If you want to do a little Pavlovian experiment, be present at a VC (Venture Capital) networking event and mention LBS. The VC will probably get slobbery and their cheeks could get red. This little video might explain why search marketing gets hot and bothered when you add location.
What does LBS really mean though to us, parents and end users? Location Based Social Networks typically live on your cell phone. Or your child’s cell phone. I have both a Nexus 1 (android based Google phone) and an iPhone, for the most part the apps are similar and Blackberry (though a bit less social) has many of the same.
Here’s the thing, if you or your child uses their cell phone to “check in” anywhere, for any of these apps (applications) then they are leaving behind a digital footprint. For the most part a digital footprint is just fine, but there can be issues. I’m not saying that sharing your life is bad. By definition I’m a bit of a lifecaster myself, and with that being said, there must be boundaries.
One of the reasons Facebook is a problem for kids is that friends of friends are able to see your activities. Some of the privacy issues have been addressed, but Facebook was set up to be like a book. It’s an open network for people to read, share and enjoy. This morning I spent quite a bit of time purging my facebook friends of anyone who hasn’t been to my home. It’s the litmus test I chose, it may or may not work for you. I’m not really sure what, if anything, it will achieve. I hope no one has their feelings hurt, but my husband is entitled to more privacy than he was getting.
With LBS using Facebook to connect you to so many friends, it was also important for me to whittle down the friend list if I’m to continue enjoying using apps like Whrrl* and Foursquare. Foursquare is a marketers dream with people fighting to be the mayor of your business, and updating their twitter and facebook statuses. Again, with friends of friends, and the very public nature of Twitter, using Foursquare, Gowalla, Whrrl and the like requires a bit of forethought.
For me, the forethought is to fire facebook as my social media black book, to use MySpace instead, and to invest more of my time in Whrrl than the other location based applications. Why? Well, my husband doesn’t use myspace. We’re divorcing our online lives and he gets to keep Facebook, but I get MySpace. MySpace is a bit more like being in a million tiny chat rooms, so it appeals to me a little more as a way to communicate with people outside of my IRL (in real life) neighborhoods. Also, and more importantly, Facebook Connect is used in many of the LBS applications and leaving a digital footprint for friends of friends isn’t very smart.
Please understand that in taking social media off of Facebook, I have separated myself from editors in chief, VC’s, CEOs, reporters, social media gurus and celebrities. This is not a decision I came to lightly.
One of the reasons I’ve been using Whrrl for so long is because of the privacy they have built into it. According to Pelago the makers of Whrrl, “Privacy is one of the core product values that Whrrl was built upon. We take privacy very seriously, and enable anyone to make their check ins private or viewable to friends, trusted friends, or the public. Once you check in, you also have the ability at any time to change the privacy level. In addition, Facebook and Twitter status updates are optional and if activated, can be turned off at any time.” When the folks at Pelago talk about “trusted friends”, what they mean is that there are two levels of friendship on their network, you can be friends with someone or you can be a “trusted friend”. My “trusted friends” are my immediate family and they’re the only ones who get to see the kids, and know exactly where I am.
Being a Mommy Blogger is a privilege. I’m so honored every time just one person reads my posts, and when I meet folks and they say they’ve had the same experiences my heart soars. When you leave comments, I feel good. Really good. I can’t even explain to people what it’s like to have this blog, to have you as a reader. I can’t. It’s good. Please trust that.
Like my friend Matt Singley, I’m reviewing the way I do things. If I’m not your Facebook Friend, and I was three days ago, please don’t be offended, maybe you’ll join me at MySpace? I’m not less interested in your life, I’m just interested in sharing with you in other forums, so that we can all feel comfortable. And appropriate.