In praise of fake profiles

If you are in sales or marketing and above 25 years of age, you are probably wrong.  The assumptions you base your decisions on are severely limited.  We often thank our kids for ideas, for keeping us “in touch”, but it is much much more complicated a matter.  And extremely important.   I have hundreds of fake profiles.   Not sure if “fake” is the correct term.  I pretend to be someone I am not as a form of market research.  In fact it is often the first thing I do when presented with a new project.

It starts with a fake Google account.  This is vital.  Search results are personalized.  You will never get it all perfect, but if you at least persuade it that you live wherever you are researching and then make sure you do Google searches logged in from this fake Google profile, the world you are seeing will be a little more like your target.  Sign up for whatever products and services you are looking for from this signed in Chrome browser.    You have to try and live the part.

With Facebook things are even more dangerous.  That person in marketing you think is “up to speed with all this new stuff”, well, just isn’t.   If I have a really successful Instagram account, or a very active personal Facebook profile I only see what that particular profile’s take on the world is.   Some days I might whiz through multiple profiles to check up on them, just housekeeping.  Hard to describe just how different it feels to be in each newsfeed.  Some are simply based in different locations, with friends from a particular island or city.  Age differences are even more stunning.  The same political event which fills your friends’ timelines when you are 50, doesn’t even appear when you are 16.

It isn’t fashionable anymore, but I always make sure my fake people have a website, blog or other public trove of information on whatever topic I am researching.   This gives me unique insights into what people are looking for.   It is the “honeypot” approach.  In content marketing it is easier to just start testing ideas like this.  And when the first organic google searches land my way, it is like Christmas day!  Somebody wrote what they wanted to know in Google and came to me, fake me, this particular person.  Why?  How?  What cyberspace hole did I fill with what I just did?

If anything, building a fake profile is a humbling experience.  Because you realize just how complex a web social beings like humans create.  We earn trust.  Slowly.   A “follow” by a 13 year old is a very, very, very different action to a “follow” by a 60 year old.  He then posts what he just had for breakfast without thinking about it, while the senior citizen is carefully crafting a comment as if he is writing to the Economist.

Marketing people are often fooled by their own brand.  In the case of social media they are also sidetracked by their personal profiles and habits.  These are extremely dynamic, immature new mediums, still jostling for position, changing architecture and interfaces.   There is no agreed way to assess them, no specific assigned meaning to what we all do with them.  So get off your high horse and mingle with the natives.

Greece vs Greek: a wor(l)d of difference

Looking at the volume of web searches (Google data) for the two words, there a number of interesting things to note:

Global volume of web searches by word

The glaring conclusion is that “Hellas” (the proper name for the region) is hardly used.   Also “Greeks” are seldom requested as people.   There is a seasonality.   Searches drop off in July and August, possibly as many expatriot Greeks return to the homeland and stop searching for it online.  (A smaller, similar drop occurs in December.)   The most interesting thing to note about this (randomized) data from Google is that the two words do not actually always follow each other closely in their trends.   It starts making sense if we see

Cephallonia

what words are associated with each:

1. ancient greece
100
2. greek
95
3. athens
75
4. athens greece
75
5. greece map
65
6. greece weather
40
7. holidays
40
8. greece holidays
35
9. map of greece
30
10. greece travel
25

Meteora

Greece is about travel, Athens and holidays.   Whereas “Greek” is about yoghurt, salad and all things Greek like:

1. the greek
100
2. greek movies
40
3. greek mythology
35
4. mythology
35
5. greek gods
35
6. greek subs
30
7. ancient greek
30
8. greek god
30
9. greece
25
10. greek alphabet
20

“Greek” is used as a common tag for online activities for Greeks all over the world.  This becomes more evident when we see the common searches around “Greek” and focus only on the region of Greece:

“Greek-style” yogurts are similar to Greek strained yogurt, but may be thickened with thickening agents, or if made the traditional way, are based on domestic (rather than Greek) milk.

 

 

1. greek subs
100
2. movies
90
3. greek movies
85
4. greek subtitles
40
5. subtitles
40
6. greek torrent
15
7. greek tv
15
8. youtube
10
9. greek movie
10
10. greek video
10

 

In fact there are great regional variations to the search.   In the US for example “Greek” is closely associated to Greek ancient history and Greek products.  (And thanks to New Yorkers especially – obviously more concerned with the quality of their food!)

Web searches (US only)

Notice the difference in seasonality as the blue line (searches for “Greece”) is relatively stable.   In the UK, the picture is almost the exact opposite!