The idea of using data to change behaviour is fascinating to me.
Of course, the fact that we basically have no privacy online and all our data can be harvested (legally or illegally) and used to sway our opinions is pretty terrifying.
Mindf*uck is the story of Cambridge Analytica as told by Christopher Wylie, a data scientist with an interest in politics who helped start the company but also became one of the first whistle-blowers against it.
Cambridge Analytica famously used Facebook’s data gathering abilities to gather huge amounts of intelligence on users, based on what they did online. With this data, they could sway minds and elections, and most people had no idea they were being quietly profiled and their data sold.
It was a gross invasion of privacy and extremely unethical and illegal. It was also, sadly, very smart.
They were very sophisticated in the way they identified their audience and targeted content. They’d target people who were just on the cusp of behaviour change and push them to take action.
For example, in the 2016 US election, instead of targeting Democrats to try and change their vote, they targeted Republicans who hadn’t been as active in voting over the last few elections and those who had mild Republican views, targeting them with content that would push them to get fired up, be more politically active and more likely to vote.
Never mind that the content they served was fake, and usually graphically violent.
It’s awful, but given the power of social media today, it’s something we must learn from.
And there is a lesson here. Social is strong, and to change behaviour, we must target our audience exactly.
Let’s say we want to encourage more people to be environmentally conscious and friendly in their day to day lives. Your campaign could target people who were mildly conscious and worried about climate change and empower them with the information of how they could practically make a difference. Maybe you could nudge them, just a little, and achieve our goal?
Like all communications, digital marketing and social media are powerful, and they can be destructive in the wrong hands. Let’s harness their energy for good, and give people real information they can use to act in their best interests.