Last week, I met with Matthew Allin at a coffee shop in Sacramento, CA to discuss his digital marketing company Digisize. To nobody’s surprise, the conversation quickly developed into greater discussions about the internet and privacy in the Digital Age. Here’s what the future of the internet might look like, according to someone who calls it “predictable.”
Dana: What is Digisize?
Matthew: It is a digital marketing agency focused on helping business owners profitably and predictably scale their practice—
At this point, a man called out Matthew’s name from behind us. I assumed he was simply known by his many business cohorts at this surprisingly upscale coffee shop I’d selected for our meeting, but it was just his coffee order. He continued:
Matthew: —using the power of the internet.
Dana: How did you get started?
Matthew: A friend and I started by walking around and talking to businesses that still didn’t have a website for whatever reason and tried to convince them to get one. We discovered the broad industry of digital marketing and the many services within it, so we decided to expand.
From there, we split as business partners….
After joking about whether Matthew “Zuckerburg’d” his partner, the discussion began to focus on the greater implications of businesses like his.
Dana: If you said “Digital Marketing Campaign” to someone fifty years ago, it wouldn’t mean anything. So what does that mean now and why is it so important?
Matthew: It really just means accomplishing an objective through whichever means necessary on the internet, and that can come from a variety of different platforms and services depending on what the objective be. Generating new clients, getting more exposure, or using your existing customer base of information and emails to send an email to them. It can mean a lot of things.
But the campaign is really just accomplishing whatever objective you’re trying to generate for your business.
Dana: Earlier you said “the predictability of the internet.” Do you believe the internet is predictable? Why?
Matthew: Yeah. Yeah. Definitely. When you’re trying to target a specific group of people, you quickly find out what works and doesn’t work and then you use that going forward to improve your campaigns.
For a coffeeshop, once you isolate a group of “coffee lovers,” you can have a predictable system where you pour in “this much” money to expose your deals to “this many” people, and “this many” people will come in for that deal. You use those numbers to your advantage.
Dana: What kind of businesses have you done that for?
Matthew: A wide variety, I think my first campaign was a mens skincare brand that I helped with social media support and influencer marketing campaigns. Also a personal trainer. I did a facebook campaign for him to offer free personal training sessions. From there, a couple websites for local businesses. Now, we’re doing work with law firms and helping them grow their business.
Dana: So a lot of it is focused on social media?
Matthew: Yeah, although it does depend on what the business is. A lot of businesses don’t stand to benefit from a social media presence as much as a full website that garners traffic. A lot of that money can be better spent on advertising than making your social media look good.
Dana: So what would you do for a musician or dentist?
Matthew: That’s a good question, I’m actually currently helping a friend promote their music through a campaign. Platforms like DropTrack and Playlist Hunter have curators on Spotify and Apple Music with a directory of playlist curators that will consider your client’s song to be included in quality playlists. There’s also industry contacts, like record labels. It’s about getting the song into as many people’s hands as you can.
Dana: It’s all about virality.
Dana: What’s in the future for Digisize?
Matthew: I think we will continue to grow our client base as well as expand our team, which I have for fulfilling campaigns. I would like to open an office eventually.
Long-term, I think that in the future of digital marketing in general, as platforms continue to simplify their user experience, we’re going to see more and more business owners try and “take matters into their own hands,” in terms of digital marketing efforts. I would love to help business owners do that. Set up a campaign, show them how it works, and then hand it off to them. A lot of people are starting to do that.
I would even love to help develop a platform for business owners to be able run their own campaigns. When you hear the term “digital marketing campaign,” 90% of the time they’re talking about Facebook or Google. Because they’re the two largest gatherings of human beings right now. That’s where there’s the most opportunity to be leveraged. I think business owners will begin to run their own campaigns.
Have you heard of that whole “dropshipping” fad? Where people would buy their stuff from China and then sell it for American prices?
Dana: No, never heard of that. That’s really bad, right?
Matthew: Yeah, it’s pretty exploitive. A lot of those Instagram ads you see are people doing that. I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to start a business that helped people, that’s what I find fulfilling in the digital marketing world.
Dana: Considering the predictability of the internet, do you think it’s fulfilling because it is possible to kind of “crack the code” and make anybody famous?
Matthew: Yes, Yes, Yes, I do. Yes, there is a way to crack the code. There is a “best route” for anyone trying to accomplish anything on the internet, and it’s just a matter of finding that. It’s a lot of trial and error, but you can find that route.
There’s a problem if someone who has no digital presence whatsoever expects fast results. If you want 100 customers next week but you don’t even have a Facebook page, we need to get that first.
Dana: Do you think COVID-19 has forced businesses to accept new ways of doing things?
Matthew: Absolutely, Almost every business had to adapt with the pandemic. For the most part, people embraced it. Those that didn’t got burned, and those that did have an advantage now because they are more acclimated to the digital ecosystem.
One of the personal trainers, I had to pause their campaign for a bit until they began to take outside sessions, which we then marketed.
Dana: Can you think of any industries we should be looking out for?
Matthew: I posted something on LinkedIn, it said “for every business that saw their revenue plummet during the pandemic, another saw their revenue grow.” Those that embraced the circumstances now have more options and pathways to bring in new business.
Once you have a predictable system, you can only improve it. The beauty of digital marketing is the optimization; you can never have a campaign that runs too well.
Dana: But aren’t those ad campaigns so successful because these apps read our minds? They know who we are and what we do every second of the day. They know how long we looked at a certain pair of shoes. Do you think ad companies benefit from that? Is there an ethical question here?
Matthew: Absolutely they benefit from it. “Remarketing” is what you were talking about, with how long you stay on an ad. If you watch half of a video ad, you’ll see it four, five more times. That’s probably the most powerful component of digital marketing.
Even before digital marketing was a thing, people were saying repetition is the most important part of advertising. That’s where a majority of the profits come in. If you see an ad over and over again, you’re in that company’s system.
Matthew: Yeah, forever.
Dana: Have you seen The Social Dilemma on Netflix?
Matthew: Yeah. That was a very weird experience for me, because I am an advertiser that leverages those platforms that can be seen as predatory.
To the ethical question, I think as the digital ecosystem grows closer to us there will be an important discussion to be had about the limitations of how much a single company can target you. At a certain point, it does become predatory.
Dana: I saw an interview with Bo Burnham where he said the internet shouldn’t be accessible to people under 18. Do you think there’s a future where the internet is adult-only?
Matthew: That’s an interesting hypothetical. I think more likely there would be a more regulated version of the internet, which there certainly should be. Children shouldn’t be subjected to the same remarketing campaigns, which could bombard them with advertisements that reduce their self esteem.
There used to be much more defined boundaries. When the TV switched to Adult Swim, we all knew.
Dana: I’ve heard stories of women finding out they were pregnant from social media ads, which is terrifying.
Matthew: I can say that I can not target ads based on things people have said on or around their phones, but it is crazy the amount of detail you can use to isolate an audience. Hobbies, job titles, even places you’ve searched and websites you’ve been to.
Dana: Do you think people should start reading privacy policies and terms of services more often on sites that sell their data?
Matthew: Definitely. It’s only going to become more important as time goes on and platforms continue to evolve. We have to be the ones that check those businesses and decide where the line will be drawn in terms of how much we allow ourselves to be analyzed.
Dana: Do you as advertisers on the internet have to keep any laws in mind while doing this?
Matthew: Not too many. There’s still “DO-not-call” laws, and “dripped emails,” a sequence of automatic emails over a period of days, aren’t allowed, but for the most part it’s free-reign.
Dana: The internet is this lawless, last frontier. We’ve created a universe in our laptops and it’s pretty unregulated. So if you could make up one law for the internet, what would it be?
Matthew: The internet turns off at midnight! Probably something in terms of limitations for children. What kinds of businesses can advertise to them, and how many times they can be advertised to.
I would pass a law establishing a much more robust and diligent department in charge of identifying and disbanding online scam and fraud artists/schemes. It has become far too easy to fall prey to these scams in today’s day and age. As a small business owner myself, it’s disgusting to see how many people are cheated and robbed blind by the same resources I utilize to do the opposite.
I agree that the internet is definitely still in this wild west sort of vibe, and there’s still a lot of grey area to be explored, defined, and regulated. There should also be more content warnings, like Instagram has been having. Any kid with an internet connection can pull up a violent video of a cartel member murdering someone.
Dana: For people who have seen those videos, it can be shameful to admit. But for people who haven’t seen them, it’s hard to believe.
Matthew: They’re just as easy to find as cat videos on Youtube.
Dana: I think Netflix’s Don’t Fuck With Cats was about that specifically. I haven’t seen it. I don’t need to see it because I get it, I’ve seen enough of that.
Matthew: That was also something else to see last year with recordings of police brutality on twitter. People having that realization of “Woah, I wasn’t traumatized by that because of everything worse I’ve seen on the internet.”
Dana: Like Facebook moderators having PTSD.
Matthew: Yeah, it’s crazy that we have to ask someone, a human being, to spend their waking hours looking at the most horrific things possible on the internet. That’s their job, to safeguard everyone from that. Even still, stuff slips through the cracks.
Dana: Well, Digisize seems to be on the brighter side of the internet now.
Matthew: Yes, it does.
Matthew Allin is the CEO and Founder of Digisize LLC. His website can be seen here.
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