Lately there’s been a lot of talk about how social media is permeating all other corners of the web. New websites with static only content are scoffed at for their shortsightedness and even those who attempt to integrate the social web on their platforms are criticized for “doing it wrong” – basically, not committing wholly to making your online presence a community.
The methods are myriad – Facebook, Twitter, FriendFeed, MySpace, and countless mobile applications like BrightKite et cetera. All these places create a torrent of useful information about someone, and it’s getting easier and easier to aggregate it, to build a complete picture of someone’s personality, buying habits, and so on.
The point is to take something that would normally only give you static information and make it dynamic. It’s been a truth of advertising since day one that increased relevance equals increased results. But now that people are freely offering demographic, psychographic and geographic information about themselves on such a granular level by participating in the social web, the possibilities for targeting become boundless.
For example, there’s a simple restaurant finder app for iPhone out there that reads GPS information from your phone to figure out the closest restaurants to your current location. It then allows you to search through them by category, by critics’ ratings and by users’ ratings. It will show you where your friends ate, what they said about that particular restaurant and their scores based on food quality, quality of service and ambiance. Who do you trust more? A recognized food critic or your roommate from college? Now it doesn’t matter. You can get both of them side-by-side.
And there are literally thousands upon thousands of other apps just as useful out there or being developed that play upon that same sense of community.
Some argue that the collection and aggregation of all these little bits of data about someone does not necessarily make a whole picture of them, or that ethically it’s not right to build profiles based on this information. Others say that if they’re freely offering it, knowing the terms of service of all the sites they are using, that their right to the privacy of that information is given up.
There’s a lot to talk about there. Think about the millions of people who signed on to CNN’s website during the Michael Jackson memorial on Tuesday to watch the event live while updating their Facebook status, thanks to some incredibly smart integration on part of CNN. Facebook statuses were updated in record numbers while the memorial was being broadcast, which is good news for any advertisers on Facebook and great news for CNN, as they’re now able to include people on the conversation – giving a glimpse of the collective consciousness of a nation while something major is happening. The zeitgeist is getting easier and easier to see, thanks to tools like that.