Pardon me?!

Like it or not, we all do it these days. It's uncontrollable. It's relentless. And it never decays.

It's your personal digital dump. The enormous pile of digital data each of us is generating as we go about our daily routines — exploring with search engines; buying things; contributing and reacting to online consumer reviews; clicking on ads or videos; “voting” for anything online; using everyday tools and guides from EZPass to Zagat's to car GPS systems.

Increasingly, marketers are combing through our “digital residue” and combining it with that of our fellow emitters to develop powerful data algorithms to predict our behavior and sell us stuff.

Sooner or later this sophisticated use of data will hit the fundraising world, which is still pretty much in the Pleistocene era of data management, using a simple data overlay every now and then. But if you're a direct mail marketer, think about the superior results you get when you rent a bunch of lists and mail the multi's. What you've done in essence is pop out of the pack an higher potential individual who has already engaged in several behaviors (all involving donating, purchasing or subscribing) relevant to your appeal. Pretty basic.

The new, more advanced version of this data mining – made possible by the avalanche of digital data now available on each of us – can relate behaviors that are both obvious and not obvious to target and customize marketing appeals.

In this piece, for serious marketers only, datahead Max Kalehoff of Nielsen BuzzMetrics elaborates on the point. He talks about what it means to marketers – and, says The Agitator, that includes direct marketing fundraisers and online cause advocates – and gives examples on how marketing algorithms have shaped his daily life choices recently. Max observes:

The bottom line is that algorithms now are entrenched in our lives and influence what information we search, discover, share, communicate, receive and believe. Algorithms are increasingly defining our perceptions and reality, and we often dont realize when this process is going on. The impact can be subtle or massive, immediate or lagging, narrow or broad. Consequences can be intended or calculated, but are often chance.

You are your algorithm!

BTW, BuzzMetrics is not a disinterested player in this biz. See this NY Times piece for an interesting report on how they monitor blog and other traffic in real time to advise corporate clients about the online buzz surrounding their brands. With sophisticated content analysis of online discussions, face-to-face focus groups might become the dinosaurs of market research!

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