Most of us would say we appreciate a visit to a website or social networking site that offers up content relevant to our interests. It’s often why we bookmark these sites and revisit them. Do we stop to consider what’s going on behind the scenes to enable this smart and savvy push of catered content? Or have we considered the impact of how our online viewing and click-throughs on websites and social networks streamline yet silo our exposure to the world?
I recently attended Trendigital’s second annual conference in Sioux Falls, SD. Several of the seven speakers throughout the afternoon touched on the content topic and related questions came up for the full group panel at the end of day. People were concerned about how the increasing use of technology in every aspect of our lives is impacting our world view and in-person interactions. How much submersion in technology can we all handle?
Co-presenters Chris Prendergast and Sarah Rhea Werner with ClickRain titled their presentation Skynet SEO: How Google is Becoming More Human. They walked us through the evolution of search on the web from eighties searches and SEO cheater tactics; to the new millennium SEO keyword-driven content creation; to today’s more sophisticated approach of Google Plus – an outright ask to allow collection of our online habits in order to push more relevant content. Werner planted this idea on the evolution of search: We’re going from card catalogue to concierge.
After walking us through some painful search examples from the past with content we were looking for buried eight pages deep, they demo’ed Hummingbird, the new Google mobile search based on semantics (Oct 2013) and Google’s biggest algorithm update in four years. A search that uses your location, time of day and other clues to offer up its best guess of relevant content. Plus you can ask it via voice in question form, rather than keyword. So personable and they quickly pointed out, better than Siri. This is all great, right? We love that someone gets us and we get needed information quickly.
Also notable in searches was Knowledge Graph on Google (May 2012) which offers a page with your standard suggested links, but culls the top information on the same page in the right-hand column so you may not even need to click a link because the info you seek lies in the graph. Lastly, we touched on Google Plus and it’s goal to create an online identity for you to streamline and target information to individuals based on their preferences. Again, all good, right?
At what cost? Technology advances and people respond, ever narrowing the gap for marketers to reach us in any way shape or form. Crossing social boundaries like never before at increasing rates before we understand the effect on society. As a parent, I’m concerned about giving my children correct ideas about social norms and online behavior. As a marketer, I’m all for a more targeted reach to a qualified audience. As an individual, I like to think that it’s okay for Google and social sites to know a bit about me, but they’ll never completely understand all the nuances of my personality, likes and dislikes.
We talked about Facebook’s constantly changing and non-publicized algorithms, filter bubbles and Google Plus’ creating an online identity for us. As a consumer, websites feed more relevant, specific content based on our past interests, and social networks favor pushing content of those who post, share and get the most likes. As a result, our world may become more silo’ed in terms of awareness and our online relationships may become more valuable than in-person relationships.
I believe in finding a balance in all of this and looking to technology to advance positive goals and human connections. Studies and statistics about our society also play into this, including the increasing number of people specifically in America, who live alone and sometimes go for days with no in-person interaction. This video on the Innovation of Loneliness sums it up well in my opinion.
Paul Ten Haken, ClickRain founder and presenter on the topic: Digital Trends for 2014, sited projections like 7.6 Billion people will own 50 Billion devices by 2020, retail store experiences becoming more tailored through beacon technology and positive uses for technology like Libelium Smartworld. It’s clear, especially looking through Google Glasses, that technology continues to touch all aspects of our lives. It’s for us humans to continually consider its impact and uses to channel it toward the positive or plus, if you will.