Digital Privacy and Influence

As online marketers – how much should we be able to access from social networking sites. However, to what extent do users of popular sites such as facebook and myspace get to retain their privacy. The larger question would be, what is considered the public domain when the Internet has blurred the lines between public and private spheres.

For example, would it be okay for a market researcher to sit in a tall building and use a shotgun microphone to listen in on conversations happening on the street below? In my opinion, this may be a little strange. However it is really no different that what online media specialists do to identify consumers and opinion leaders.

In our technologically advanced society – it is becoming increasingly commonplace for individuals to post personal information about their identity and interests online. If this information is in the public online sphere – then it should stand to reason that it is for the use of public. Especially if the information is about specific interests to foster the creation of communities. Online marketers if they can access the information – can use these new communities to build product brands and Internet presence.

From a media specialist’s perspective – if the information is accessible it should be fair game. However – from a users perspective, this could be seen as a gross invasion of privacy. Invading personal social networking sites for profit is tantamount to the shotgun mic example mentioned earlier.

However, I think there may be a middle ground. Consumers have to recognize that, now – more than ever, they control what they are being offered. The communities that are created become direct reflections of what the media will offer. Thus, I believe that users should be cognizant of those who are accessing their sites. If denizens of the social networking community wish to create truly private pages – it is important to set the proper restrictions. If your page is public – and there is a wealth of private information, then why should it be inappropriate for anyone to access that information. It is imperative to be aware that social networking sites are not popularity contests – they are powerful tools for community building. Once a user decides to let everyone in – that user is set up as a prime target for those who want to gather information. On the contrary – to be a powerful opinion leader in the online social-sphere – it is not important to have many “friends” rather to be connected to a close knit community of people who share the same interests. This is what is valuable to many online marketers – and this is what can turn into a nominal profit for those in that position.

Through blogging we have seen how everyday Internet users can become professional surfers – there will come a time in the near future when the Internet opinion leaders will demand as much respect as those traditional leaders in the non-digital sphere. Users will be able to charge for their influence and make a living off the firms and corporations that need thought leaders to survive in the new digital age.

Currently, we are in the younger years of social networking sites – soon we shall be living in a time where much more weight will be placed on the influence and information gathered from these digital communities.

Published in: on October 26, 2008 at 11:52 am  Leave a Comment  

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