users

Listen to the Users

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from design-thinking, it’s that listening is a most valuable skill.

You think you have an idea that will solve the problems of cyclists who need to cross intersections more safely? Just tell the city planner so it can be fixed. But before the solution gets employed, you might want to speak to cyclists themselves (like Patrick Jones). New discoveries are made when we ask open-ended questions.

What the designer might perceive to be a problem may not lead to the transformative fix. Anthropologists like Kenny Latta are used to doing field work to get to the crux of an issue. They empathize with others to truly understand what’s going on so that all facets and emotions are included in subsequent thinking and decision making.

If poor health is a problem in a low-income community, an obvious answer might be to occasionally send doctors to the people. But a closer look might unveil that transportation is what’s hindering people’s health because of a lack of access. If one doesn’t own a car and public transit is too inefficient or costly, a person might skimp on taking preventative healthcare measures. (Ruby Payne has a lot more to say on this matter.)

The reason I mentioned this, is that if we want to serve our audiences, we should listen and take note of what they want or even need.

Since my blogging debut, I’ve constantly sought the feedback of friends, family members, and co-workers. And they’ve had a lot to say. Some proofread for me. Some provide story leads. And some encouragingly say, “Keep it up.”

What’s been especially helpful are specific comments about my site:

  • “I do enjoy reading the articles that I know you are writing for a class, but you make them very entertaining and disguised so the average reader doesn’t know the purpose.”
  • “Can I guest post on your blog?”
  • “Consider establishing a separately branded Facebook profile to match memphismaverick.com. Not everyone who is friends with Burton wants to see your posts continuously pop up on their feeds. With a brand-specific page, those that like the page can receive updates.”
  • Apply the same logic to Twitter since my handle is @MemphisMaverick, yet it’s not as critical because you can get away with many more posts of varied topics there.
  • “Every time you publish a new post, put it on your Facebook so I can see it.”
  • Provide more photos of events.
  • “As a non-user of oh so many (almost all) social media applications. I laughed at your article. And as much as I hate to say it, reading your posts makes me wish I was more social media savvy. Enough to make me use it.”

Who doesn’t like receiving feedback? It’s a lot to think about and if I acted on everything, it could radically alter the way I’m operating. However, with four months in, I’m ready to shake things up.

Yes, I’m listening to the people so expect to see some different and exciting guest posts from creative millennials very soon.

What do you want from me?!

Facebook knows me like the back of its cursor.

Did you know that your Facebook likes predict preferences? And people study them!

Margaret Weigel‘s article, “Facebook, Private Traits, and Attributes,” cites research conducted at Cambridge and Microsoft that Facebook can accurately tell a person’s traits and innermost personal details.

By one’s online activity, they could accurately predict religion, sex, sexual orientation, and political ideologies from liking a certain TV show or artist. Yet, I will add that for years, Facebook nearly required its users to self-identify with nearly all of those categories.

As soon as one becomes a user, it prompts you to state if you are male or female, etc. While it is disconcerting that Facebook knows so much, we pretty much told them everything about us out of the gate.

Yes, this study was much more than people checking boxes about themselves. It studied user behavior. This further proves that the way we consume social media is just an extension of our everyday lives.

If someone votes for President Obama in an election and places the bumper sticker on back of a vehicle, it’s not surprising that liking certain shared links would also reflect that candidate preference. It’s context clues.

What scares people though is how Facebook intends to use that data. It’s one thing for my family to know who I am, it’s another for companies to send me “Burton-specific” deals, ads, and offers. Smart? Absolutely.

Is it enough that this company is worth billions? If Facebook quit raking in money tomorrow, it could probably sell our information piecemeal to others for decades and still be worth billions. Such personal information is invaluable, especially when they didn’t have to work or bribe their users to obtain it.

A poor graduate student didn’t have to beg folks to take a survey. Facebook simply let people loose on its playground and watched…and saved everything like a depression-era family.

Right now, campaign managers rely on dated census information and voting records to determine who to mail for certain primaries. In the near future, I bet anyone will be able to buy lists from Facebook for the purpose of targeting ads. “I want to buy an ad that’s just visible to all users with Democrat-tendencies in the Memphis area.” Presto!

This is more efficient, probably comes with more purchasing power, and online content can be uploaded or removed in seconds (unlike a mailer with a typo). Facebook might already be doing this, but it’s not spelled out that clearly to me. Comment below if you know.

In sum, as a new blogger with a geographic and generational focus, this information could help me grow MemphisMaverick’s visibility. I could specifically target a niche audience with ads, shares, and links that would be of interest to certain users.

So, while some denounce Facebook’s tactics, I think it’s too powerful to be declining anytime soon, especially with its monstrous pocketbook and ability to acquire trendy apps like Instagram.

Facebook Data Center

Facebook Data Center