I begin my second year as a grad student in August, and I have read a LOT over the last year and become a better communicator and marketer along the way.
One of my favorite courses so far focused on human-computer interaction (HCI), which is defined by PCMag.com as “…the design and implementation of computer systems that people interact with. It includes desktop systems as well as embedded systems in all kinds of devices.”
My studies focused on the social and psychological effects of HCI, and one of the books we read was Clifford Nass’ The Man Who Lied to His Laptop: What We Can Learn About Ourselves from Our Machines. Nass is a professor at Stanford who has centered his research on HCI and multitasking.
The Man Who Lied to His Laptop provides insights into praise and criticism, personality, teams, emotion and persuasion, all through the lens of humans working with computers. As a marketer, I had many “aha” moments as I read along.
Here are a few of my key takeaways, and I encourage you to read the book or listen to the audiobook.
Computers are our friends (that we sometimes yell at)
There is evidence that computer users interact socially with computers. I don’t mean like social like Facebook, although the interface is ripe with features that enable social interaction. It’s a little bit creepier than that.
Nass’ research led to the Computers Are Social Actors (CASA) paradigm, which has been studied in various social situations. Have you ever yelled at your computer for crashing? This is a great example of treating computers as if they were human. We know that the computer can’t actually hear us, but still treat it as if it can.
So how can you use this knowledge to your advantage as a marketer? You should think of consumers’ online interactions with your brand as if they were interacting with a person. One chapter in Nass’ book focuses on teamwork. Marketers create campaigns, content and encourage other interactions every day, and you should consider whether you are speaking at your consumer or actually providing information that will help them.
Be sure you’re answering the questions your consumer is asking and solving the challenges they’re looking for solutions to. Use keyword best practices to make sure you are providing helpful information that will reach your prospects when they’re searching on the web for solutions.
Fostering teamwork with consumers
Because teams are created by shared characteristics and working together towards a common goal, it’s important that you, as a marketer, understand your target audience and their pain points. This will help you create content that directly addresses their needs, and it shows that you want to help them do their job better.
Think about how you feel when you go to a great restaurant and have a waiter that is not intrusive and provides services before you get agitated. This analogy is a great way to illustrate the balance between helping consumers and not bombarding them. Anticipate their needs so that you can best assist them through their decision-making process. Amazon does a good job of this with their recommendations.
Of course, you need to know who your intended audience is, and conversations with your customers is one way to learn. Social media also provides great details about what makes consumers tick. Following individuals or publications that already provide content to your potential buyers is something you can easily work into your daily routine.
Many companies make their websites more friendly and useful by including live chat for tech support or customer service. As a marketer, you should keep tabs on the latest innovations in this space. For example, a British company, Metail now provides the ability to create a virtual model of yourself to “try on clothes” online. How cool is that?
If you want to see how NOT to create a feeling of camaraderie in your software products, I present Exhibit A: Microsoft Word’s Clippy. If you used the English version of the product anytime between 1997 and 2003, you will remember this “digital assistant.” He was infuriating and annoying to say the least.
When people feel like they belong to a team, they are generally happier, more cooperative and make better decisions. So, it’s in your interest to experiment with your website and branded content to provide opportunities to work together with your customers and show that you understand them.
How does your company help consumers online? Take the next step to know who your consumers and competitors are and improve their content experience.