This article explores how information gained by companies through social media has multiple marketing applications.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

Marketing, technology, entrepreneurship, business management, privacy, consumer behaviour

Key Questions to Explore:

  • What are the social and commercial implications of the personal information people provide through social media applications?

New Terminology:


Materials Needed:

The Internet

Study and Discussion Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

As the article says, the newest, biggest and most interesting collections of data on human behaviour belong to technology and social media startups – many of which didn’t exist just a few years ago. This lesson explores the reach of social media and the implications for businesses that collect or otherwise use the data.

Action (lesson plan and task):

  • Survey the class to discover who uses social media.
  • Create a chart on the board with the following: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Linkedin, Blog, other
  • Under each category record the number of users in the class.
  • Discuss why some students prefer one over the other.
  • Ask students what information they have recorded about their own lives on social media. Ask if they know how the medium is using their data.
  • Divide the class into four groups and assign each group a section from the article, having  divided it into four sections as follows:
    • Section 1:  begin with When Tech company Strava and end with urban planning mysteries
    • Section 2:  begin with For decades and end with But right now, that doesn’t exist.
    • Section 3:  begin with The massive quantity and end with derives most of its revenue.
    • Section 4:  begin with Companies that want to improve and end with the end of the article
  • Have each group read and discuss their section, then report out to the class the key messages in it
  • Discuss: What are the social and commercial implications of the current practices as described in the article?

Consolidation of Learning:

Have an in-class debate: Be it resolved that the practice of social media companies collecting and using personal information for commercial purposes is an acceptable outcome of engaging in social media.

Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

Students will have a good understanding of how their personal data are used by social media companies and be able to make decisions about what information they want to share.

Confirming Activity:

Have students search TED Talks for a talk on social media information and privacy. They should watch the talk and write a one page paper on how this new information is linked to the lesson.