There was a time when telemarketing was a force to be reckoned with in Direct Marketing.
Perhaps no other DM channel could touch customers and gauge the reaction to promo and marketing spend the way telemarketing could. Marketing managers could have as near to real time data as the scripts could be approved and put in the hands of dialers from Lick Creek, Iowa to southern California and back to Jacksonville, Florida.
And then the customers revolted.
It was a joke at first, and comedians and newspaper cartoonists made light of the "fact" that telemarketers always knew to call right when the family sat down to dinner together. Along came caller ID and a string of other devices the customers literally inserted between the wall jack and the telephone to screen, block and disable telemarketing automated dialers. Adding insult to injury to the telemarketing industry, customers abandoned land line phones altogether in favor of cell phones.
Somewhere in the midst of all these passive-aggressive avoidance, the government got involved and created the Do Not Call registry. Enter sandman, exit telemarketing life.
Consider if you will the present state of affairs and swirl surrounding privacy policies at facebook and other social media properties. Are there any parallels?
Only as many as your imagination allows.
Social media sites rely on several components in my mind, but one in particular stands out - the sharing of something the end user innocently created out of a sense of belonging. In this case, a profile which the user created in order to connect with family and close friends to share photos, news and daily life which wouldn't (or sometimes would) have normally prompted a telephone call.
Back in the day, we signed up for a land line telephone to have a connection to family and close friends who weren't under our roof. The phone company "shared" our number so other people could have access to, with a certain level of trust that random people wouldn't call and waste their time or ours.
How many friend requests or profile buddies do you have you wouldn't normally interact with - but you felt bad denying the request in the first place? After all, there isn't anywhere in the phone book OR your profile plainly stating your conversation-worthy criteria.
And herein lies the latest rub. Facebook pages, twitter spammers and even innocent enough bystanders looking to bolster their friend count for a shot at self-esteem are driving social media to the same end as telemarketing. What could end up happening is government intervention to the point that the builders of social media sites abandon ship in favor of a sleeker platform to connect those who need want connecting.
To be sure, facebook is a wonderful way to stay in touch with friends and family. But, so was the land line telephone before we got fed up with all the noise and went looking for other means: mobile phones and social networking sites.
Unscrupulous telemarketing agencies would take off the limits, calling folks too many times per day, not accepting the first, second or heaven forbid, the third "no," from the customer and it took government intervention to all but kill the practice. Yes, there are still great telemarketing agencies out there as well as bad ones. There are just fewer of us willing to answer the phones when either of them call. And do the customers know the good from the bad? Of course not.
Unscrupulous marketing firms, businesses and individuals are taking off the limits online now too. Spamming your twitter in-box with DMs, filling up your facebook sidebars with friend requests, page suggestions and misleading ads. Add to all this the border-line suspect policies of the social media sites themselves: opt in/out pages which are difficult to find and even more difficult to navigate as well as network security issues which give third parties access to user data to name just a few.
If this all runs unchecked, it probably is a matter of time before government intervention. Once that happens, well....social media sites may litter the graveyard of great marketing deaths alongside telemarketing.