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July 15, 2014 — We rely on social media to assist in developing and maintaining our social connections and in keeping us in tune with current events. It’s not surprising that the majority of online adults use social networking sites; and 46% of those users use social media six or more times a day, with Facebook still being the site of choice.

Furthermore, our “Friends of Frank” survey reveals that almost half of our participants check in with location-based media sites/apps and a whopping 82% post real-time photos away from home at events or travel. But what if the information you post, share or search for online could potentially put you at risk for unwanted advances and/or behavior?

Take, for example, the recent development of a location-based app called “Cloak,” described by the developers as the “anti-social network.” The app has the ability to comb through your friends’ Instagram, Foursquare and Facebook accounts in order to send you a warning message when one of those people comes within a certain radius of where you are so that you have the ability to avoid them if you so wish.

Couldn’t someone use this app instead to track and/or locate you? Would it make you uncomfortable? At the very least, most would find this creepy, and many would likely define it as stalking.

Many consumers get the same feelings of being “creeped out,” “stalked” and even “harassed” by brands’ online behavioral and retargeting advertising.

In a recent Advertising Age column on the subject of remarketing, the writer Michael Learmonth describes “being stalked by a pair of pants he had considered buying …” Julie Matlin had a similar experience: She had viewed a pair of shoes online and soon felt as if the retailer “had unleashed a persistent salesman who wouldn’t take no for an answer.”

Just as with any method of marketing, you can upset potential consumers with over-aggressive targeting. According to the Retargeter blog, “Advertisers who fail to set impression caps will quickly fall into the category of being annoying.” The blog also goes on to state that “stalking your prospects is detrimental to gaining the conversions you’re after.”

Based on the fact that 80% more women than men are the subject of stalkers in the offline space, it just makes sense that women would also be more sensitive to online “brand stalkers.”

What are the factors that influence these perceptions? How much is too much? Has your brand crossed the line with retargeting to the point of stalking?

To continue the conversation or to see the complete results of the “Friends of Frank” surveys on the subject, please visit Frank About and/or contact Shaun Stripling, chief marketing officer for Frank About Women, at 336.774.9397, or email her.

Penny Canada, Terri Eaton, Kathryn Hiatt, Kaycie Karpinski, Jacob Martinez, Glenn Melton, Mark Pingitore, Natasha Routh and Khloe Smith.

Friends of Frank National Survey
Pew Research (Internet Project)
MSN Living
Retargeter blog
NY Times
Advertising Age
National Violence Against Women Prevention Research Center


Kelly Gudeth About the Author
Kelly Gudeth Former Director of Broadcast Affairs

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