All posts in “Social Good”

Big Data and the Perception of Privacy

Cam Finlayson is a Director on the Client Strategy & Innovation team at Social Media Group.

On Feb 17, 2012, I had the pleasure of participating in SMG’s Ignite-style Social Media Week Toronto Event.  The Ignite presentation format itself was a fun challenge, although what was most memorable for me were the conversations that took place after the six presentations.

My session focused primarily on privacy concerns and the future of social data. Based on the dialog after the event, it become clear that this topic was very much top of mind for many of the attendees. Interestingly, there were related articles published in the New York Times the weekend before SMW 2012 on Big Data and a second the following weekend highlighting Target’s use of personal information . These along with the recent changes to the Google Privacy settings likely provided much fuel for discussion. What follows are three of my favourite discussion points during this post-presentation dialog.

Volunteered Data & The Value Exchange

It is my belief that the privacy debate is an extremely complex issue and it will take some time to settle. That said, public option regarding ‘volunteered data’, or willing contributed information (Twitter posts, Facebook comments, etc.), is relatively straightforward. It is generally understood that in situations where there is a clear value exchange of a service for data or personal information, this is part of the social contract of using digital tools. In other words, in exchange for the use of a free service like Facebook or Google there are terms that outline privacy and ownership considerations. It is also understood that the value of this information to companies like Facebook or Google is that it provides valuable user intelligence that can be leveraged as part of their advertising offering.

Observed Data & Consumer Profiling

In comparison, the world of ‘observed data’, or the breadcrumbs of information we leave behind as we conduct our day-to-day digital lives, is an entirely different story. In many ways, this is the new Wild West of data with very few rules and many trailblazers. For example, corporations that are developing innovative techniques in data analysis are seeing huge benefits. That said, as public awareness increases these innovative practices are put into question.

A perfect example of this is found in the recent New York Times article on Target . Many readers were alarmed by the accuracy of Target’s customer profiling via data refinement. The fact that the company could anticipate major life milestones (like upcoming pregnancy) based on changes in buying habits (increase of body lotion consumption and a switch to unscented) is too much ‘Big Brother’ for some. However, for corporations and marketers alike, the ability to predict these milestones creates an attractive opportunity to generate consumer brand loyalty by marketing to an impressionable consumer at a time when they’re experiencing major change of habits.

Data As An Owned Asset Versus The Concept of Open Data

As we look to the future, arguments regarding data ownership run the gamut. However, most agree that data has become its own asset class that will continue to increase in value in the years to come. There are some that feel all personal data is the property of the individual and, as such, in the future we will be able to decide how this information is used.  Whereas, in contrast, many feel that our ‘digital exhaust’ is simply open information that is legitimately free game for those that have the means to refine it.

Looking to the Future

We live in a day and age where sharing personal information is part and parcel with how we conduct our digital lives. This exchange is so intertwined with our digital existence that for younger generations it is becoming an afterthought.

The decisions that are made now regarding ownership and use of personal data will lay the groundwork for digital information platforms. And here’s a reality check: Gone are the days for fretting over whether or not information is collected. The focus now needs to be on how personal information can be used and ultimately who dictates the terms.

If you missed the SMG Social Media Week event you can see all of the presentations here. My presentation on Big Data and social good can be found below:





5 Ways to Mobilize Communities for Social Good

Michelle McCudden is a Manager of Client Strategy & Innovation at Social Media Group. Follow@mmccudden1

Actor Joshua Malina made a request on Monday via Facebook Causes for a birthday donation on his behalf to MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger. His goal was for his followers and friends to donate $10, or whatever they could afford. As of writing, he has over $2,000, far exceeding the $250 he set as an initial target. Seeing this act of kindness made me think about other well-known online personalities who are using social media to spread a little social good.

Jenny Lawson, known to her readers as The Bloggess has spearheaded several fundraising efforts via social media. She raised $42,000 for needy families last Christmas, and this year spurred her readers to donate 750 care packages with security blankets, books and stuffed animals for homeless children (some Bloggess posts include NSFW language). Right now, she’s connecting people around a movement she calls the Traveling Red Dress (details here) in which readers are sending one another items, including red dresses, that symbolize something that they really want, but wouldn’t allow themselves to have. According to Forbes, offers to share dresses had surpassed the hundreds by Monday.

Sarah D. Bunting, best known as the co-founder of TelevisionWithoutPity, runs the blog Tomato Nation and has been hosting a contest to raise money through since 2004.  To date, her readers have raised almost $700,000, benefiting teacher-submitted projects at public schools across the U.S.

If you’re thinking about running a campaign for social good, for yourself or for a client, what can we take away from these successes?

Choose causes that resonate with your audiences. Sarah Bunting at Tomato Nation started working with DonorsChoose, a group that works to fund projects for public schools, after readers expressed that they “felt discouraged by Bush’s re-election and what that would mean for progressive causes.”

Offer an incentive. It doesn’t have to be a monetary prize or particularly large, but an incentive shows that you’re invested and appreciative. For example, Malina is rewarding donors with a personal “thank you” and a Follow on Twitter. Each year, Sarah Bunting chooses a task that she’ll accomplish if the community reaches certain goals, including shaving her head in 2006.

Use the tools at your disposal. In all three of these examples, the organizer used multiple platforms to reach out to their communities: Twitter, Facebook, their blogs, Flickr. Remember that while some will follow you across platforms, some readers are only checking you out on Twitter or via your blog.

Make participation easy. Lower the barriers. To donate to Joshua Malina’s charity, users can login through Facebook Causes, an easy-to-use one-pager that lets users make a one-time donation or set up a monthly recurring payment. Readers interested in donating or receiving a Traveling Red Dress need look no further than the hashtag, #travelingreddress.

Don’t underestimate the social element. Donors Choose allows Tomato Nation readers to form groups around Giving Pages, where they can target particular types of projects or price points to tackle together. Facebook Causes lets donors leave messages, in the form of birthday cards or videos, to Joshua and the rest of the other donors. It feels great to donate to a worthy cause – for many it feels even better to do so as part of a like-minded community.

What’s your favorite example of an act of fundraising done via social media?