Archives for posts with tag: assumptions

SXSW is overwhelming madness, as usual. I had 15 meetings already, more than 10 to go. It’s easy to google the person in advance or check their profiles.

The problem is, we tend to pretend to know others based on public information. What we share on social profiles is not really meant to be a real representation of ourselves. When you use the tools to create closeness and familiarity with the other person, you cheat just a little bit and try to trick your way into their emotional self.

It’s a common technique, used by traditional direct marketers. You offer a product/service based on previous purchases. Direct Marketers track the success diligently and optimize based on performance. When digital marketing took off, marketers tried to copy that direct response technique. Unfortunately, they were not as disciplined as their traditional counterparts and made bad assumptions.

You look at outdoor sports sites, let’s send you an email with a background featuring the great outdoors.

You visit a site for car enthusiasts and you’ll be considered one of them until the end of time. (Or until you delete your cookie.)

In real life, it’s often better to start a conversation without assuming anything, just being curious and open. In the digital marketing world, many digital campaigns don’t succeed because they are based on false assumptions.

If you want to be successful, you need to be sure that your assumptions are right. Or you better start out with a blank slate.


Whenever I go to Facebook, I tend to see the same people on top of my newsfeed (I love you all.) and a lot of (almost) strangers. I met some of them a few years back, made the connection, never to see them again. I know what they are doing each day, what hotel they are staying, what song they are listening to.

But I often don’t see my own wife. Or my best friend.

There’s mounting evidence that Facebook is making assumptions about me – without asking.

Those (false assumptions) are shaping who else I see, meet and talk with and I find that deeply problematic.

Last weekend, while watching football, I went through all my Facebook friends and clicked on the forgotten ones. The ones that I normally don’t see. The ones that I miss. My friends. I was hoping that clicking on their profile would change the algorithm and let Facebook know that I care about these people. Nothing changed. I still see the usual suspects. And the strangers.

Personalization can be very convenient and useful. But it can also be wrong and damaging. Personalization may find you lots of what you like, but look at the ads that you see. They are based on similar assumptions. On my page, it’s the request to like Michelle Obama, some crappy brain enhancing formula and the request to like Kia. I don’t care about Michelle Obama that much, my brain functions very well, thank you very much, and don’t get me started on Kia.

Assumptions behind personalization are wrong all too often.

Those assumptions will push you in a direction that you may not want to head into. I don’t mind reading about strangers but the reason for investing time in Facebook was to stay close to family and friends, wasn’t it? Facebook should offer the option of opting in and give me more freedom. They can ask each of us to confirm assumptions they are making.

Of course they won’t. It’s inconvenient to them in their haste to assume they know what is convenient to us and what is not.

It will get worse.

Rumor says, Facebook will try to get public next year. This will increase the pressure on the platform to improve monetization. The algorithm will be changed to improve opportunities for brands to connect with us. We’ll see more brands/advertising/marketing and less friends. Makes sense for Facebook. Not so much for us.