Data Mining and How to Use it to Your Advantage

by Łukasz Chojnowski

Published on November 29, 2015

There has been much ado about internet and smart phone tracking. People are all worked up because the free services track their searches and site visits. The thing is, internet companies need to employ people to keep it running. Social media needs to have people that stop hackers from taking over your timeline and to keep bullies from being able to terrorize. These are businesses and if they are not charging us to use their service, they have to make some money somewhere.This is where advertising comes in. In the early days of internet advertising, the ads were not targeted and were porn, infomercial type ads. Search engines and better programing has brought about more useful and user specific ads.

You are free to be upset that companies are mining your data. You are even free to be upset that they are selling your data but the simple fact of the matter is they are and the only way out is to go off the grid. Cash only, no bank accounts, don’t register your warranties, no store loyalty cards, no free email and by all means only search for things on a public computer. The alternative is that you accept the reality that is the Information Age and make it work for you. As the old saying goes “When life gives you lemons, search for lemonade recipes.”

This is what you can do, let the web crawlers work for you. In search of a new computer, tablet or smart phone? Do a few simple searches with the specifications you need and wait. Eventually, the internet ads will pop up with the stores that are selling them, how much and any deals. When you search for a deal, often you get old deals from months ago. If you watch your ads you will get current offers for what you are looking for or offers for similar items. For instance if you so a search for an android tablet the search results will bring you reviews for android tablets going back months. Many of these are regularly updated but it is difficult to determine if and when. If you watch your ads you will see ads for Dell, Nexus, Galaxy and some lesser known brands. Pay attention and you will find the best deal for what you are looking for. Try a search for an adventure, if you are a Groupon subscriber, you will get emails from Groupon for that adventure or a related adventure. If you are thinking about learning to crochet, do a simple search for instructions or videos. If you get good at it, you will see ads for patterns.

Now the trick for Facebook ads, if you are getting ads for things you aren’t interested in, in the upper right corner of the “suggested post” or ad you will see an arrow so to speak, click it and select hide all ads from … This process will help Facebook get better placement. I know, you are thinking to yourself, why would I help Facebook, because it helps you that’s why. Instead of garbage ads you don’t want to see, you are helping Facebook learn what is of interest to you. The simple fact is the ads are there and will be there so they may as well work for you.

Twitter works similarly to Facebook, it uses your searches, follows and retreats to help determine you ads. You can dismiss an ad to tell Twitter you are not interested in that ad. Again, use these to work for you. If you are a regular Twitter user do searches based on what you are looking for.

Pinterest is a little more difficult, their promoted pins activity is quite new. If you are an active Pinterest user you already know how attract the appropriate information, Pin items of interest. Search Pinterest for items of interest and let the program work for you. With Pinterest you will have to be a little more active in your search and activities.

Shopper’s loyalty cards are another area you can use the data mining to help you. Grocery stores like Kroger/Smiths give you discounts on gas for your shopping and they track your purchases to send you coupons specific to your purchases. Office stores like Staples give you credit back for your purchases monthly if you meet the minimum. Use those to your advantage, let the stores pay you for your information. Finally, most of us have found that keeping important receipts in order and where we can find them is difficult and many of these loyalty cards will email you a copy of your receipt. No need to search your purse, bag, or pile of junk mail for that receipt for the office supplies you want to write off on your taxes, say yes to the email receipt question and store it on your computer or in your email until you need it.

What I am saying is, don’t be upset that your searches are being tracked, or that the store you frequent is tracking your purchases. It is a fact of life that isn’t likely to change so use it to your advantage. Give it a try. Do a search for something you would not normally be interested in. See what ads appear in your News Feed or your Twitter feed or in the banners at the top of the webpage you are looking at. You just might discover a new tool to your your life a little easier.

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