Facebook knows its users are human

"It's kind of arrogant to think that the only reason that people exist is to use what you built," says a Facebook executive.

Story highlights

  • Facebook stops calling members "users" and switches to "people"
  • It also has an empathy team to help advertisers humanize customers
  • Empathy team helps employees and advertisers see the site from users' point of view
Facebook wants you to know it doesn't see customers as a mass of faceless moneymaking advertising targets. It understands that you, and the other billion individuals who log on to the social network, are flesh-and-blood humans with feelings.
That's why the company no longer refers to members as "users" internally. Instead it calls them "people." The switch in lingo has even trickled down to internal computer programs. Margaret Gould Stewart, the company's director of product design, explained Facebook's softened approach to humanizing its customers at the Atlantic Technology Conference in San Francisco on Wednesday.
"It's kind of arrogant to think that the only reason that people exist is to use what you built. They actually have lives, like, outside of the experience they have using your product," she said.
Facebook has an empathy team that designs programs to help engineers and designers understand what it means to be an advertiser or small business -- an experience Stewart says they cannot immediately relate to. That can help Facebook employees create better products for those advertisers and be more invested in figuring out why a campaign did or didn't take off with Facebook users (sorry, people).
On its own, swapping out a few words doesn't mean much, but it shows that a giant global company is working to shift its internal culture. If engineers, designers and other employees think of the real people on the other side of their products, it might help them create something more personal and human.
And that, of course, will make it a little easier to serve people ads.