Social media will save this company! How many times have we heard that one before? We’ve heard phrases like this popping up for a long time now, and, to an extent, I agree with them. After all, social is extremely important, and, if done correctly, can change a company’s path in very positive ways. However, the UX designer in me can’t help but roll my eyes each time I read and hear these statements. I’m willing to bet that many of you UX Designers out there feel the same way, but have you ever stopped to wonder why?
The eye rolling phenomena
Why do we continue to get frustrated when the talk of social media arises? Well, there are many reasons, but the eye rolling catalyst that I want to highlight today is: we are frustrated because we realize that social media is not new, nor has it been new for several thousands of years, and even though we have been saying this for some time, no one has listened to us.
Human beings are social, who didn’t know that one? In fact, UX has been evangelizing the need to be more socially interactive since the beginning of our profession. We study users, we know their behavior, and we know that humans and social interaction go together like peanut butter and jelly! We have brought this up numerous times but have always been battered back with talk about budget, scope, and system constraints.
Thus, the frustration we feel comes from the fact that people today are overlooking UX as the champion of social (Thankfully big names are starting to raise the issue again. See Paul Boag’s Smashing Magazine article Social Media Is A Part of the User Experience for more on that). And, these same people are overlooking UX as the people who can really design good experiences with the social tools and processes that continue to crop up. Instead, our companies look to put into place random social media tools without thinking about how to use them properly in hopes that these tools will save the day.
What This Means
But you see, businesses, putting random tools into place simply isn’t the right approach. One off tool integration is not the answer. The answer lies not too far away from you sitting inside of that UX designer that you hired to use Omnigraffle. It lies in understanding the intrinsic human need to interact and create communities, and, luckily, your UX designer is the one that can help you do just that.
What this means for UX professionals is that we need to be prepared with the right answers. That means that we need to have a much better understanding of human behavior in order to design social experiences. We can increase our understanding of human behavior through several means.
First, we gain a better overall understanding of psychology. Second, we conduct more ethnographic and behavioral research. If your company doesn’t allow you to do that, figure out how to do so in your day to day life because just knowing more about people will help you gain a better understanding of their behavior.
Third, we stop rolling our eyes at the marketing team (or whomever) when they walk into the room and say we need to be more social (duh!). Instead, we need to educate our clients and organizations about the true value that social provides from an experience standpoint. Then we educate them to the fact that we are the ones that can and should be architecting social solutions based on our knowledge.
What Happens Next
The outcome of UX increasing our knowledge of human behavior and then educating our businesses to our value in the social realm is that we begin to turn the page. We bring the focus of social back to UX as the ones who know about human behavior and the ones who design social media interactions that are effective, profitable, and delightful. We harness our talent to design the experiences that we have been longing to design since we first stepped on the scene, and we prove our immense value to our business partners, thus securing our rightful place as experience innovators.
Social media is ancient. We know this. UX has always known this. But have we explained, in an effective way, how we know this, why it’s important we know this, and what businesses can do with this knowledge? I think not, and thus my challenge to you is to do just that, explain our value in social media in this effective way. From here, let’s see if we can start to turn this tide of whacky buzz terms to a tide of effective UX thinking. The choice is ours.