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When you build digital stuff all day, you develop opinions. Lots of opinions.


Digital Trends

Can the Dark Web Save Us? The Dark Web has a terrible reputation. Most news stories about the Dark Web focus on pedophiles, satanists, trolls, and drug dealers. And there are indeed pedophiles, satanists, trolls, and drug dealers on the Dark Web. Of course, those people were also on my subway car this morning. The point is that a lot of other people use the dark web as well. Anonymity has value to political dissidents or just people with harmless sexual kinks that they would prefer not to have associated with their browsing history. As consumers become more aware of the extent to which their digital lives are being actively monitored and mined for preferences, I believe the Dark Web will become much less Dark. Ultimately, this will be of greatest benefit to companies like Google. Their data collection and monitoring will seem far less invasive if consumers could easily choose an alternative. Application to Marketing: Mention the Dark Web to marketers and they run in the opposite direction. This is a mistake. Even the Internet looked dangerous and skeevy when it first got started. I believe marketers will soon begin to develop Dark Web marketing strategies to reach customers who might be uncomfortable buying a product, or not have access to the product for political reasons, or who would just prefer to remain anonymous. Marketers may imagine that tracking users is the great promise of the internet. But users would greatly prefer anonymity. The users will win. Availability: In about 3 years, Dark Web marketing will be a thriving niche. Read More Which 30%? According to Instagram’s own best estimates, users miss about 70% of the posts in their feed. So Instagram has decided to make a big change. Rather than displaying the posts in chronological order, they will prioritize based on anticipated user interest, just like Facebook. However, some savvy observers have suggested that this is just a way to force brands to pay for promoted posts. Currently, brands that have invested heavily in creating beautiful images use Instagram like free media. As a result, the service has been especially popular with small businesses. Application to Marketing: I am shocked (SHOCKED!) to learn that Facebook intended to monetize their $1 billion purchase of Instagram. Who could have guessed that Zuckerberg purchased the company for slightly less than altruistic reasons? There’s not much to be done here. If your brand has been investing in Instagram, make sure you’re making the most effective use of hashtags you can. (Without hashtag-stuffing - #toomanyhashtags #hashtagoverload #redundant #beatingadeadhorse.) We’ll see how this plays out. Availability: Talk to your social media agency. Read More Twitter isn’t Dying I was not a believer in Twitter when it first came out. “What the hell is it for?” I remember asking a younger, infinitely more tech-savvy friend. That long-ago me might have felt vindicated by all the technology articles anticipating the death of twitter. That long-ago me was also an idiot. There is no good word for what Twitter is for, although people throw around words like “conversations,” “moments,” and “micro-blogging.” But that doesn’t change the fact that Twitter does seem to be the conduit for a fundamentally new kind of behavior; a behavior that is not going away any time soon. Yes, Instagram is more popular. It’s also totally different. Twitter may not have eye-popping growth over the next ten years. But Proctor & Gamble is unlikely to have eye-popping growth either. If the tech economy is ever going to grow up, we need to realize that growth is not the only measure of a company’s success. Having 305 million active users is not evidence of failure. Application to Marketing: Twitter is not the solution to what ails marketing. Neither is Instagram or Whatsapp or Snapchat. It’s useful and most marketers should have a Twitter strategy that focuses on the things Twitter is uniquely good at, like real time conversations with customers. But we need to take the temperature down on discussions about digital and social. Google and Facebook and Twitter all have good, mature products in the market. All of these products are useful to marketers. Nothing is free and nothing is going to fix all of our problems. Let’s all calm down and work it out. The only place more driven by hysteria and rumor than advertising is technology. Availability: Assume you will be using Twitter for at least the next five years. Read More When Open Source Isn’t Like most people who develop digital products for a living, I am a big fan of open source software. There are some functions, like “log in” that are so absurdly common across all digital products that it seems ridiculous that we should have to write them each time from scratch. Open source software allows us to download the basic functionality and then customize it to our needs. This allows us to innovate faster and build more securely. Open source has now reached far beyond such basic functionality. From Google’s Android to Apple’s Swift to Facebook’s React, cutting edge technology is now open and available to all. So it’s easy to forget that company’s almost never open source the technology where they make their real money. Google treats their search algorithms like nuclear codes and Apple is happy for you to use Swift to develop apps, as long as you don’t try to break into iOS itself. That’s not bad necessarily. It’s just that otherwise quite generous technology companies can become a wee bit anti-competitive when you get too near the crown jewels. Application to Marketing: In technology, almost anything is possible given enough time and money to throw at the problem. But there are also quite basic things (like creating a different structure for a Facebook post) that are not possible. Marketers have grown used to the apparently limitless ability of technology to give them exactly what they want. So they can become slightly grumpy when informed that certain things aren’t possible. I get it. I once worked at an advertising agency that proudly declared “Nothing is impossible.” While I appreciate the spirit, impossible things are very much impossible. It is not possible to manipulate closed, proprietary software. Sorry. Availability: Companies will always protect their core IP. Sorry. Read More

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