The Behaviour Modification Properties of Social Media

Sounds very Orwellian, doesn’t it?

I just read an article on Mashable about the upcoming release of Foursquare 3.0.  In the past, I’ve dismissed Foursquare as a rather childish social media service, only hitting the social proof concept in a very fringe manner that’s not really all that useful for marketing purposes. Foursquare 3.0 will change that- the new features described in the article strengthen the service’s use of social proof, while adding some valuable tools for merchants and people like me (slightly off the wall marketing types).

It got me thinking.  Social Media potentially has the power to modify behaviour- so that the individual acts more in a fashion aligned with the group mind mentality.  What I’d never considered before is that this is the true root of the social proof concept.  With digital convergence and mobile social media applications for smartphones growing steadily, the social media landscape is moving heavily to the mobile sphere (does anyone still use Twitter from a desktop pc?)

Traditionally I’ve shunned using location-based social media checkin services like Foursquare and more recently, Facebook Places. I don’t want people knowing where I am or where I’ve been, that’s just creepy right?  My mindset is shifting though- I can see the value from a marketing standpoint in these types of services. I suspect that when Foursquare 3.0 launches, I’ll begin using it- if only to evaluate how it can be leveraged for the benefit of my clients.

Which brings me to the behaviour-modification potential of social media. If I know that my BlackBerry is deviously and unashamedly recording and broadcasting the places where I stop in to the social media world, will I be more mindful of where I go and when? Not that I have a whole lot of perceptive closet skeletons to start with. But, what about the guy who’s married and has a couple of kids? What would his wife say if his Foursquare account logged a visit to Moe’s Tavern at 7:02pm instead of being home for dinner? Alternatively, what would the jealous husband say if his wife’s account logged a 2pm visit to ‘Richard’s Place’ (But honey, it’s a corner bistro on 3rd and Main…)?

With the technology to make this kind of Orwellian tracking commonplace in smartphones today (find a phone without one, or even two GPS units- I dare you), these services can quickly become ubiquitous. Consumers have the choice to either adopt them or leave them. Personally, I didn’t see any value in adopting them before. But with the new merchant tools integrated into Foursquare’s upcoming 3.0 launch… there’s more incentive for consumer adoption of the service (for instance, a business can run a deal where a customer/Foursquare user gets a ‘reward’ in the form of free product, samples, or discounts if that user AND a certain number of his or her friends checks into the business within a set period of time). That’s a powerful incentive for adoption, particularly among the under-30 crowd (which research has shown to be high adopters of social media services, and woefully unconcerned about privacy or protection of personal information).

Location-based social media services just might keep us all more honest. But where’s the fun in that?


Disclosure: at time of writing, I did not own an equity position in any of the companies mentioned in this article.

57 replies on “The Behaviour Modification Properties of Social Media”