Sunday, December 14, 2008

Click: Unexpected Insights for Business and Life

Click is an insightful well written book that gives us a window into the world of online data research. Click was written by Bill Tancer who is a researcher at Hitwise, an online competitive intelligence company. Bill analyzes the data of what people do on the internet. Hitwise has one of the largest samples of aggregate internet behavior data. It’s hard to think of online data research as exciting, but this book will open eyes as to how interesting and important it really is. We used to tell our secrets to our friends or maybe our hairstylist, now our closest confidants are Google, Yahoo, and MSN. Tracking what people are doing on the internet tells us a lot about the people. The book is part business and part social trends. Internet behavioral data is explained and how it can be used by advertisers and marketers. Social behavioral trends are also looked at which can really give us insight on what matters to people.
The Main Points
How data is gathered and measured is changing. We used to rely heavily on surveys and polls to tell us what people thought about different things. This has proven only somewhat effective. While taking surveys we are limited by sample size, cost, and cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance, for these purposes, is basically that we may tell people what we want to be true, or if we do not feel good about a particular behavior we may skew what we really do. We never lie to Google though. We can use sample sizes in the millions at little cost, and there is no lag time between the event and the gathering of the data. We can get answers almost immediately. By following click streams and looking at the demographics of who is searching for what we can learn a lot as a marketer.
We can also learn a lot about people in general. The best way to figure out what people are thinking about is to figure out what they are searching for through search engines. We are more likely to ask a search engine how to overcome our true fears than we are to admit to someone our true fears. When a celebrity dies of lung cancer do we work harder or try more to quit smoking? All of this can be gleaned by looking at what we are searching for and when we are searching for it.
It’s not only important to know what people are asking or looking for, but who is doing the looking and what behaviors they are exhibiting as they move though the click stream. Are people clicking through to something else? What exactly are they looking for? Where the people come from is important to know as well when trying to understand trends. Are they from a rural area or an urban one? Even economic status should be looked at. Low income rural males my exhibit different behavior patterns than middle income urban males. The author also looks at the different types of people and what behavior patterns they show, such as the early adopters as opposed to the early majority. If we can determine who the early adopters are and what they are looking at or doing we may be able to better predict what the next big trend is going to be.
Click is a book that will appeal to a broad audience. People in the business world will appreciate it and gain insight in how they advertise and how effective their marketing is. Casual readers will be interested in the social behavioral trends and will enjoy the examples and stories. Click was a difficult book to put down. It draws you in with all of this amazing information. After reading this book it’s hard to see how any business would be able to compete for long without paying serious attention to online data research. Our minds, our fears, our wants, our needs, all told though the click of a mouse. Bill Tancer said it best “If you want to understand the new connected world and how we choose to live in it, look no further than our Internet behavior; after all, we are what we click.”

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