Social Profiling: Uses and Abuses

It all started with the exercise of finding as much information as possible about one person, based on a photo. I was very excited about playing Sherlock Holmes for a moment there, so, by using Google Reverse Image Search , I was able to find a Twitter account. Then I ‘Googled’ my way through a Linkedin profile, a fundraising campaign in JustGiving , the name of a community on Facebook, and then finally found a Facebook profile, all of which helped me determine the following details:

  • Name: Sarah Jane Lomas
  • Age / DOB: mid 1970’s , she must be 43 or 44 years old.
  • General location: South Hampton, Hampshire, UK (But has lived in Netherlands, Hertfordshire, and Bursledon)
  • Education: Coventry University, BA Modern Languages, BA Hons, 1996.
  • Works at: Mayflower Theatre, as Head of Sales and Marketing, for 12 years now. Visit for her complete work address, and contact details.
  • Hobbies: theatre, running, cycling, sailing, charity.
  • Family members: Daughter of Brian and Heather Page, Married to Phil Lomas: cyclist that Manages a Bike Repair shop called ‘The Brokers’, Two kids: Zac Lomas (teenager) and Zoe Lomas (10-12), has a cat.
  • Travelled to: Calella de Palafrugell.
  • Life Events: Currently renovating her house, her daughter recently donated her hair to make a wig for Cancer patients, she went last month with her family to George Ezra’s concert in Oxfordshire, recently lost her sister in law who had 3 children, a girl and twin boys 😦 That’s where I stopped.


Incredibly, all of this information is of public access, and it doesn’t require CIA skills to find it.


So yes, there is a huge issue with privacy nowadays.


Sensis Australian Social Media Report of 2018 shows that the two main motives for Australians to use Social Media sites are: ‘Catch up with family and friends (85%)’, and ‘Share photographs or video (46%)’. (Click here if you’d like to download the whole study 🙂 ) But, are we aware of how this personal information can be used by marketers?

For instance, I work for an online retail company that sells Hamptons Style and French Provincial (mostly white) furniture. We are currently facing two challenges: 1. We don’t have a shop front and only 7% of the people that buy furniture, do it online. 2. We sell a niche product.

Access to the public information shared in social media sites enables us to solve #1 By selling trust, before we sell furniture; and #2 By targeting the right people, in the right place, at the right time, with the right message.


Facebook Ads, for example, offers a feature to create targeted audiences for the ad campaigns in the site, based on the following variables: location, marital status, hobbies, income, home ownership, life events, interests, among others. Facebook manages to know all of this, thanks to the information we post there as users.

Now, if I know the value of my brand, what it stands for, and what my product is, I will be able to identify the people that need it, and with the help of this information of public domain I will know what is important to them.

If we go back to the fact that social media is about being social and connecting with others, brands can act as characters and interact with their customers in a social way, too. By knowing who our specific target is, what they like, what matters to them and how they communicate, we are able to develop relevant content and messages to communicate with them and get them engaged with the brand.

We don’t have to spend huge amounts of money trying to advertise our furniture to a large audience anymore, where the message will probably get lost and ignored. Thanks to the information in our hands, we can invest in building the trust of those that we know are our potential buyers.

Now, lovely readers, to what extent is this ‘trust building’ non-manipulated or invasive?





9 comentarios sobre “Social Profiling: Uses and Abuses

    1. I agree, both as a user and as a marketer! As a user because, clearly, the information that we post is used and monetized by others… and as a marketer, because the uses of social media change all the time. People’s behaviour and trends are very hard to predict nowadays, and you have to keep your knowledge up to date at all times.

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  1. Nowadays privacy is an ilusion, I even feel my cel is spying on my conversations (not while on call!!!), some of the Ad’s and friend requests I receive, are related somehow to a random conversation with friends…

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  2. True. Nice article.
    Few comments though:
    You might not need too much money for ads but you do need money for Google analytics to understand your target through their behaviour online.
    Also you say only 7% of people that buy furniture do it online? What’s the geographical scope of that statement and source?

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    1. Thanks for the feedback! Google analytics’ standard version is totally free of use, and so is Facebook analytics once you’ve registered your account as a business. Both of these free versions give you a good insight that you can work with.

      And that’s a good question. This 7% is measured in Australia, the US has a different behaviour. The source of this information is a study released by Sensis, a renowned digital marketing agency in Australia, here’s the link for the full report:

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  3. Hi Ana
    Great post, on the topic of privacy, sharing too much information and security. What are your thoughts on Sarah applying for a job and a recruiter making a decision based on her facebook profile. Let’s say Sarah is more than qualified but due to revealing too much information on her Facebook, she doesn’t even make the shortlist. Is this a privacy issue

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    1. Thanks for your feedback Rey. I believe is more of an ethical issue than a privacy issue, tbh. Companies shouldn’t use profiling for recruitment processes, unless of course this is part of the position. For instance, part of the decision of using an influencer in marketing, relies on the image this person has built within his/her community, and their ability to ‘influence’. In this case marketers use profiling to find out if their influencer lines up with their brand, etc. But you’re right, that’s a tricky one.

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  4. It really is scary how easy it is to find out information about people online. I feel like true privacy is not possible any more. Especially with cameras everywhere and so much information sharing. I fear for todays youth who post things online without any thought about what the long term consequences may be.

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