It has previously happened with mobiles and email – as social networking becomes mainstream, misuse by miscreants and anti-social elements is bound to happen. A very sad incident in Mumbai last week was an early indicator. I pray something like this never repeats itself but it will take responsible conduct from all stakeholders…
Soumya - a Blogworks regular brought up an interesting and relevant question. In brief, he asked…”marketers want customers to share more and more information, so they could use it to there advantage. How does the customer protect herself? How do brands and consumers find balance in this environment?”
My own assessment of the matter was a little different, suggesting that “Users (read youth in particular) seem not ‘bothered’ at all about sharing information on the net. To the contrary they are taking great delight in doing so (and that worries me about their physical and financial safety). Online media owners take a lot of personal information (though there are promises of data protection and all that but slips-ups are known to happen) but if you look around, that’s NOT the information that jeopardizing users. What is really jeopardizing them is open conversations about the tiniest happenings in their lives. Sometimes I wonder why would they want to bare their entire lives, but we are living in an increasingly exhibitionist world and communication tools are enabling that.
Different companies and brands are using the said content in public domain – for research, engagement but brands typically don’t stalk. Yes, what is needed is transparent and ethical conduct by brands. They are beginning to understand the value of engagement over quick returns.
Youngsters, many who have adopted the net as their primary means of information and communication aren’t sometimes even aware of the impact and consequences. These are social challenges of today and will need tackling through counsel, education and responsible conduct by all stakeholders – particularly the marketers and media owners. Let’s have some of the responsible ones roll out campaigns to address these very real issues.
I am not suggesting that my comment had anything to do with it, but almost on cue, this email from BigAdda, where I am registered as a user, popped in a couple of days later.
Big Adda Email Snippet1.jpg
Great start, but currently going out to existing subscribers.However, I think there is an opportunity for the local social networking sites, many of whom had perhaps found the carpet pulled from under their feet with the huge response to Facebook, to engage target audience with differentiated communication even as they tweak products to match FB etc.- BigAdda has gone for a mega interface and feature makeover recently, bringing in many Facebook like features.
An Outreach campaign, including:

  1. Advertising – for those who have the bucks BigAdda; MingleBox :)
  2. School & College Outreach
  3. Media Outreach
  4. Peer and Celebrity Messages – Do’s and Don’ts for a safer SN experience

..might win them the crucial trust, in a game that’s at the moment not taking them anywhere. I am talking something on the lines of what Seagram’s does for responsible drinking.
India is fairly big and many of these players are perhaps hoping to capture the ‘not-yet-on-social-networks’ traffic. There are a set who are on Orkut; another on Facebook, then there is migration from one to another. But, there is still a large population, in non-metros, smaller towns, or even in metros that owes no loyalty to Orkut or any other platform. “If I could get them to adopt my network first, they and their friends would likely join and stay.”, could and should be the logic for many of the local players. The game’s just begun, not anywhere close to finish!
The next round might just go to the most ‘trusted’ social networking site. Who will seize the opportunity (to not just gain subscribers, but maybe also save lives in the process)?