This is a wake up call to all bloggers. Somebody – or many people – out there, is/are listening, or to be precise, reading, whatever you say everywhere in the virtual world. It doesn’t matter whether it’s trashy, unintelligent, boring, or lame. It doesn’t matter whether you pour your heart out in your own blog, in a discussion forum, or in social networking websites a.k.a Facebook or MyScape. They will scoop it out, put it together with other comments on the same subject and… (here’s the annoying-slash-scary part), sell it to whoever wants it!!
No, it’s not the “big brother” up up in the sky. It’s not our government. It’s not the internet provider. It’s not Al Qaeda. And it’s definitely not Google or Microsoft.
Basically, what they do, is extracting data from various websites, and then processing and analyzing it. The result will be used to predict, or determine, consumers’ sentiments, which will help the marketers to anticipate the customers’ needs and refine their marketing strategy.
Why? Why do our opinions count and are very powerful?
Because the new generation of consumer (like you and me) cannot be easily fooled by traditional mass media and turns to internet as a guide of reference. For example, you want to buy a mascara advertised in some magazine which claims the result will be explosively voluminous. You read the magazine’s review, but you know that the magazine gets paid to promote such mascara. You want unbiased opinion. What do you do? You go online, do a little research, to find what people say about it. Right?
Imagine there are thousands of people saying that turns out they prefer mascara A rather than mascara B. The company now knows they have to boost the advertising campaign for mascara A and finds out how to tackle the problem with mascara B.
Now replace a mascara with something more serious, like mortgage. One customer can worth ?350,000 (or Rp 7billions!!) or even much more. Losing twenty of them will probably cause the company its reputation and its future plan.
That’s why the companies really want to know what their consumers say about their products, and they are willing to pay to tap into consumer’s mind. No wonder whatever you say in virtual world worth some money for web scraper companies. They monitor what you and I say about everything, put it into nice chart or score cards, and sell it back to the companies.
Lots of companies now realize how powerful the internet generation is. Certain company like Nike tries to facilitate and monitor a direct dialog between customers. If you go to Nike+ forum, you will read what people say about a certain product, like running shoes, for example (see here). For you and me, it’s only an outlet to tell them whether we like it or are disappointed by it, or probably share what we feel about Nike’s running shoes. But for Nike, our opinion is priceless: it will determine their next marketing strategy, their technology development, and of course, their next product (money, money, and money). But even that, there are thousands, if not millions, peer-to-peer forums which discuss such thing. Hence the web scraper.
My opinion about Lauren Weisberger’s Chasing Harry Winston has probably been copied and pasted and sent to a company which is interested to turn the book into a movie. If there are other millions of people saying how lame the book is, there will be no movie in sight.
- Do you know that web scraper companies exist? Do you know that somewhere out there, some people will copy and paste your comments and sell them?
- You know the general rule, that once you publish everything on the internet, it becomes public property, and can be used by anyone. But knowing that someone uses your comments for their benefits (a.k.a money), do you find it disturbing, or is it alright?
- Do you think this is ethical? Should they ask your permission first before using your opinion?
It would be interesting to know what you think about this issue!