Dear Marketers: Don’t Put Advertising in Filters. It Will Get Filtered Out.

On Tuesday evening I was in Washington DC having dinner at Jaleo, a Tapas place near the Verizon Center. Since I’m on a Foursquare kick right now, I checked in, and poked around.

I checked out the profiles of a few of the other people who had checked in at the restaurant that evening, and I looked at their Twitter streams.

I found some very interesting people, and thanks to the mayor of the restaurant, Ben T (a Gov 2.0 guy who’s @xeus on Twitter), I learned that U2 is streaming a concert at the Rose Bowl live and for free on YouTube this Sunday.

I thought that was pretty cool. Foursquare is suddenly a valuable filter, turning up interesting information for me.

Foursquare obviously isn’t my only filter. I have tons. Google Reader and Twitter are my most important. I also use Facebook, LinkedIn and lots of other sites like the HubSpot blog, Inbound and on and on.

I love all these filters. They give me higher quality information with better context. A lot of the material I end up reading is still from traditional media — but it’s from a broader range of traditional media outlets, and tends to be better produced, more thoughtful and more relevant to my life.

There’s broad acceptance that these filters are helping people spend their attention more efficiently. John Borthwick explains it clearly in this video [ugh! video was removed for copyright violations!] Bijan Sabet posted this week.

But here’s what surprises me about filters today: Many marketing and media types are trying to use them to “target” consumers via advertising. Steven Johnson explains this effort in the video above.

I don’t think targeting via filters is going to work.

I use filters to improve the quality of my information flow. If businesses try to force information that I don’t find interesting into my filter, I’ll just improve the filter. To reach me, businesses have to get through the filter organically — they have to get a recommendation from somebody I trust or show up when I’m looking for a solution to a problem they can help me solve.

How do businesses do that? By building trust and creating useful, valuable content. Not by advertising.


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