Social media generates a whole lot of data. Facebook for instance processes something like 2.5 billion pieces of content every day. On YouTube, 72 hours of footage is uploaded every minute. Social sites thrive on this data because they enable us to interact better with other like minded folks.
The flipside of all of this of course is that it also allows these social sites to sell advertising based upon the data we each input into the network. Facebook for instance are soon to roll out a new brand insights feature that will allow Page owners to see what other things their fans are liking on Facebook. The implication is clear, that this level of data on your own customers will encourage you to spend more advertising to them.
Amazon are set to follow suit. Whereas Facebook might know what things we like, Amazon are in a position to know what we’ve actually bought. You might not think of Amazon as a site with substantial advertising revenues, but they’re expected to generate up to $1 billion in ad revenue this year alone. The prospect of matching advertisers with users that have already bought similar items is indeed an attractive one for both Amazon and advertisers.
Does it benefit you as a user though? It’s fair to say that finding like minded people on Facebook or seeing what other people like you have bought on Amazon are useful additions to our online world. Being hit up with advertising, even if heavily targetted, seems slightly less useful. Amazon themselves said recently that they regard the advertising business as a means of ensuring prices are kept low on their core products, but I’d imagine it will be very difficult for them to resist the urge to cash in on both the huge traffic they get and the rich shopping data they have on us all.
Is it right though? The EU have already hit Google with a warning that they need to change their privacy settings after they consolidated the settings for all Google sites into one earlier this year, with the aim of allowing them to create a rich understanding of how we use all Google sites collectively, with of course the intention of then selling this improved data to advertisers.
Companies are making a clear break away from trying to monetize their traffic towards trying to monetize the data they hold on everyone that uses their site.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Are you happy to trade your data for (mostly) free online services? Are you concerned about the insight into your lives advertisers are getting? Would you be happy to pay for an advert-free online community?