I read an article recently that spoke about the downside of location-based social networks – and I have to say it really resonated with me.
First, let’s get the low-down on what is location-based social networking. Basically it is a social network where you can “Check-In” to your favourite cafe, restaurant, hotel, resort or business for that matter, and by doing so advise others within your network where you are and what you are doing.
Some location-based social networks include Foursquare, Google Latitude, Dopplr, Gowalla, & WhereYouGonnaBe – each of these have different features but essentially allow you to communicate where you are and what you are doing to others.
From a marketing perspective I see great benefits for businesses like restaurants, cafes, shops and businesses to engage users of these programs. For instance you can list your business on Foursquare and reward people who ‘check-in’ with a free drink or a discount on their bill. They will then be encouraged to ‘check-in’ more regularly and therefore promote your business within their network.
Foursquare also adds a gaming element to their social network. Users can achieve different ‘status-levels’ for checking in to a business a certain number of times and Foursquare then awards them “Mayor” of that particular location for instance.
The combination of playing a game (with rewards) and letting friends know that you are having a coffee at Expresso Hits The Spot so that if they are in the neighbourhood they can come and join you for a latte is very enticing to some people. Savvy business owners who can engage people to visit their physical location via these social networks should take note.
But here’s the thing for me, even though I love social media, I have to admit that I am not ready to let go of my last bastion of privacy and tell the world where to find me. Whilst I am happy to share some information, mostly professional, on social networks I am reluctant to divulge who I am meeting or where I am located. Those who need to know this information can be contacted via sms, email or a good old phone call.
A friend recently expressed their concern at the number of people who use the “My Family” stickers on the back windscreen of their cars displaying effectively if they are married/partnered, kids, dogs or cats. Just imaging if you will a young lady’s car I saw recently with a sticker of a lady and 3 cats. From a personal safety point of view, this may make her a target for people who prey on unattached ladies…couldn’t they simply walk around the carpark at the local shopping centre and take note of these stickers and find the one that looks most vunerable? Absolutely!
It is very easy for people to get a detailed snapshot of your life and habits, something you may want to think about. So, be aware that when posting on social networks – whether that be Foursquare, Facebook or Twitter that you keep a measure of common sense and respect your privacy and safety.