Why GDPR Isn’t Coming to the United States

Will draconian privacy laws ever come to the United States as they have in Europe in recent days? The question is reasonable in light of ongoing news stories about Facebook’s cavalier treatment of user data. Now that the European Union has enacted General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), we now have a template for stronger protection of consumer privacy, with businesses being held to more stringent privacy standards and facing steep fines for failing to uphold those standards.

The likelihood of GDPR-style regulation coming to the United States was one of several topics I discussed with a panel of journalists and industry practitioners recently. The panel, hosted by Chris Heine of the Bateman Group, focused on the many possible impacts of GDPR. Participants ranged from Gartner Analyst Andrew Frank to Kevin Scholl, director of digital marketing and partnerships at Red Roof Inn. My take: GDPR isn’t going to come to the United States anytime soon – especially during the Trump administration. Here’s why:

  • Data privacy is not a priority at the Federal level. We’ve already experienced the mother of all data breaches – and nothing happened. Remember Equifax, whose failure to protect user data affected millions of Americans? If ever there was a reason to usher in more serious privacy laws, Equifax handed it to the administration on a platter. But in fact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau actually scaled back its investigation of Equifax. And Americans moved on. Meanwhile, influential businesses such as Alphabet and Apple have too much lobbying power for GDPR regulation to take hold widely. (Google alone spent more than $18 million on lobbying efforts in 2017.) The corporate-friendly Trump administration will likely place the adoption of widespread privacy measures low on the priority list.
  • The American won’t demand widespread regulation anytime soon. We may claim we care about privacy when we are asked– but our actions say otherwise. For example, the brutal Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal created a #DeleteFacebook spasm, which died away. It’s not that we want to give businesses unfettered access to our data. But we don’t have the time and energy to police them. Who really takes time to read the mind-boggling user agreements we are periodically asked to review when we update our Apple operating system or when LinkedIn or some other platform revises its practices? (Here’s LinkedIn’s privacy policy. I’m sure you’ve reviewed it carefully because you care about privacy, right?) In addition, and perhaps more importantly – big tech has the upper hand. We’re hooked to our devices and platforms. They fuel our lives. We’ve given them permission to manage us – which is a big reason why #DeleteFacebook died. We may be annoyed with Facebook the brand, but we want Facebook the community.

A more likely scenario: Facebook will take the fall. The company will become subject to more regulation and scrutiny, thus reframing a potentially more widespread issue as the problems of one company. Instead of inspiring Federal action to regulate privacy more broadly, Facebook’s failures will instead marginalize the issue. We’re already seeing Apple capitalize on Facebook’s problems by attempting to demonize the social media platform.

Tougher privacy laws may take hold at the state level, but don’t hold your breath waiting for a dramatic change to occur nationally.

For more insight into our panel, check out:

Adweek, “4 Big GDPR Concerns for Brands, Agencies, and Vendors,” Chris Heine, May 9, 2018.

Bateman Group, “Here Are 4 Big GDPR Concerns for Brands, Agencies and Vendors,” Chris Heine, May 23, 2018.

CNBC, “People will forget about data privacy issues soon — at least, that’s what ad experts expect,” by Michelle Castillo, April 12, 2018.

DMNews, “7 Ways GDPR Will Affect Your Marketing Efforts — According to Top Marketers,” Hillary Adler, May 28, 2018.

4 Ways Brands Can Adapt to Facebook’s News Feed Overhaul

Everyone is freaking out about the latest Facebook algorithm change, which CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced on January 11. And yes, the change is big. Facebook will:

  • Downgrade in users’ news feeds the content that businesses publish.
  • Boost posts from users’ friends and family.

This development has negative implications for any business that acts as a publisher, ranging from news outlets to content marketers. But the change is not the end of the world for brands. Corporate publishers will simply need to work harder and get more creative about posting content, such as relying on their employees and influencers to share the brand’s content on their personal news feeds.

“Meaningful Interactions between People”

In a post on his page, Zuckerberg wrote, “[R]ecently we’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content — posts from businesses, brands and media — is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other.”

As a result, Facebook is changing users’ news feeds to amplify content from users’ friends and family. “As we roll this out, you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media,” he wrote. “And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard — it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.”

Zuckerberg cited research indicating that Facebook users should spend more time interacting with each other and less time viewing news on their feeds. “The research shows that when we use social media to connect with people we care about, it can be good for our Continue reading

Want customers? Invest in social media


If you aren’t generating leads through social media, it’s time to rethink your marketing game plan. That’s a major takeaway from The 2012 State of Inbound Marketing, a new report from marketing software provider HubSpot. Among the report’s conclusions: 62 percent of companies say that social media has become more important as a source of leads in the past six months. And 81 percent of businesses rate their company blogs as useful, important, or critical.

Based on response from nearly 1,000 executives, The 2012 State of Inbound Marketing assesses how businesses use inbound marketing – or tactics such as social media, content publishing, and search engine optimization that are designed to “pull” prospects and customers toward your business. Why the focus on inbound marketing? Because brands that invest in inbound marketing report a 61-percent lower cost per lead than those that focus on outbound marketing tactics such as telemarketing or trade shows, according to HubSpot.

Moreover, inbound channels produce higher quality leads: leads from SEO have a 14.6 percent close rate, compared to a 1.7 percent close rate for leads from outbound marketing sources.

One of the major findings of the report is the impact of social media and company blogs on lead generation According to the report, “The use of social media and company blogs not only gets your company better brand exposure, but it also generates leads that result in real customer acquisition. LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are becoming more useful ways to acquire customers with significant growth in 2012. Similarly, company blogs continue to be strong performers as 57% of companies have acquired a customer from that channel.”

Other major takeaways:

  • More marketing dollars are going to social: the average budget spent on company blogs and social media has increased from 9 percent to 21 percent in 2012.
  • Company blogs usually lead to customer acquisition: nearly six out of 10 companies with a blog have acquired a customer from their blog.
  • Frequent blogging makes an impact: 70 percent of companies that blog at least two-to-three times per week have acquired a new customer from their blog. Only 43 percent of companies that blog less than monthly have acquired a new customer from blogging.
  • Facebook delivers customers in the business-to-consumer world: 77 percent of B2C companies say they have acquired a customer through Facebook.
  • LinkedIn delivers results for business-to-business companies: 65 percent of B2B companies have acquired a customer through LinkedIn.

The message is clear: social media is more than a brand-building tool. Social media delivers customers. For more information, check out this blog post from HubSpot. In addition, on March 1 at 1:00 p.m. EST, HubSpot will discuss the report via a webinar – register here. Let me know what you think of the report.

Advice to those looking for work (and working)

After experiencing a number of mergers/acquisitions and incredible growth together, Razorfish and I recently parted ways amid new company ownership. I am grateful to Razorfish for the opportunity to have grown into my role as a marketing executive, and, just as importantly, for all the cool people I’ve come to know as friends and colleagues. Now that I’ve been a free agent in the job market for weeks, I thought I’d share tips for those of you who seek employment, know someone who is, or might be recruiting for marketing talent. I would love to have your feedback:

1. To employers: seek candidates with current skills in communication and technology.

As I’ve talked with recruiters, one topic that has arisen more than once is how much social media savvy marketing executives should possess — especially in the interactive agency world I inhabit. Recruiters tell me they use social media to find job candidates but find that the candidates do not always use social media aggressively in turn.

Here’s my take: it’s reasonable to expect marketing executives nowadays to at least possess enough social media awareness to own updated LinkedIn profiles. Beyond that, marketing executives should be ready with a perspective on how social media can help build your company brand. They need not be active users of social personally, but they should be able to tell you why they are not (“I haven’t thought to use social” should be a cause for concern.)

Now, if a marketing executive touts social media as a core skill set to help you improve your brand, and claims experience having done so, then he or she should also be an active user of social personally. Ask them how they use Twitter and Facebook. If they don’t list a personal blog on their LinkedIn profile, ask them to at least describe how often they’ve commented on other blogs. They also should be able to cite specific examples of the tools they use to learn social. It’s called living the social values.

2. To the gainfully employed: be prepared for life’s unexpected turns.

Update your portfolio and your resume now, especially your LinkedIn profile. My resume and work samples were fairly up to date when I became a free agent, but not as well as they should have been. Consequently I lost some valuable time hustling to get my credentials organized in the early days of my unemployment.

At the very least, get reacquainted with LinkedIn. Facebook might get the attention for connecting people socially, but LinkedIn’s reputation as the place for professional networking is well deserved. (I’ve also been trying BranchOut, which uses Facebook for professional networking, but it’s too early to tell whether Branchout will make a difference.)

Recruiters do look for talent on LinkedIn, but they are not the only ones: the application has blossomed into a professionals’ social networking center, period. For instance, LinkedIn Open Groups facilitates conversations about topical matters (sample TED group discussion: “Wiki-leaks: how has it changed the world we live in?”). And  LinkedIn Polls makes it possible for you to crowdsource ideas among professionals.

Think of it this way: updating your credentials is a great way for you to take stock in your accomplishments and re-assess what you offer your current employer. Don’t wait until you’re out of work to do that.

And I cannot stress enough: be active in your online/offline social network. If you have a personal blog, keep it fresh with ideas, and contribute comments to blogs operated by your friends and colleagues. You’re not going to convince anyone that you’re genuine if you wait until you are a free agent to return to your blog (or launch one).

Don’t be one of those people who reaches out to others only when you need them.

3. If you know someone who is unemployed: reach out.

People like me appreciate your support. What’s really crucial is just reaching out to say hello or little gestures, like the invitation to dinner, perhaps an uplifting book, or even an email out of the blue.

You might be wondering: should I ask my unemployed friend or family member how the job search is going? I think it’s safe to assume you don’t need to ask; if there has been a major development, you’ll hear about it. A one-time “Hey, I know of a resource for job seekers” is great to hear, of course.

And a follow-up weeks down the road is really cool: major life events like a change in job status typically spark a lot of checking in among friends and family in the early going, whereas encouraging words usually taper off after a few weeks. At that time, your support is even more crucial and remembered.

4. If you are unemployed: don’t be shy — really!

Let people know you are available for hire. There is no stigma in being unemployed especially at a time when a significant portion of the U. S. population is jobless. Networking opportunities like industry meetings and LinkedIn are obvious sources (the mere act of revising my LinkedIn profile attracted a few leads for me). But telling your friends, neighbors, and former co-workers is important, too — and you have many social media tools at your disposal beyond LinkedIn.

And as you look for a job, build yourself up. Surround yourself with positive people. Avoid gloomy articles about job loss and tough times like this one (interesting for armchair sociologists, I guess, but a needless distraction for job seekers). And while we’re at it, you might want to avoid movies like this one.

5. To the Illinois Department of Employment Security: kudos.

Bravo for providing online tools and fairly decent telephone self-service, like an online application for employment benefits. It sure would be nice if your online tools worked on more browsers beyond Internet Explorer, though, and the in-person service is inconsistent.

My visit to my local employment office was disorienting and bureaucratic based on the initial response of the government official in charge of “greeting” visitors; but then my experience improved considerably when my paperwork was assigned to a cool and helpful guy named Alex (which goes to show how one person in a bureaucracy can make or break you — so thank you, Alex).

I’ll check back in and let you know how the job search is going; meantime, if you are an employer, here is what I can do for you: I can help you build your brand by applying a combination of skills in marketing, influencer outreach, social media, and thought leadership.

My experience includes repositioning a company brand, turning an ordinary event into an industry-leading conference, writing social media guidelines for 2,000 employees, and launching relationships with news media, bloggers, and industry analysts. You can learn more about me on my LinkedIn profile. Feel free also to call me at 312-339-1879 or email me at davidjdeal@gmail.com.

Happy 2011.

Note: thank you to Jeremiah Owyang for your valuable counsel and help as I wrote this post.

Using social media to build your personal brand

Your personal brand is like your writing style: you have one even if you don’t know it. So you might as well figure out how to develop your brand to your advantage.

Personal branding was the focus of a November 17 Medill Alumni Club meeting in Chicago, where local pundits spent an evening swapping ideas on a panel. The panelists consisted of Hope Bertram, founder of Windy City Social; Adrienne Samuels Gibbs, senior editor, Ebony; Leah Jones, director of customer experience, SpotOn; Kyra Kyles, reporter, Tribune RedEye; Robert Mark, Northwestern University adjunct faculty member and editor, Jetwhine.com; and Cassandra West, social media specialist, Urban Gardener. Here are some take-aways:

  • Before you consider the tools for building your brand, have a strategy (a point stressed repeatedly by Robert Mark). When your co-workers see you in the office and you bump into colleagues at conferences, what do you want to be remembered for? A passion for music? An expert in wine? Expertise in PR? All of the above? And what is your goal? Are you looking for a job? Seeking to raise your profile to get a promotion? Then figure out how to share that brand.
  • Once you sort out your strategy, then share your brand across multiple platforms consistently — and this is where social media tools can be so useful. The content you post on Facebook, LinkedIn, SlideShare, Twitter, etc., should consistently build your brand. In particular, LinkedIn has exploded in popularity for professional networking and content sharing. Haven’t updated your LinkedIn contacts lately? Do so now. (However, Hope Bertram offered a caution on using multiple platforms. In her view, you need to cultivate different voices on different platforms — for instance, your Twitter voice should be distinct from the style of writing you use on your blog if you have one because by its nature Twitter rewards short, punchy bursts of information.)
  • Know the relationship between your professional brand and personal life. If you’ve decided to let professional colleagues have access to a Facebook page your family and friends see, then you’re going to need to post only information that supports your brand — or else divide your professional from your personal lists of friends. For the professional list, post only information that supports your brand. For your personal lists, share whatever you want to share.
  • Contrary to popular wisdom, there is a time and place for anonymity in the social world. For instance, what if you want to branch out into a category of interest that conflicts with your personal brand? The panelists agreed that it makes sense to create a separate Twitter account with an identity completely divorced from yours — akin to a pen name. Adrienne Samuels Gibbs indicated that she enjoys following @blackinformant on Twitter, an anonymous account that shares news about blacks. She speculated that whoever runs @blackinformant must have a good reason to remain anonymous. Perhaps the author or authors are not black. Perhaps the account conflicts with someone’s personal brand otherwise. But the account is useful to her just the same.
  • Don’t lock yourself into a brand that prevents you from growing, in the words of Leah Jones. And  if you do, have the courage to reinvent your brand. Leah discussed how she once killed her Twitter account (not easy to do since it had 7,500 followers) and revived her account as @ChicagoLeah because her old account was confining her brand. (More about her story here.) Two ways to avoid getting “boxed in”: define your strategy first and be discerning about what you want the professional world to know about you.
  • The personal website is far from dead. Use a tool like WordPress to build one — but only if you can do it right. As Leah Jones pointed out, the advantage to your website is that you own it. You don’t have to worry about Twitter failing or Facebook changing its privacy policies. She suggests you view your website as a hub connecting all the places where your brand lives (Facebook, SlideShare, etc.). But a word of caution from Kyra Kyles: “Don’t make a personal website that looks like a MySpace page that ran away from MySpace. Do it right or not at all.”
  • Social media tools should support your brand — not take over your life. If you spend more time maintaining your Twitter account than meeting people in the offline world, something is wrong. If you attend conferences, blog about what you hear, and have no time to network with people who are in the room with you, then something is wrong. Manage the technology, not the other way around.

I found the event to be useful for many reasons, the most important being that I met some cool people. Remembering to put social media in perspective, I took notes for my blog, but I avoided doing a real-time blog (live blogging is difficult when you want to set aside time to talk). And I did not do any live Tweeting (too distracting in this smaller, interactive setting). I stayed focused on the people around me.

Other random tidbits:

  • “Email is useful as a virtual business card but not much more.” (Kyra Kyles)
  • “On your website you can control the story that you want told about you.” (Leah Jones)
  • “Personal recommendations from bosses on LinkedIn is the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen.” (Robert Mark)
  • “LinkedIn recommendations from bosses are not credible. Get your coworkers to write recommendations on LinkedIn.” (Hope Bertram)
  • “Personal branding has its limits. I do not want to see myself defined as a product.” (Cassandra West)
  • “Please put away your personal devices when you are with other people. There’s nothing more rude than looking at your phone when you’re supposed to be making eye contact with someone. That’s bad for your brand.” (Adrienne Samuels Gibbs)
  • “You can kill your brand with social media if you mindlessly Tweet about anything that comes to mind.” (Robert Mark)

Of all the points I heard, the one that resonates the most is the anonymity of social media. Most every social media pundit I know advises against being anonymous in the social world. This is the first panel I’ve attended where anonymity was not only accepted but advocated. What do you think about anonymity in the social world– agree or disagree with the panelists?