We Know Who YOU Are Dating Tonight!


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The world we have created is a data-rich place. Each of us generates hundreds of data points every day through commonplace activities like using the internet, making phone calls and of course, through shopping. And as analytical methods and computational power grow, our ability to predict what you are interested in, what you will be doing tonight and of course, what you are likely to buy, grows with them too. And I don’t mean predictiing what a population will do, the basis of much of today’s out-dated prediction, but what you, yes YOU, will likely do. Even down to who you will be dating tonight!

Two research programmes at MIT’s famous Media Lab illustrate the power of the new predictive analytics. Both rely upon the ability to identify patterns of behaviour in enormous volumes of noisy behavioural data.

The first, the Reality Mining programme uses mobile phone calling, position and proximity data from the software-enabled mobile phones of a hundred faculty and students at MIT to understand their complex social behaviour. The analytical tools developed by the programme are able to predict the behaviour of faculty and students with uncanny accuracy over the following few hours. In addition to creating useful tools for users, the researchers were so successful at identifying close social relationships between students that they were able to spin out a dating company called Serendipity based upon their patented analytical tools.

The second, the Group Media programme also uses mobile phone location, proximity, call tonality and other interaction data from the software-enabled mobile phones of subjects to understand their social interactions. Like in the Reality Mining programme, the analytical tools developed are able to predict the outcomes of subjects in business social situations like making elevator pitches and pricing negotiations with remarkable accuracy.

These new approaches to social data analysis could potentially provide companies with radically improved tools to manipulate social media for the purpose of marketing and selling products. Even though the two MIT programmes are not yet widely known, the potential is obvious. It doesn’t take much imagination to see how mobile social networking companies could offer simple downloadable applications to mobile phone users to improve their success at work, at play and in their love lives. And as there is no such thing as a free lunch, the quid pro quo could be something as simple as signing up for a subscription service that crunches the numbers on behalf of the customers and provides just-in-time social support, all the way to providing paid access to the customers for third-parties through a multi-sided market.

As I said earlier, we really do know who you will be dating tonight? Want to buy a dozen red roses from our partner florist? Our analysis shows that you are highly compatible with your date…

What do you think? Is nothing sacred? Or could you do with some help with your social life?

Post a response and get the conversation going.

Graham Hill
Independent CRM Consultant
Interim CRM Manager

Graham Hill (Dr G)
Business Troubleshooter | Questioning | Thoughtful | Industrious | Opinions my own | Connect with me on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/grahamhill/


  1. In 2004, AMA defines marketing as “an organizational function and a set of processes for creating, communicating, and delivering values to customers and for managing customer relationships in ways that benefit the organization and its stakeholders.”

    The key word in this definition is values. Delivering values to customers is the prerequisite for providing benefit back to the firm.

    Customers value privacy. What values will this new technology bring to customers if it has to understand their social interactions by intruding into their privacy?

    The world is not only flat, but regrettably immorally flat.

    Daryl Choy, the founder of Touchpoint eXperience Management, helps firms make a difference at every touchpoint. Choy can be reached at wisdomboom.blogspot.com.

  2. Daryl

    You might be right at a superficial level – everybody values privacy if asked a straight yes/no question – but countless surveys have shown that people are willing to give up quite a lot of privacy in exchange for what they value, be that free minutes, free SMSs, or additional services.

    This has nothing to do with morals whatsoever. It has to do with value exchange, which has always been at the very heart of business.

    Graham Hill
    Independent CRM Consultant
    Interim CRM Manager

  3. Graham

    Although people are willing to give up privacy in exchange for value, the firm has to get permission from the customers. Without permission, it is an intrusion, and intrusion is immoral.

    The ability to exchange value is only an entry ticket to market competition.

    Daryl Choy, the founder of Touchpoint eXperience Management, helps firms make a difference at every touchpoint. Choy can be reached at wisdomboom.blogspot.com.

  4. Daryl

    The subject of interuption versus permission marketing is much more complex than just whether it is amoral (or even immoral).

    In free market economies, sellers have the right to pitch their products and services to unsuspecting prospects in the hope that they will buy. In other words, they have the right to interupt prospects. They do not need their permission. Like it or not, this is consitutionally protected as free speech in the USA and most other advanced free market economies.

    Despite the over-abundance of poor quality marketing pushing at the boundaries of their free speech rights, I see no need to change this system, which by and large works. And certainly not to a Catch-22 system where prospects would have to opt-in to receive communications about products which they may not be aware of, before they can receive communications about them.

    The essentially non-moral issue is whether it makes business sense to interupt prospects to ask their permission to offer new products and services. Unless prospects stumble upon products through serendipity, they generally need to be interupted at the start of the buying cycle so that they are aware of the product and its potential benefits.

    Once they are customers, it is far easier to offer appropriate additional products without seeking permission each and every time. It may make business sense to ask for general permission to communicate to customers, (or to go give them possibility to easily opt-out), but that is a business decision, (or a legal requirement), not a moral issue.

    Mobile phones are very personal devices, perhaps the most personal of all devices. That means that business should be very vary of intruding into customers’ privacy with inappropriate offers. But again, that is a business decision, not a moral one.

    Graham Hill
    Independent CRM Consultant
    Interim CRM Manager

    PS. In the two examples I quoted from MIT’s research programme, users obviously did opt-in to take part in the scientific experiment.

  5. The clever people at MIT are at it again. All 70 delegates at a recent MIT conference were given smart badges that recorded various things about their conference behaviour. This allowed researchers to construct social network diagrams of their behaviour and to share it with the delegates live. The social network information was quite a hit for the delegates.

    It is only a matter of time before this technology is built into all mobile phones. The one device that half of the entire world population already carry with them everywhere they go. Users will be able to turn various aspects of what they braodcast about themselves to others locally, on or off as they wish. We are indeed entering a brave new always-on world.

    Tip of the hat to Roland at Smart Mobs.

    Graham Hill
    Independent CRM Consultant
    Interim CRM Manager


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