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Why Social Scraping Makes Brands Creepy and Out-of-Touch

We’re all being watched online. Probably not by spies. Hopefully not by the government. But by an even more hated group: advertisers. Social listening continues to be a trend in market insight generation and it’s not only creepy, but it breeds poor social skills. Our posts are being used to divine things about us. Believing that our truths are locked inside those moments we feel compelled to share our thoughts with the world. Even the name, “social listening”, conjures mental images of your neighbors bugging your wallpaper for the Stasi. Unheimlich.

Increasingly, technology users are opting to socialize from the safety of private chat. This pocket of the internet, known somewhat misleadingly as “dark social”, is a mystery to marketers. The apps are virtually inaccessible. The market researcher needs a way to access ‘dark social’ without wiretapping unsuspecting chatters. In other words, we need to be invited in.

Monitoring consumers’ DMs is not only invasive but impossible. What if they simply talk to people, like humans? While this might seem obvious, most researchers would sooner resort to stalkerish pulls of social media data than ask a person a genuine question. In an ever-dehumanizing world, real conversation is an empathizing, antidote.

At Sympler, we knock before we enter. We apply basic social skills (from before that word was coopted by the medium), which allow us to spark genuine conversation for deep & candid answers. Our studies model friendly conversations with a friend more than traditional surveys. By engaging with people through Facebook Messenger, Instagram DMs, or Snapchat, we apply emotional intelligence and speak to the human living in social media, not the posturing, the performative, prideful version that they are on public platforms. We are invited in to chat with consumers, we encourage dialogue, reflection, complexity, and nuance. In this environment, we derive the real stories, to which the data scrapers and social listeners are not privy.

There is a data company that boasts of never asking questions. To the strategists at this company, I’d like to ask, when was the last time you posted something truly honest on public social media? If I read the last 10 posts you made to Facebook, could I learn your genuine opinions and feelings? We censor ourselves when we know others are watching.

We lend them a private, safe ear to talk to. They know what we’re doing and they’re happy to help.