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Online Student Again, Part 6: Personalized Digital Experiences–Oh boy. Almost creepy.

LISTEN--I told you that you were a pudding brain to begin with, and this just proves it. And don't give me a hug.
LISTEN–I told you that you were a pudding brain to begin with, and this just proves it.
And don’t give me a hug.

When I started the next unit on personalized digital experiences, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  In short, my initial guess that it had to do with the tech comm mantra of “know your audience” was right, but that’s an over-generalization of the whole thing. While this was most likely an overview and simplification of the actual process as it relates to marketing, I could just feel my head explode and all that was left was my original pudding brain state.

Tim Peter of Tim Peter & Associates was the instructor of this particular module. His company concentrates on providing that personal experience to all users. I think the primary focus of the module was about finding all the different ways that a marketing could make digital experiences personalized with caveats on how to make sure that it didn’t get “creepy” (which was the “technical” term used throughout the module over marketers overstepping their bounds 😉 ).

There were a few points that I picked up in the course that I felt were important to note. First, Tim pointed out that digital experiences are not “personalized” as much as “persona-lized”. In other words, because there are way too many individual differences for each person to be targeted, groups are identified instead of individuals, which makes sense. So, personalization is really about coming up with different persona groups to target. I could relate to this because it sounds like “know your audience” and many of the basic premises of content strategy. The practice of creating personas was familiar to me, too, because I remember working on that as an exercise in my content management and information architecture classes at NJIT.

Ultimately, the goal of the marketer is to answer the customer’s questions of, “Am I going to be satisfied with your product or service?” and “Why should I buy from you?”. It makes sense.

Tim made the next statement, which really made a big impact on me, which was namely that content is king, context is queen, but the crown jewels are DATA.  The rest of the course pushed forward on that notion, namely, how to gather anonymous data without crossing the creepy factor that overpersonalizes the collection of data.

He explained there are two main ways to do it through content targeting. The first way is through explicit data, which is getting data directly from the customer by asking,  such as asking for a name, e-mail address, how did you find us, and other questions in which the customer will answer outright by filling in a form or some sort. The second way is through implicit data, which is what you can infer about the customer based on their actions and/or behaviors. This is where those anonymous “cookies” that you have in your browser come into play.  As a result of gather data through these means, you can then customize different messages of different sizes to different audiences at different times.

To make this work the most effectively, there were five calls to action to follow in order to help prioritize marketing objectives and make it clear, namely:

  1. Size  matters – Follow Fitt’s law, which says that bigger ads get more responses.
  2. Placement
  3. Use verbiage that are calls to action like “Act now!”
  4. Style – pay attention to how you use links, links in text, and/or buttons
  5. Color – use color wisely. For example, you wouldn’t use red on a medical site.

In the end, it’s all about identifying your ideal customer based on all the data gathered, and making sure that the content and messages that are being presented meet the needs of your customers to ensure customer satisfaction.

I think the course was definitely one of the harder ones, especially after the “reprieve” of having a few weeks with topics like social media, mobile, and content marketing that I had more familiarity with. I got through the quiz for this one okay,  but I can say that I did learn something extra about the complexities of creating a personalized digital experience. All I can say is that is sure seems rather complicated, that’s for sure! My head is still spinning, and as I said earlier, I’m sure we barely scratched the surface. I’m sure marketers would’ve had an easier time understanding some of these data gathering points better than this content strategist. I never had to dig that deep!

I’m now just past the halfway point in the course now, so hopefully the rest will be smooth sailing.  The next module will be about User Experience (UX) and marketing. Having studied user experience and done some of that professionally, I’m hoping that this next module won’t be too complicated, but I’m sure I’ll be shown plenty of things that I don’t know in relation to marketing.


Danielle M. Villegas is a technical communicator who currently employed at Cox Automotive, Inc., and freelances as her own technical communications consultancy, Dair Communications. She has worked at the International Refugee Committee, MetLife, Novo Nordisk, BASF North America, Merck, and Deloitte, with a background in content strategy, web content management, social media, project management, e-learning, and client services. Danielle is best known in the technical communications world for her blog,, which has continued to flourish since it was launched during her graduate studies at NJIT in 2012. She has presented webinars and seminars for Adobe, the Society for Technical Communication (STC), the IEEE ProComm, TCUK (ISTC) and at Drexel University’s eLearning Conference. She has written articles for the STC Intercom, STC Notebook, the Content Rules blog, and The Content Wrangler as well. She is very active in the STC, as a former chapter president for the STC-Philadelphia Metro Chapter, and is currently serving on three STC Board committees. You can learn more about Danielle on LinkedIn at, on Twitter @techcommgeekmom, or through her blog. All content is the owner's opinions, and does not reflect those of her employers past or present.

2 thoughts on “Online Student Again, Part 6: Personalized Digital Experiences–Oh boy. Almost creepy.

    1. I tried looking on his blog to see if he had said this anywhere, and I couldn’t find anything on the fly. His website is He’s also on Twitter and other social media as well, so I’m sure if you wanted to ask him something, he might answer. I connected with him on Twitter and LinkedIn, and he’s pretty friendly. That little blurb was part of the lecture, and yes, for probably similar reasons, my ears perked up when I heard that, and that’s why I made a note of it. 😉

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