We can assess personalities through everyday discussions. Everything we think, do and say are personality indicators. Friend selection works this way too. All can help us distinguish between “who we think we are” and “who we are.” This is important to marketers and advertisers because what we say we’ll buy is often different from what we actually buy. Thus, the expansion of social media offers businesses a wealth of marketing information and insights that allows them to predict our buying decisions.
The article “Stat Oil” (The Economist, February 9, 2013 edition) is but one example of this application. By analyzing our online connections, banks can predict our credit worthiness. If our online connections are creditworthy, then we are likely to be too. Such algorithms are progressing rapidly in all businesses.
The article mentions several other correlations between online activity and credit risk:
- Connections can indicate how quickly one can find a job after losing one.
- Applicants who type in only lower-case or upper-case letters are higher risks.
- Connections having good jobs or living in nice neighborhoods make one a better risk.
However, the analysis is progressing beyond mere connections and digging deeper into online comments, since our word choice and phrasing can say much about us. For example, banks are currently exploring if racist comments correlate to lack of creditworthiness.
Of course, we don’t need algorithms to do this. The essence of real-time personality assessing involves examining such things as word choice and requires no algorithms. The difference is that social media are transforming a manual, personal process into a quantifiable, algorithmic one, allowing for far more data crunching much quicker. Consequently, we’ll soon be learning things about our personalities that we never knew . . . and so will everyone else.