Monday, March 22, 2010

The Price of Location-Based Social Networking

Location-based technology is a new trend in social networking, where you not only know what your friends are thinking but also where they are. Call me old fashion, but isn’t this too much information. Why would I want to know the exact location of my friends, and why would I want to share my location with them. What if I decided to play hooky and call in sick to work, why on earth would I want my coworkers to know that I’m at the mall shopping or at the beach sun bathing. What if a group of friends go out together, while specifically excluding someone from the group? What if I am on a date and I don’t want my boyfriend to know!

Personally I don’t see the benefit of this feature, at least from a consumer’s point of view. However from an advertisers’ point of view, this feature makes much more sense. Companies can tailor their advertising and narrow their target audience more based on customer location. For example, if you are currently at City Stars, companies can send you promotions for specific shops located in the mall, viewing schedules regarding the movies being features, and event announcements. Add on that other filtering criteria such as age and gender; companies will have a winning combination to ensure a maximum hit rate for their mobile advertising. No wonder organizations such as Google are interested in this technology, with the bulk of their revenue coming from web-based marketing.

The question remains, “Will users of social networks embrace this trend?” Do we need to have our privacy violated even further? I would say “NO!” and a thousand times No!!! Then again who am I to judge what social networkers want. I have just started using Facebook only two years ago. I’m not really into Tweeter or MySpace, and I don’t have an obsessive compulsion to randomly snap pictures of myself and post them on the internet. The bottom line is I am not the target audience that Google is hoping to attract with this feature. I am too old to qualify. So, I will have to accept whatever decree is passed by the masses and live with it. However I can’t help but think that some benefit can come from this technology. If Google and others are able to augment their advertising revenue, then they can spend more on research and development projects and gives us amazing free services similar to Google Maps and Chrome. If receiving ads that actually interest me is the price I have to pay for other free perks, then so be it. A little inconvenience is a small price to pay. If I am not happy with the feature, I can always turn it off.

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