How useful is all that data on Facebook?

15 Jun

Indulge your ego for a moment. Imagine a distant future where you are an icon of our age. There is a museum dedicated to you. People come from around the world to discover who you were through the images, video, and words taken from records kept safe through the years by Facebook. As you picture the exhibits, what do they include? How would the future see you through the lens of your online identity?

Museum of Me Facebook Picture Wall

Intel’s “Museum of Me” is an innovative glimpse into what that might actually look like. By connecting to your Facebook account, the website creates a virtual museum tour dedicated to you. If you haven’t tried it yet, I strongly recommend it. The experience is quite thought-provoking.

However, what the software decided to include was unusual. There were friends who weren’t really friends, and phrases out of context. Some pictures I recognized, others held absolutely no meaning. If this was truly a “Museum of Me”, the patrons would now be mistaken about who I actually am, or was. And if this is based on data from Facebook, maybe Facebook doesn’t have a very good idea about who I am either.

With all the information available on my profile, can a metric or algorithm really capture anything truly insightful about me? Perhaps the usefulness in these mountains of data ends with micro-targeting.

As people we often get each other wrong. Misconceptions and false impressions, egos, vanity, and pride, they all confuse the world to who we really are. More of the same data doesn’t mean a better market profile; you need different sets of data to compare. No matter how big our online lives get, parts of them will remain offline. If you’re depending solely on Facebook and Google to describe your market, you’ll get a picture that’s incomplete and maybe even inaccurate.

Do you compare what you learn about your market online to what you know from other sources? If it doesn’t line up, who do you believe?


5 Responses to “How useful is all that data on Facebook?”

  1. Doug Brown June 15, 2011 at 1:17 pm #

    But that’s the thing about Facebook. For some it’s a popularity contest (how many people really have 1,500+ friends?) and for others it’s selective disposal of personal details. In my own case, half of the stuff I put on Facebook is nonsense. I wouldn’t blame the algorithm as much as the people who use the platform. So to your point, how valuable is the data that is being mined? Great post Bryan.

  2. Bethany Saldaña June 16, 2011 at 1:41 pm #

    Hope you don’t mind if I share this on facebook… 🙂

  3. Bryan Dwyer June 16, 2011 at 2:11 pm #

    Thanks Doug. There is no doubt that targeting ads on Facebook by general demographics is incredibly useful. It’s when we start building psychographic profiles by mining the data on Facebook, or online in general for that matter, that things loose precision. This has made me appreciate the fact that I am not really myself online and any profile based on my online data is broken. However, maybe that will change with millennials and other future generations.

    And Bethany, I would love it if you shared this on Facebook. But I can’t help but wonder what the algorithms will decide such an action says about you.

  4. Bertha June 16, 2011 at 3:24 pm #

    Outstanding post Bryan.

    Intel’s brilliance on this one really reminded me of Arcade Fire’s the Wilderness Downtown video. I’m sure you’ve already seen it, you know the one that personalizes the music video based on your hometown with the help of google maps… genius (

    These types of creative, interactive sites are what it’s all about these days. Props to Intel for the idea and execution.

    Makes me all warm and fuzzy when I learn of creative ideas such as these.


  5. Bryan Dwyer June 16, 2011 at 4:23 pm #

    Thanks Bertha. I have seen Arcade Fire’s The Wilderness Downtown. It sent chills down my spine the first time I watched it. Exceptional creative concepts get you thinking and feeling – Museum of Me and The Wilderness Downtown are two great examples. Not to mention they were both excellent opportunities for some cross promotion (Intel/Facebook and Arcade Fire/Google Chrome).

    At its best, marketing encourages creativity, just like (at its best) capitalism encourages innovation.

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