. Funny, isn’t it, that they never tell you the percentage of people who do heroin who smoked a cigarette? Or the percentage of people who drank water, or milk. Guess what, 99.99% of those who do heroin actually drank water. Stay away from drinking water: it leads to hard drugs.

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Wanamaker was more than right

Turns out good ol’ John Wanamaker was more than right:

Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.

- John Wanamaker

Google admitted that 56.1% of all the impressions served on Google’s Display Network — that is, served by a serious company, not by an un-named organisation running a dubious ad network from the middle of nowhere — could never have been seen.

But that’s only half of the story. Or 56% of it, if you wish. The more interesting part, and the one nobody talks about, is: what do you track? Tracking systems will tell you that a user “has seen” a certain banner ad and will speculate that even though he did not bother to click on it, he was in fact influenced by it when, on a later date, he encountered another ad or did a search on Google, clicked and then converted.

But can we trust this to be true, especially when Google is selling not merely Adwords on the search results, but a large part of the banner ads as well via Doubleclick? Another good question could be: is this guess done on ads that the users have seen, or on those served to them? A further one: why do we “attribute” part of the merit to banner ads nobody clicked on, but fail to do the same with print, radio or tv ads?

More Proof That Social Media Marketing is Bullshit

Some friends who are always eager to convert me to the immense power of Social Media pointed me to this article on Econsultancy. To which my first reaction was: wow, 0.1% of KLM’s total revenue comes from Social Media! Ain’t that nice? ;-)

Another friend chipped in: and I’m sure it’s all retargeting.

That’s right: it’s not the “conversations” — in no fewer than 11 languages, soon to be expanded to 14 — that drive this massive 0.1% of sales. Nope. It’s almost certainly advertising on Facebook and Twitter. And not normal advertising that helps build the case and the need for a product or a service, but retargeting, i.e. advertising that “just” closes the sale once most of the job is already done. If this is the best they can do to convince us that Social Media is a force to be reckoned with, they’re in trouble.

No intuitions

I spotted what follows in a job offer:

Analytical observation to built your decision with data and no intuitions.

How many times is this wrong? For starters, “to build” your decision, not “to built”. And you “build” decisions? In… French? Or German, perhaps? Whatever. More importantly: never use your intuition! How were the original choices made, if not by intuition? Choices about the user interface, the first advertising campaigns etc?

Don’t ever do it again. Look at the data, and that’s all you need to know. Why not feed the data into a machine, then? This is not how it works. How it works is: you look at data, and you spot something you don’t like. Conversions from the homepage to sign-ups, for example, are low. Then you look at your homepage, and make a guess.

You use your intuition to say something like: if only we had a bigger sign-up button! Or a better explanation of why you should sign up and give us a try. And it’s exactly your intuition that tells you what could be wrong with your homepage. Data just gives you information about the past, not ideas about how to make the future better.

Then you say something like: if the bigger (and greener!) sign up button helps us get 10% more sign-ups, then we’ll be happy and consider the experiment a success. Then and only then can you rely on numbers only: was your intuition right, or not?