Monday night, I was making a second batch of cupcakes for my daughter’s birthday. (Though I was using a mix, I’d ruined the first batch by using old oil, if you can believe that. Shows you how often I actually bake.) As I threw them in the oven, I posted to Facebook that Betty Crocker and I were at war in the kitchen, and started chatting with some friends online about my kitchen debacle.
All of a sudden, I saw an ad on the right hand side of my Facebook profile page for a new TLC reality show, called (wait for it…) The Next Great Baker. Being the non-domestic goddess that I am, I found that extremely funny. So I posted something to my Twitter account, and within moments, received notification that @TLC was following me.
So what does this all mean?
1. I am in no way qualified to participate in a reality show on baking. (Just had to throw that out there.) Ahem.
2. When you talk online, people listen. Monitoring has become so sophisticated that it’s become easy to participate in conversations about you, your company, or your brand in real time, whether you’re using a free tool like Google Alerts or a paid tool like Radian6. If you’re not listening or participating, you’re missing out on a chance to engage with your customers. Interestingly, I tweeted TLC thanking them for their follow, and jokingly pointed out that I probably wasn’t going to be a good contestant. They never responded. That could have been a Twitter API/client issue, or could be that they weren't REALLY listening.
3. Ad targeting has become personal – as in "specifically for me." Here’s another example of extremely targeted online marketing: over the past few months, I saw several different ads on Facebook from a marketing/social media consultant, who works in the multifamily industry. A similar ad was also displayed on a few of my friends’ Facebook profiles – and these friends happen to be marketing directors/VPs in the same space. I also see ads for things relating to moms with young kids, and marketing/social media, since these are things I talk about on a frequent basis. Granted, not everything is targeted perfectly: pink Uggs are not my speed, though I saw an ad for those, too. But most of the time, I’ve found that Facebook's ads are pretty relevant. (Yep, as much as I hate to admit it, anti-wrinkle cream is something that I purchase on a regular basis.)
Though this all is a bit Big Brother, when you think about how useful this technology is, it’s really exciting. As an example, if I start venting online about how I'm unhappy with a certain product or service, the company monitoring their online mentions has the opportunity to step in and help make things right. Or, even better, I can reach out to that company directly: many large companies, such as Home Depot and JetBlue, have online customer service teams active on Twitter and/or Facebook, but so do smaller companies, like Diapers.com and Totsy. I win because as a consumer, I'm seeing resolution to an issue, but companies win, too: they're getting honest, unsolicited feedback. It's the companies who actually DO something with that feedback that really shine.
So yes, maybe we all feel like we live in a fishbowl these days. But in some really nice ways, that makes the world feel a little smaller, and a lot friendlier, don't you think?