posted 19 Dec 2008 in Volume 12 Issue 4
Opinion: Oh the humanity!
Personal and professional lives canít really be separated in todayís knowledge-driven enterprise. To know a person is to know all about that person Ė business and pleasure.
By Lynda Rathbone
With 2009 upon us, I find Iím still talking about social networking. Since last year I faced my fears and set up a Facebook site and I have to say, it hasnít been that bad. My main concern about going on Facebook was using my real name as I didnít want my professional and personal lives to be woven together. This has now officially happened.
The first thing new friends, work clients or colleagues do (including a whole slew of folks Iíd forgotten about from past lives) is look you up, send along a friend request or find you on one of the many professional networks sites and then proceed to barrage you with a whole bunch of personal and professional updates. And weíve only just met! This would never happen offline. Can you imagine sitting down with someone you just met and exchange business cards with and showing them the photos you took on a night out last week?
While this isnít new information, I do think there is a new, interesting trend of user humanisation developing that is yet to be recognised. Instead of thinking of this as a Ďbad thingí, I think the blurring of these lines can actually help us understand each other better, work together more effectively and create better user journeys both on and offline. Gaining real, personal customer insight is now just a click away in many cases, and after all, people know what theyíre doing when they post this information publicly so why not use it to better inform the experience you deliver? If clients are doing this to me, I definitely want to return the favour.
By searching across social networks, blogs and online communities, you can compile a much more interesting and detailed set of personas and customer insights; perhaps uncovering interesting audience segmentation data that you would never have had access to before. Data on users is out there Ė from the users themselves Ė in a way that it has never been before, and I say letís join Google and Facebook and start mining. In addition to creating good user experiences, letís make them human experiences and set up the content on the sites to cater to peopleís innately curious and self-promotional behaviours.
Just look at the popularity of status updates and Twitter feeds. These are bite-sized chunks of information that I thought were trivial and a bit ridiculous to start out with but I am now hooked on and find myself willingly contributing my own titbits of information, although I know there is a wider audience than just friends for them.
Translating this into a business context is an interesting proposition. An organisation can use this online behaviour to get a more interactive view into the content or even start creating Facebook applications that users can put on their pages to track information from outside sites all in one place. I for one, would welcome receiving a request for something other than my favourite 80s toy or which movie actress I most like.
I am working with a member organisation at the moment and have just finished gathering the user requirements for the re-launch of its website. Like a lot of requirements, someone always seems to mention Facebook and asks ďwhy canít we have something like that?Ē My response is always that it would be a mistake to try to duplicate this functionality unless there is a really compelling and strategic reason. Or try to create a Facebook group that never seems to dovetail into the core site strategy.
Now Iím thinking that it would make more sense to allow a member directory where you list your social networking sites and perhaps create an application for the users to take and put on their pages. In turn, this can be monitored and trends, user data and advanced profile information can be gathered that would combine what you know about people on a professional level with what they are telling you about them personally, so the site and the content can be better suited to their needs going forwards.
2009 stands to be a very interesting one in terms of the corporatisation of things like Facebook. I say letís get in there early and see what the opportunity is to humanise and personalise the user experience. Oh and by the way, feel free to go to my Facebook page and add me as a friend. Just donít look at the party pics.
Lynda Rathbone is managing director at Four Square Media. She can be contacted at Lynda@foursquaremedia.net