The World: Insider's view - Mexico

The dangers of sharing personal information on the internet may not be as serious as in Mexico but brands can learn much from that country's caution, Angelica del Valle says.

We Latins are a wonderfully social breed: we are a society that loves to party and is in constant hunger for recognition. We are natural voyeurs and we love to watch and to be seen.

So it's no surprise that visiting our friends online has become such an incredibly popular way to stay in touch before the partying starts.

Updating our social profiles is now an important part of our everyday activities. A great profile lets you strut your stuff even before you arrive as well as adding to the gossip and sense of occasion.

Sadly, however, this is one party that might be over and for serious reasons. Recent investigations revealed that social networks have become authentic paradises for kidnappers who have a profitable business in Mexico.

The media verdict has been delivered by national TV: avoid problems by not using these sites. They warned that criminals can use such information to select future victims and even join their friends' networks to learn more about them.

Social networks have become the security-free back door that has left the rich vulnerable. Some social networks, such as MySpace and Facebook, have responded by sending newsletters recommending how and what to publish as well as encouraging consumers to use the privacy settings that are a built-in, but rarely used, feature of these sites.

Such concerns have forced us to become extremely innovative if we want to connect brands and consumers in what is now a complicated security-focused environment. We've developed four guidelines for digital planning in social media in Mexico, but they apply to any market where privacy concerns are rising.

They reflect the reality that the era of being free and easy with personal information on social networks is over.

Build trust. Always remember to separate interaction from database capture. Don't force users to give you their information before they can get to know you. Give, give, give and only then ask. Once users are confident that you are honest, then they will trust you.

Be security obsessed and brag about it. Talk about how much you will protect consumer information and promise to keep it to yourself.

But stay relaxed. Nobody likes a brand that freaks them out about personal information: it creates doubts. Just be simple, firm and friendly.

Your brand is an endorsement. Great brands can generate an "I belong" feeling. A strong brand can be your best security credentials.

Here in Mexico these lessons are hard won. As digital leaders, we need to educate our brands, our consumers and sometimes, even the social networks on how to regain what we as a society have lost ... the freedom to trust strangers online.

Angelica del Valle is the digital project manager Mexico for Universal McCann.


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