I put on my futurist hat and I wondered, “What is the worst thing that could happen with social media?” This is the blog post I don’t want to write in 10 years. I don’t really think this will happen but I think it’s important to remember that it is possible.
It was a bit of fiction, written from the future. Something I enjoyed doing and plan to do more of. The basic question is what happens to marketing when we can track you just as well offline as we can online? Here’s the relevant excerpts:
Not only could we target you with ads exactly when you wanted, we could target ads exactly when you were algorithmically most susceptible.
We began to build algorithms that tracked what you were searching for. How many times did you have to perform that search? How quickly were you searching, clicking?
What locations were you visiting? What locations had you visited? Were you traveling alone or with a friend or family member?
What was the tone of your status updates that day? Were you in a good mood or a bad mood?
Which of your friends did you call, email or message?
Which of your friends are influencers to you about which category of products? What have your friends purchased lately?
How quickly were you traveling through the store? Were you in a hurry or taking your time? Were you in a good mood susceptible to messages of reward or in a bad mood susceptible to messages of comfort?
Have you been sticking to your diet lately?
Did you just break up with your girlfriend/boyfriend?
The list goes on. The list fills data centers. And those data centers process that information in real-time as you move through the Webbed World. It recalculates your personal algorithm with every click and new event, with each bit of new information you shared on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, your blog, your online and publicly available offline behavior.
Why do I bring this up again? Because of this nifty little patent filed by Microsoft:
A newly surfaced Microsoft patent application describes a “user-following engine” that would analyze a user’s posts on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites to deduce mood, interests, and possibly even the person’s education level and comprehension of specific topics.
Then the system would automatically adjust the search experience and results to better match those characteristics.
In the case of the person’s mood, for example, the background of the search interface could be changed to a different color. Or if the person has been posting to Facebook about an upcoming trip, the search engine can use that to make the search engine.
They’ve already updated the patent.
Now the company is taking things a step further, adding ads and the Kinect sensor to the mix.
A different Microsoft patent application, made public this week, proposes targeting ads to users based on their emotional state at any given point.
Do you seem happy? You’ll see ads for vacation packages and consumer electronics, but not weight-loss programs or self-help products. Do you appear sad? You won’t see that over-the-top animated ad for children’s birthday parties at the local bowling alley. Feeling frustrated? It’s PC support ads for you.
Those are actual examples from the patent application, which incorporates some of the same ideas as the earlier filing for deducing the user’s mood — including scanning messages and social media postings. Also included this time are audio and video capture devices (to detect facial expressions and tone of voice) in addition to the company’s Kinect sensor, which would be used to analyze body movements as another input for the emotion-detecting algorithm.
As shown below in a diagram from the patent filing, advertisers would be able to tag their campaigns to target users in specific emotional states and avoid others.
This is a whole new level for multi-channel marketing.
I wrote the post in a very dystopian mind-set but I don’t view this kind of technology as being good or evil. This could be very convenient and appreciated. It could also be used to exploit people who are feeling a little emotionally vulnerable. So this isn’t a warning about the technology but a warning to the Marketeers who would use it.