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Is there a danger in being too social?

April 29, 2010

The founder of Facebook, Mark Zukerberg thinks the second rule of social networking is that this year, we’ll share twice as much information online as we did last year.

Next year, we’ll share twice as much as this year. Etc. He calls it the Second Rule of Social Networking, and he might be on to something. You know, other than that whole Facebook empire.

Speaking of the empire, Facebook is opening up its gates and trying to learn your likes and interests. By now you’ve heard about the Like button, and how it’s creeping around the internet.

Twitter is also expanding past a billion tweets a day.

FourSquare and Gowalla know where people are — and Yelp isn’t far behind.

And Google might know more about you than your family. (Though they promise not to share it, and promise not to do evil.)

So we share.

Because another rule of social networking is they work better when things are more open. The more people who can see a Facebook wall post, the better experience people will get because more people will comment.

Likewise with Twitter, YouTube, Digg, FourSquare. Etc. openness makes them better tools.

And this translates into marketing. Earlier this morning, a colleague shared a cool promotion from Stella Artois that uses Facebook connect in a profoundly elegant way to tell a story about a promotion. You opt in, and it looks through your data to compile the video.

I’ll willingly share private personal data with Stella because my colleague said the result was cool. I appreciate his point of view, and trust his recommendation. In this instance, the sharing of information with Stella has nothing to do with them as a brand, and everything to do with him as a brand.

Later, we talked about the line between privacy and sharing. Ten years ago, a brand had to promise me something in return for my information. If they wanted my e-mail address, I needed value. Often value came in the form of a promotion. Give a brand information and in return, one gets a chance to win something really cool. In the case of Stella, it’s a really entertaining video (compelling) and chance to win a trip to Cannes (not that compelling).

An interesting part of this Stella promotion: it is only open to people on Facebook.  They didn’t create an ability to play for people not on Facebook. Noodle that for a minute and consider the conversation between agency and client.

Anyway, we talked about privacy, and the things we’ll gladly share in public, and the things we won’t. Then a few minutes later,  someone sent me this:

They’re right, this isn’t your Grandma’s phonebook. For some people, the results might be a little unnerving (depending on how deeply you’ve dived into social media). For others, this might mean nothing.

It meant something to me so I went to their blog and read this about Your Privacy:

Spokeo People Search finds only publicly available information by default. Previously this information had been scattered across the Web and ignored by major search engines.  Spokeo is the first service to aggregate this user-generated content from over 40 Web services, giving you new insight into your friends’ online content.

Spokeo compiles a list from all the places one might have a profile, and generates insights about people. If Facebook is right, and people will share twice as much next year, then the pile of data out there will double every year. Search engines that comb through it all, collect it, and make sense of it will be ubiquitous. Our data has always been protected because it’s been hard to gather into one place. As we share more and more, it’s getting easier to collect.

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