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I’m Being Followed for All The Wrong Reasons – Why Internet Cookies Can Be Misleading

I’m being followed. Stalked. I feel the hot air down the back of my neck. I know I am desired. Coveted. Lusted after. And I know what they’re after. They’re hungry for my cookies.

Yes, the behemoth Internet giants have dibs on my online behavior based on my search history, my clicks, my comments and probably my emails. They want my business. And boy, do I give them reason to drool.

But not intentionally. Personally, I have very little interest in spending money, online or otherwise. But I have a great interest in buying products or services needed for the benefit of my clients and their business success. And, in turn, the success of my own business.

Besides being an Internet expert, I have been in the marketing business for more than 35 years and have developed hundreds, if not thousands, of graphic designs and commercial presentations for which I have purchased my share of printing, mailing lists, domain names, hosting, advertising, signs, trade show displays and other related products and services for a diverse group of clients representing a wide variety of industries and professions.

So, as of lately, within the last 10-15 years or so, whenever we began doing most of our business transactions online, I have woven an intricate web of Internet travel for which my “followers” retain a behavior history.

And while the rest of the world (and perhaps several other planets) have been busy on Facebook, I have deliberately shunned any such activity for myself because I have seen and heard how Facebook is after one thing only: your saleability to their advertisers.

However, I should mention that it is not just Facebook with this goal; rather, it is every big Internet company which includes Yahoo, AOL, MSN, Google, Apple, Microsoft, and lots more, keeping track of where we go and what we do online.

Some of my clients have asked me to set up and handle their social media participation not just because of lack of time, but because of intense disgust for the whole concept. Yet, because the world (controlled by the media) is inundated with references to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and others, everyone feels pressured to keep up in today’s business culture or fall behind in social disgrace.

So, I dutifully register accounts for my various clients on Twitter, Google, LinkedIn, SuperLawyers, Yahoo, Google, eBay, Amazon and more, and manage postings, emails, and graphics, among other things, logging in and out of accounts all day long. I have spent hours composing my clients’ clever tweets on Twitter; completing endless categories of detailed information on LinkedIn; creating attractive graphics for Facebook Timeline covers and Profile photos, despite the company’s mysteriously evasive size information which I could only confirm after searching on Google. (I must say I am inspired by the many good people who generously share their expert information with the world, without which I would be lost.) It befuddles me that Facebook is so popular despite being so user-unfriendly. I am probably missing something but personally, I find such social media overly intrusive sending me almost daily emails to “remind” me about something, to try to sell me something or trick me into allowing them access to my huge email accounts.

With the advent of the “importance” of the ubiquitous social network buttons which we can click if we wish to “like” (translate: endorse) some experience we’ve had so all our “friends” can share in the enjoyment (or annoyance, as the case may be), supposedly we are contributing to the ultimate benefit of our SEO (search engine optimization or ranking) by casting our votes (more cookie behavioral history) about everything we see and do. However, from this writer’s perspective, since the Facebook “like” button has been far more popular so far than the newly created “+1” button from Google, I wonder whether company rivalry will in time cloud the SEO issue further. I also find it terribly tedious to have to sign in or register a new account with Facebook or Google if I wish to click on a “like” button during my online travels. I guess anonymous “likes” are not allowed. (Why? You guessed it. They need to monitor your cookies!) Plus, with my intimate view of so many client Facebook accounts, where these “like” clickings result in adding an enormous amount of content to each “friend’s” account, exponentially multiplied by one’s number of “friends,” necessitating review and editing in some cases of “questionable” material, I ask, who has time for such inane activity?

Because my work involves an enormous amount of writing for many purposes, I conduct research online on a variety of subjects appropriate to my clients’ needs. For this reason, my Internet history is a conglomeration of searches and visits which have nothing to do with me other than doing my job. According to my cookies, I am probably labeled as a WWI vet and Subaru owner with HPV who is running for political office while about to go bankrupt, and in need of long-term residential care, plastic surgery and a new roof. Sadly, for the advertisers who believe the claims of Facebook, Yahoo, Google and the rest, that they can reach an audience specifically attuned to their products or services, they invest in online ads to reach me (and how many others?) for all the wrong reasons.

I do not drive a Subaru. I do not have HPV. I am not running for office. I am far from bankrupt. I do not plan to live anywhere but in my own home. I have no desire to fix my face. And I don’t need a new roof. (Yet.) Oh, and WWI occurred at least half a century before I was even born. But my clients include a retired doctor and WWI expert who has written 3 volumes on the subject; a car accessory company; pharmaceutical companies; politicians; many law firms; senior care facilities; a plastic surgery practice; roofing specialists; and many others, for whom my cookies represent a sea of confusion.

My resentment for Facebook’s gluttony over my tempting cookies is shared with a sincere regret that I am inadvertently responsible for their advertisers’ wasted budgets in these hard times.

This certainly says something about the failure of this new algorithm to control demographic reach better than ever before. As with historical methods of target marketing, this too is flawed and there is a margin of error to be considered before embarking on an exorbitant online spending campaign.


Marilyn Bontempo, president of Mid-Hudson Marketing since 1975, has extensive experience guiding business leaders, directors, and professionals with successful strategies for business growth and sustenance. Long-term relationships have been established with law firms, medical practices, pharmaceutical companies, real estate executives, and a variety of other trade, corporate and industrial specialists. Her professional writing, editing, photographic, design and aesthetic specialties provide clients with proven methods of achieving successful branding and public image. Mid-Hudson Marketing is a top New York advertising, marketing, website and graphic design firm located in Dutchess County’s Poughkeepsie area specializing for more than 35 years in the creation and management of high quality branding for business success. With numerous prestigious awards to its credit, the firm’s services include full scale advertising programs; expert website development and search engine optimization; professional writing, editing and ghostwriting; blog setup and management; e-commerce and email marketing; outdoor and online billboards; trade show and point-of-purchase displays; sell sheets, posters, flyers, brochures, and catalogs; logos, tag lines and trademarks; photo enhancements; direct mail marketing; newsletters; public relations; and more: call (845) 493-0070. For more info, please visit: http://www.midhudsonmarketing.com

About the author

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Marilyn Bontempo

Marilyn Bontempo, president of Mid-Hudson Marketing, based in Holmes, New York, has been developing strategies for business success for more than 45 years. A professional writer and graduate of Bard College, she has won numerous awards for excellence in marketing, photography, graphics, writing and web design. As a specialist in branding, she assists many of her clients with management of their social media and public relations initiatives. In addition, she handles e-commerce for a number of online merchants not only on their own websites but through eBay, Amazon and others. View her work at https://www.midhudsonmarketing.com

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