You have +1 new friend request: Burglar Bill

So, 500 million members…. That’s a lot of friends. That’s 1 in 13 of the world’s population. If Facebook was a country it would be the third largest in the world. MySpace who?? 

As Facebook reaches yet another milestone, leaving other social media sites trailing in the dust, one can’t help wondering if Mark Zuckerberg will actually take over the world one day. But no Achilles is without his heel and Facebook – a seemingly unstoppable force in today’s social media-centric world – certainly does come with its weaknesses.   

According to Andrew Keen on Newsnight this week, the internet and the real world are one in the same: “The internet is the world. It is a reflection of us and we are a reflection of it. Facebook reflects the changing socio-economic nature of life”.  With this in mind, just like real-life relationships and identities seem to have merged with their virtual counterparts, so have some of the more sinister things in life.

When did you last boast in your Facebook status about an upcoming night out, or count down the number of ‘sleeps’ until your amazing two-week holiday in Ibiza? As Twitter’s tagline declares, social media is “without a doubt the best way to share and discover what is happening right now.” Unfortunately, it is also consequently one of the best ways to let the modern generation of social-media savvy burglars know that you’ve left your home empty.

 In this way, Facebook and Twitter provide a potential “gold mine” of information for criminals, whilst Foursquare discloses that people are in a specific spot and, more importantly, definitely not at home. A survey found that 12 per cent of burglars said they had used social networking sites to do their research – a figure no doubt fortified by Facebook’s 100 billion hits a day.

As a result, insurance specialists are warning that using Facebook or Twitter ‘could raise your insurance premiums by 10pc‘. Could this be an opportunity for savvy insurance brands to build customer trust with a ‘social media safety’ campaign?

There is always an exception to the rule though… in this case, hapless burglar Jonathan G. Parker, who made the almost unbelievably idiotic mistake of checking his Facebook account on the computer in a house he had broken into, but forgot to log out. If convicted he faces one to 10 years in prison.

Facebook: help or hindrance? Both apparently, if you’re a thieving vagabond…

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This time it’s (too) personal?

Real-time location based marketing – the ideal made real or a step towards a very scary future?

“There’s been some increasingly excited chatter about real-time location based marketing recently, with some particularly interesting examples that have been generating debate about whether this new technology is a really good or a really bad idea.

It’s no secret anymore that smartphones and branded apps are an incredibly effective way to target and engage consumers, in a way that is also very cost effective. By creating tools that your customer base can download and use on a regular basis you can integrate with their lives in a way that ‘mere’ advertising never has. Virgin’s iPhone app for example, based around its ‘Flying without fear’ course allows consumers to access relaxation exercises, fear therapies with a personal video introduction from Sir Richard Branson himself. It’s smart, intimate and useful on a runway (in safe mode of course).

However, the next generation of apps are all using smartphone’s GPS capabilities in a way that enables brands to hit a moving target, so to speak. The mobile social network / game Foursquare signed up its first national UK brands (Debenhams and Domino’s Pizza) this month. The app detects players’ whereabouts and when they visit shops and restaurants they gain points for ‘checking-in’.

Brands get involved by offering deals to users based on for example the number of times someone ‘checks in’ to their local branch. Businesses get increased footfall, and ideally, a network of brand ambassadors who will pass on recommendations. The consumer gets great deals that are relevant not only to who they are, but where they are.

Win-win right? Well not according to pleaserobme.com which aims to highlight the dangers of giving your exact location on social media sites in case the information is used to burgle your house.

Personally I think that’s a bit reactionary (although a number of Liverpool FC’s players may disagree with me) but it does raise an interesting point all the same. The ideal of advertising is similar to the ideal of PR in that the greater the relevance to the audience, the greater the value, whether it’s a genuinely interesting and newsworthy story to a journo or a half price burger to a hungry commuter. But where do you draw the line?

Don't be...

Google Buzz is another new development which has been getting a great deal of ink but it’s the mobile version of the platform that appears the most powerful, by some distance. However, as has been pointed out, you could argue that “Google isn’t really a search engine, or a chat tool, or an email provider. It’s an online advertisement-pushing juggernaut”

So just as Gmail scans the content of your emails to present you with relevant ads, Buzz will combine this with your locational data.

All of which could lead to a day where from waking up and being immediately offered a hangover cure (because Google knows you were at the pub last night) to the local Buzz-linked McDonald’s ‘Buzzing’ you at lunch time and asking if you’re in need of a quarter pounder (as Google knows you went there last week) to a local bar ‘buzzing’ you to see if you fancy another post-work beer (because Google knows what time you leave the office)… And so it goes ad infinitum until there’s no one point in your day when you’re not sharing personal data with Google, and having personalised ads thrust upon you.

It will be fascinating to see how brands will be able to heap innovation upon innovation with this new technology, but it will be crucial that consumers are handed the power to control the medium, otherwise the potential for brand damage could exceed the huge opportunites for new forms of engagement.”