Becoming a marketer without big tech
It’s an ongoing process
I’m an elder millenial, born in the mid-1980s. I grew up without social media and smartphones.
My mobile phones in the 00s, (one of which is now on display in the Science Museum), just made calls and texts. I shared a desktop computer with my brother to access MSN Messenger, Limewire and Encarta.
I started using MySpace when I was 20 and I loved it. My fully modified homepage played a rotation of Nouvelle Vague songs. As soon as Mark Zuckerberg released “The Facebook”, exclusive to those with a university email address, I was in. I loved Blackberry messenger and still wish my phone had a keyboard.
When I entered the world of office work I encouraged a series of employers to get on board with Facebook and Twitter for business. I loved creating these fledging communities in ad-free platforms, with chronological feeds.
Fast forward to the 2020s. I hate social media. Everything is awful.
I stopped looking at Twitter after Brexit but it keeps sucking me back in. I can’t quite let go as I use it for #journorequests.
I hate Facebook and I’ve stopped caring where people from school went on holiday. I came to resent having to use my personal Facebook account to use Facebook for Business at work. I haven’t created a Facebook ad for a good few years, but seeing how the targeting was set up made me so uncomfortable. Now, I don’t offer Facebook as a service, and I’ve deleted my profile.
Instagram is a time suck. I miss the chronological feed and Valencia-tinged, caption-free posts. I opened and deleted a business Instagram account within a year— my Gen X B2B clients don’t hang out there.
I love TikTok but I find it very addictive, so I don’t have the app. It scares me how hard it is to pull myself away from Instagram and TikTok once I get sucked in.
I’ve even started to get LinkedIn fatigue. Too many listicles, clickbait intros and hot takes.
But big tech is not just social media
When the GDPR legislation came into effect in the UK a few years ago, I thought this is a good thing. I could wave goodbye to the days of colleagues telling me they had “acquired” 20,000 contacts and had sent a blanket email to all. However, our personal data is not as protected as we think. Unless you have a mailing list, you probably don’t know that email marketing analytics show which individual people opened or clicked an email.
When I set up my marketing business in 2020 I paid for Google Workspace to run my email, calendar and file storage. I accessed clients’ website metrics through Google Analytics.
Since then, I’ve been increasingly uncomfortable about the ethics of Google. If a website uses Google Analytics (and 86% do), it’s tracking our actions and sending this data to Google. Your searches are another source of data.
Big tech has been under a spotlight for poor ethics and privacy breaches and the more I knew, the less I wanted to do with it.
But I work in marketing…
So how do I avoid big tech? I am in a lucky position because I have my own business and that gives me some control over which clients I work with and which platforms and tools I use.
It’s not easy to become a marketer without big tech, but it’s doable. This is how I have approached each area so far:
I am a B2B marketer, which means I work with businesses and not consumers. So, I spend a lot of time on LinkedIn for myself and clients. It’s owned by Microsoft and is definitely one of more ethical social networks, but it’s not perfect. It runs targeted ads, it holds a lot of data and the unsolicited messages are pretty irritating.
I don’t offer support for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or TikTok and I don’t work with clients that have these platforms. This is a conscious choice but it’s also a happy coincidence.
I use Fathom Analytics instead of Google Analytics for my site and clients’ sites. This is a privacy-focused analytics platform which also happens to have a clean and simple dashboard, unlike Google.
Email, calendar and file storage
Disentangling myself from Google is a pain, I’ve turned off Workspace and switched to Fastmail for emails and Sync for files — both are privacy-focused platforms.
One issue I’ve had with Workspace, is that it doesn’t seem to be an option to downgrade to a basic Google account, as I was blocked from accessing Drive. As some of my clients prefer to use Google Docs, I have had to completely delete the Google account and start a new (free, basic) one.
I’m still figuring out…
An alternative to Google Forms as the alternatives are so expensive and restrictive. Also I have a Google Pixel 5 and I am not changing this until it breaks.
It’s definitely an ongoing process but I love that marketing is becoming more privacy-focused. Data should absolutely be treated with respect and it’s been way too easy to create a uninspiring Facebook ad and lazily target 1000s of people. Let’s hope this leads to more clever, creative ads.