Geographic Drift: The lies we tell about where we live

    Check out the latest AD-Vantage news, features and columns. Subscribe today Learn more about AD-Vantage Our social media profiles are filled with little white lies (you say you love Breaking Bad, but you’ve only seen the first season), but social research company 140 Proof says some of those white lies can be more […]
 
 

Our social media profiles are filled with little white lies (you say you love Breaking Bad, but you’ve only seen the first season), but social research company 140 Proof says some of those white lies can be more useful to marketers than the truth.

The company has coined the concept of geographic drift, which describes the distance between where a user says they live on social media, and where their mobile GPS data says they live. Data scientists followed some 805,000 users to try and determine how close their stated and observed locations line up.

This graphic from 140 Proof shows the geographic drift of U.S. metropolitan areas. Circles around the area show where the majority of social users who say they're from the area actually are. So for instance, 50% of people who say they're from Chicago live within the blue circle around Chicago. 50% of people who say they're from Jackson, Miss. reside within the orange dot.

It turns out a lot of people in the suburbs of L.A. and Austin would rather say they live in the Big City. Chicago seems include people living in six different states. Perhaps there’s no surprise there. But 140 Proof says that brand marketers aren’t using this information the way they should be.

“People think of location-based marketing as, ‘They’re standing outside my door. How do I get them inside?’” says Matt Rosenberg, 140 Proof’s senior vice-president of marketing. “Brand campaigns aren’t really using mobile location data. But they could be.”

Where people say they are from can tell brands a lot about their identity and aspirations. It’s certainly a lot more useful for a premium brand like Audi to know that a resident of Edison, New Jersey wants others to think they live in New York.

“Places embody personas,” says Rosenberg, and personas dictate the most effective creative and strategy. “Don’t treat a New Yorker like a Los Angelino,” he warns.

A big chunk of geographic drift comes from commuters. Although their GPS data shows they spend each night in the suburbs, they spend most of their time downtown, so that’s the city they identify with. So the local mall in Edison may well be wasting its dollars targeting a commuter with a mobile ad every time she drives by on the way home.

The takeaway is that there isn’t just one kind of geographic data, and different campaigns can use geotargeting differently. Location means a lot more than just which aisle you’re in at Metro.

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