Thursday, September 30, 2010

Is Amazon My Friend? Making Sense of Online Marketing

Tyler Clark is optimistic about the benefits of social media and all those (largely) invisible tracking tools that companies use to analyze our interests and buying habits online. Part of his business is helping companies figure out how to use such tools well, so I suppose his attitude isn’t surprising, and he does think critically about all this means. And he approaches his work thoughtfully, attentive to both the technology and the issues facing organizations and their audiences.  He reminds us that what works for the corporations can also work for neighborhood associations and non-profits, so online marketing isn't just about getting us to buy things.

I remain skeptical. I tend to ignore all of the suggestions Amazon and iTunes make about books and music I “might” like. Whenever I can, I skip the “create an account” option when buying products online. The only updates and newsletters I subscribe to come from cooking magazines, though I still get plenty from organizations and companies I never contacted. It’s not that I think all of this online marketing is going to harm me. Yes, I suppose there are security and privacy issues, but I don’t worry too much about that. It’s not malware or viruses I’m concern about, either.

What bothers me is the clutter and intrusion of online marketing. I don’t appreciate friend requests from local businesses or e-mail messages announcing what’s on sale at Giant Eagle this week. I wish all those progressive political groups would leave me alone already, not because I don’t support the cause but because I don’t want to read about it in my email every day. And if someone can figure out how to get Portside to accept my repeated requests to be taken off their daily distribution list, I’d be most grateful. The online world takes up enough of my time every day that I resent intrusions of things I didn’t request. I am quite capable of locating information when I want it, thank you very much.

But, Tyler would tell me, that’s exactly the point. I have the option to filter out most of the things I don’t want. Sometimes, I have to take a few minutes to unsubscribe from something I never asked to join in the first place. At other times, I simply have to look for the box to click to ask not to be sent updates. I only check Facebook about once a week, when I’m really bored. We’re far from having complete control over the information coming at us, but neither are we completely at the mercy of online marketers. Yet.

1 comment:

Jan Crews said...


I use Google mail, known as Gmail, and I'm in love with their very smart spam filter. I used to get many of the sorts of mail you describe, but I mark it as spam once, and never see it again!

But it *is* frustrating to repeatedly ask companies to be taken off their lists, and have if fall on deaf ears. I'm with you there!