UPDATED 08:15 EST / DECEMBER 15 2014

Facebook banishes the word “user” from its vocabulary

facebook-sign-largeFacebook Inc. is changing its internal processes to eliminate the word “user,” choosing to use the term “people instead.

Margaret Gould Stewart, Facebook’s Director of Product Design, spoke at The Atlantic’s Navigate tech conference on Wednesday, where she described a recent shift in the way the company thinks of its users internally.

According to Stewart, “User” is not the preferred term anymore inside the company.

“Actually, we don’t use the term user at Facebook,” said Stewart. “We kind of stopped using it because we want to call them people, so we actually have kind of banished the term. All of our dashboards, instead of saying ‘daily average users,’ say ‘daily average people.’”

Stewart explained that understanding the needs and experiences of the people and businesses who use Facebook is important to the social network’s success and its ability to improve those interactions.

“As somebody once said: It’s kind of arrogant to think the only reason people exist is to use what you built,” said Stewart.

“Somebody” could refer to Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, who wrote in 2012 that the industry should abandon the term “user” altogether.


Empathizing with users–er, “people”


Stewart also mentioned that Facebook began using an empathy team to represent user needs to other groups in the company, ensuring that Facebook’s engineers and designers see the community as people rather than points of data.

Members of the empathy team represent not only the average Facebook user, but also the large companies that use social media for advertising. The empathy team visits many of these companies to discuss their experiences with Facebook and their unique needs with the platform.

“If you succeed or fail at a particular goal, you may not feel the pain or success that a real person using that product to run their business will feel,” said Stewart. “So we find when we pair individuals and build a relationship with a small business and the campaign they made fails, they feel that.”

Stewart also explained that improving the methods of advertising for businesses will have a positive impact overall on the social network. The old model of bombarding people with irrelevant ads is wasteful, according to Stewart, who believes that low-volume targeted advertising is more effective.


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