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Asking the Right Questions

Asking the right questionIn business we have specific objectives to meet certain goals. As such, we attempt to isolate the problem into a focused question, deduce an answer, and then find ways to best execute that answer.

"How do I reach more people?" becomes "How do I get more attention on Facebook" becomes "How do I get more Likes on Facebook?"

Fair questions, all. But what if even after arriving at that last question, it was still the wrong one to be asking?

Walking In Other Shoes

A business in the middle of its marketing campaign sees the end-user like an actor sees the audience; as a faceless, vast mob of individuals with fickle tastes and short attention spans. And this isn't wholly wrong; there's a reason this view has been so accepted.

But here's a question: Why is "the audience" or "the user base" so fickle and so impatient? Now we're onto something.

Here's an even better question: Why are you so fickle and impatient?

A slew of answers must come to mind. I have way too much email to pay much attention to every single one. I've got a ton of meetings ahead of me. I'm in the middle of important projects. This doesn't seem relevant to me, so there's not much point reading more (said while skimming the headline). There are so many articles to read I can't read them all! I'm just not in the mood right now. This doesn't appear to tell me anything I don't already know.

Yes, within one's personal context there are plenty of reasons why we don't have time and have such picky tastes. And in the throes of trying to smooth out the kinks in a marketing campaign it becomes all too easily forgotten that each and every single one of our users is a Person just like us. And like us, they have all these reasons to not look at what we want them to look at.

So here's an even better question: Why do I read what I read?

Because it struck me. Because it's from my favorite author. Because it was something I didn't know. Because it looked funny. Because my friend or coworker recommended it. Because it had easy to read infographics. Because I'm on my lunch break. Because this is how I gleam the news every morning over coffee. Because it covered a subject I like to keep current with.

And there you have it, the same reasons why any single member of "the audience" or "the user base" takes that extra five minutes to read something; even if it's not necessarily yours.

The Golden Rule of Demographic Empathy

So what else do we look forward to in our own news feeds? Deleting the spam, clearing out the irrelevant, filtering out the mildly interesting, bookmarking the interesting, stopping everything to read something that looks very interesting indeed.

How do we categorize what we do? How do you define spam and irrelevant from "interesting enough to maybe get to it later" and "I gotta read this now!"

Likewise, how does the user base?

If you received a long, verbose email with no clear breakdown of points with nothing to personally offer you, would you care much about it? Likely not. So don't send an email campaign to others that sounds verbose and unengaging lest they react as you did. Do unto others, so to speak. Or rather, engage unto others, as you would want to be engaged.

Questions, Answers, And A Mirror

So here's the right question to ask: Why should I read this? Why should I Like this? Why should I read further into this?

Why should I take time to bother with this? Well, why would you?

Put yourself into the user's shoes. If you can't interest yourself, you're probably not going to interest others. Statistics, demographics, and focus groups exist as research to help correct for biases, but overall what applies to you applies to others as well. Don't kid a kidder, everyone lives in a world bombarded with advertising and marketing on all sides. Why do you ignore most of those ads' effect on yourself? Is it no wonder that others would group your ads similarly?

So think back to that one ad that caught your eye, and ask Why did it? Then ask how could it have the same effect on others.

In no other medium has this approach been more necessary than in social media, because by its very nature social media is a realm of peers, not marketers and audience. Why do users ignore our carefully crafted ads and go straight for the stupid lolcats? For the same reason that after a hard day of work we ignore the sponsored posts and go straight for the lolcats.

If you want somebody to pay attention to you, you need to ask what makes you pay attention to somebody else.

What are some of the reasons you pay attention or dismiss ads and marketing campaigns targeting you? Do you think most people think alike, or are we really that different?

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