Panera Bread’s reaction to a breach of its customer records is a classic example of what not to do on so many levels that it’s hard to know where to start. Officials lied to reporters about the nature and extent of the breach, treated the security experts that knew what actually happened with disdain, took months to recognize the existence of the breach only after others revealed it to the public, told people that the leak was fixed when it wasn’t and glossed over the real issue: a major IT flaw in its application program interface specs that caused the breach to begin with (as well as another this week at P.F. Chang’s). It didn’t help matters that the chief information security officer at Panera came there from a similar job at Equifax in 2013.
With the #DeleteFacebook meme taking hold, this could be a turning point for privacy, or certainly is a major moment of reflection about what the role of marketing is in this debate. Marketers have certainly been dazzled by the potential of big data for targeting and personalization. Maybe they need to exercise more caution in the future, or at least respect the need for better privacy controls.
With my partner Paul Gillin, I discuss a few thoughts about the changing nature of privacy and what the revelations of the past week mean for marketers.
There’s also a new academic study on web tracking tools that shows that the threat of misbehaving third-party applications trampling on private data is huge. Thousands of these tracking tools are used by online advertisers, and many are good at evading ad blockers.
The notion of privacy by design has been around for more than a decade; perhaps marketers should take a moment to review some of its precepts.
I first met Adrian Lamo back in 2002. I was teaching a high school networking class and I thought it would be cool to have the kids experience a “real” hacker, since so many of them aspired to learn how to get into the computerized grading system that the school ran. It wasn’t a very exciting teachable moment, as I recall. But Lamo made a big impact on me, as he couch-surfed in my New York suburban apartment.
Sadly, I learned that last week he died at age 37 in Wichita, KS. The cause of death hasn’t yet been determined, and he had been living in the area for the past year, according to reports. Lamo moves around alot, thanks to a rather interesting personality that could best be described as on the autism spectrum. When I met him, he had the symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder and was later diagnosed with Aspberger’s. One of his quirks was that it would take him a while to leave my apartment every morning: he had a sequence of steps to follow in a very specific order before he could walk out the door.
Lamo was a study in contradictions: both very bright and very socially awkward, a Sheldon Cooper before his time. He had a high sense of morality. At the time Lamo stayed with me, he had been arrested for breaking into several different computer systems, including that of the freelancer database of the New York Times. His method was to find an open Web proxy server and use that to gain entry inside a corporate network. (It is still a common entry point method, although many companies have finally figured out how to protect themselves.) He never profited financially from these attacks, instead he would often leave hints on how a company could close these proxies and improve their security. He was sentenced to house arrest for the Times attack.
At the time we met, he was called the “homeless hacker” – not because he was living on the streets, but because he was young and had no fixed address, and would go from couch to couch as the mood took him. I offered him a place to stay and a chance to get to know him better, thinking how cool could that be? Little did I know.
When I told my then-teenage daughter about his impending visit, she was rather incredulous (you have someone wanted by the police staying with us) but ultimately she was won over by his geek cred – she had a problem with her cell phone that she recalls him fixing in a matter of seconds.
Lamo is remembered in various tributes in the past few days with his role in the Wikileaks/Cablegate case of 2010, when he divulged the name of Private Manning to the feds as the leaker. Both then and now, his decision was vilified in the hacking community, with numerous online threats.
I had a chance to speak to Lamo back in 2011 and recorded the interview for ReadWrite, where I was working at the time. It covers a lot of ground:
He has some very wise comments about the importance of government secrecy, and the freedoms that it enables for us all. Lamo saw the Manning case from the other side, as a case that would be eventually remembered supporting our freedoms. It was a real issue for him, because as a hacker he could certainly understand what Manning was trying to do, but as someone who also understood the role of our military he couldn’t in good conscience allow her to leak all that data. When Manning contacted Lamo he had a crisis of conscience and made his decision. He struggled over harming Manning, whom he considered a friend, or harming countless others who would be placed at risk because of Manning’s leaks. He wishes Manning had come to him before making the documents public.
This is certainly an interesting position for a hacker to take, to be sure. He was vilified in the hacker community because of it, but I think he made the right decision. “Who would have thought that when we first met ten years ago that I would have been involved in the single biggest intelligence leak in history,” he told me. How true.
He continued to work as a security consultant, helping corporations understand better security practices as well as going out on the speaking circuit. Ironically, his preferred method of communications more recently was FedEx! “I’m a little bit of a Luddite these days,” he said.
Lamo left this planet far too soon. He was a very smart guy and had a very solid moral compass, and those two traits guided his actions all his short life. I am sad that he is no longer with us, and hope that his life can be noted and celebrated for his accomplishments, verve and significance.
John Steinert joined TechTarget as CMO two years ago after a decades-long career in B2B technology at companies that included Pitney Bowes and SAP. So why join a tech publisher? Steinert actually doesn’t see TechTarget as a publisher, and in this recent piece he explained why he was so excited about the opportunity: product, purpose, people and potential. In this interview we discuss the differences between publishing and content marketing, how intent marketing can help provide insights into impending technology purchase decisions and how marketers can make their content more effective and targeted.
TechTarget’s not-so-secret weapon is its lead generation and tracking mechanisms, which permit the company to see exactly what kinds of content is crucial for their visitors. Steinert describes what data is collected — with visitors’ permissions of course — and how it can be used by their advertisers and sponsors. He also distinguishes between visitors who are just looking to snack on information versus binge consumers, who are likely closer to purchase.
This all makes a difference in what kind of content is created and how keywords are chosen to bring in the right visitors. “You have to have strong SEO, people have to find your stuff and it has to be cross-linked and judged popular and valuable,” he says
TechTarget’s distinction has always been its portfolio of microsites focused on technologies products or categories — such as SearchWindowsServer.com. But you’d be hard-pressed to find the names of those sites on the company’s home page today. That’s deliberate. Far from being a publisher, TechTarget is today a data company.
Marshall Kirkpatrick leads influencer marketing at Sprinklr. He and I worked together at ReadWrite long ago, and he subsequently started Little Bird, an influncer marketing platform that was acquired by Sprinklr in 2016. Since then, he has helped augment the combined platforms for the enterprise.
Marshall has been active in understanding how social media influence is acquired and measured for more than a decade, and likes to talk about this pyramid, in which influence is just one of several steps toward providing real insights into how a brand is understood in various media forms. While our discussion on this podcast is mostly about Twitter and measuring its influence and effects on marketing B2B brands, we also talk about how to find people within an organization that are more inclined to tell your story.
One key data point is to look at when someone started using social media networks: the earlier they did, the more potentially influential that person could be. It isn’t just about counting raw numbers of followers, Marshall says; an influencer has to be picky about who they follow. There are ways to suss this out. Social media is more about finding quality than quantity.
You can listen to Paul Gillin and I talk about this here.
The New York Times last week published the results of a fascinating research project entitled The Follower Factory, that describes how firms charge to add followers, retweets, likes and other social interactions to social media profiles. While we aren’t surprised at the report, it highlights why B2B marketers shouldn’t shortcut the process of understanding the substance of an influencer’s following when making decisions about whom to engage. The Times report identifies numerous celebrities from entertainment, business, politics, sports and other areas who have inflated their follower numbers for as little as one cent per follower. In most cases, the fake followers are empty accounts without any influence or copies of legitimate accounts with subtle tweaks that mask their illegitimacy.
The topic isn’t a new one for either of us. Paul wrote a book on the topic more than ten years ago. Real social media influencers get that way through an organic growth in their popularity, because they have something to say and because people respond to them over time. There is no quick fix for providing value.
Twitter is a popular subject for analysis because it’s so transparent: Anyone can investigate follower quality and root out fake accounts or bots by clicking on the number of followers in an influencer’s profile. Other academic researchers have begun to use Twitter for their own social science research, and a new book by UCLA professor Zachary Steinert-Threkeld called Twitter as Data is a useful place for marketers who know a little bit of code to assemble their own inquiries. (The online version of the book is presently free from the publisher for a limited time.) David has written more about his book on his blog here.
Paul and David review some of their time-tested techniques to growing your social media following organically, and note the ongoing value of blogs as a tool for legitimate influencers to build their followings.
We spoke to Justin Shriber, Vice President of Marketing for LinkedIn Sales and Marketing Solutions, to start off the new year. He put together a series of predictions for the year ahead, and in this discussion he explains them and the role that LinkedIn will play in advancing B2B sales and marketing in 2018.
— Smart, quanitative driven marketers will still be in high demand, but the pendulum will start to swing back toward marketers that have a qualitative eye for good stories.
— Brands will re-evaluate the platforms on which they post their content, favoring those that have gone on record saying that user trust is a priority for them. Brands want platforms that give them control over affiliations and customer IDs, where they show up, and the audiences to which they’re exposed.
— Sales will be the new awareness marketing channel. Sales used to be the direct connection to prospects, but we will see sellers start to build awareness through direct advocacy programs.
— Marketing will gather more intelligence around the reach employees have on the sales side. There will be formal processes that make it possible for employees to easily decide what shareable content speaks to them so they can maintain their own individuality while also benefiting the company.
— Sales and marketing alignment will continue to improve. Organizations need to engage both sales and marketing in a concerted way from awareness through conversion, rather than having marketing take the front end and sales the back end.