Last weekend at Social Dev Camp East, I was sitting in a session about location based services. We were talking about cool examples of location in apps, adoption rate, the barriars to adoption. We considered the fact that social apps are great for presence, but the implications of location as a part of that presence were not only bordering on intrusive, but didn’t really have a huge payoff for the user so the attraction to adopt was low.

At one point, J.P Toto (one of our illustrious BarCampPhilly organizers) told a story about how he’d recently had his car break down in an area he wasn’t familiar with. Rather than panic, or even run for the phone book, he knew exactly what to do: he pulled out his iPhone and fired up the Yelp app. It automatically discovered where he was, and typing in “towing service”, the search became instantly relevant to his location. In just a couple of taps, he was on the phone with a reputable, nearby towing service was on it’s way.

After telling this story, one of the other session attendees pointed out that this was an example of success in location-based apps: when they behave as “Big Mother” (a guiding force) rather than “Big Brother” (an imposing, controlling force). I’d like to give credit to the session attendee who came up with this phraseology as I really love it – but I don’t know who it was. If anyone knows, speak up!!

“Big Brother” is a common concern when it comes to privacy, but I think that privacy is just one layer of intrusion. People don’t like feeling like their lives or experiences are being intruded into, especially with the purpose of being sold.

They DO, however, like it when their quality of life is improved and made easier.

Consider this when you’re working on your social marketing initiatives.

Having a clear value proposition is helpful, though it’s not always possible. In these cases, you can to create a related tangential value proposition – something that guides them rather than controls them – to gain their attention.

Once you have that attention, be mindful of intrusive actions.

In social marketing, it’s critical be a guiding force rather than an imposing force. Be Big Mother instead of Big Brother.