Maybe you're reading this series because you're a lone voice. The one person who is always bringing up an interactive or social idea in meetings. Ideas that are most often met with a combination of:
- Yeah, that's not really for our audience.
- Who besides you has ever even heard of that?
- And, that's not what we do.
It's so, so tempting to just spew statistics on adoption. To paint the mainlanders as hopelessly out-of-touch. But, who ever really changed religions over statistics? If they don't believe, they don't believe - and your fervor only further marginalizes you.
The challenge is: How do you change the conversation? How do you get people to see the possibilities that you see?
Part of the answer is teaching the experience. Chances are, you learned it on your own. Early adopter DNA, right-place-right-time, fiddler by nature, whatever. The truth is, most people don't learn that way. Now that you have, it's time to pass it on, to teach people about the tools and places that made you a believer. Here's how:
The trick to teaching online is finding opportunity. Most people won't want to learn just to learn (see objections below). It's your job to find that one irresistible angle of relevancy that flips the opportunity cost equation. Need to do research on the cheap about recent college grads? What about Facebook. Need to find a new day care for your bratty kid? What about Angie's LIst. Need to get a handle on the buzz about a potential new client? What about Twitter or blog search? Need to talk to employees on a more human level? What about a blog?
Once you've found the opportunity, it's the process that makes the difference:
- Guide the experience: Walk them through how it works in a live environment. This is how you sign up, this is what a community looks like, this is how you search, etc. And tell relevant stories about how people like them (as individuals or business leaders) have used these tools.
- Translate: Tell them how it works. Not so many details that's it's overwhelming. Just enough that you don't seem like a fantastical wizard full of secrets when really most of the concepts are pretty practical and straight-forward.
- Simplify: Now backtrack and make what you learned really simple. You want to explain it in 20 words or less. Words your new online buddy can repeat comfortably. Metaphors appreciated. (For example: You text message, right? Well, Twitter is a lot like that. You write a short message and send it. But, when you hit send, it goes to everyone in your address book vs. just one person.)
- Debrief: Ask open-ended questions. What did you think of the experience? How could you see using this? What questions you have?
- Send her on a solo experience: Ok, your turn. Log on, try it out yourself. I'll check in with you tomorrow
- Debrief: Repeat above.
Sounds fairly easy, right? Well it is and it isn't. It is easy because people are fundamentally curious. Given the right environment, we like to experiment with new things. And,it's not easy because creating that right environment is really hard. Humans are cautious out of fear of embarrassment and inadequacy. We don't want to be The One who can't do it.
You'll get objections. Here is how to overcome a few of the most common ones:
Objection: It's too hard, I can't get this
Answer: That's the great thing about online. Because the audience is so broad and diverse, it's the responsibility of user experience designers to ensure that good sites are really simple to use. If it seems too hard, it probably is. You just found a bad site.
Objection: I'm not the kind of person who ...
Answer: Wait, I thought you talked to friends all the time (or shopped or watched movies or whatever). It's the same thing you're already comfortable, just in a new location.
Objection: I don't have time
Answer: I hear you. For the first week or so, it will seem like it takes more time to (talk, shop, be entertained, find news, etc.) online. But once you get the hang of it, it will make (that thing) so much faster. In fact, there are even lots of tools that put all your interests in one place - so, you don't have to be constantly jumping from site-to-site to get the information you want.
Objection: It's for young people. It's not for people like me.
Answer: There are definitely some sites that are aimed at younger people. But the Internet is huge and contains content and experiences by and for people of all ages. There's no special trick or knowledge necessary. In fact, some of the most successful online companies are run by people just like you.
Objection: I'll never know as much as ...
Answer: Everyone uses the Internet a different way. Yeah, there will always be a segment of power users who go way more broad and deep than most of us would ever even be interested in trying. Everyone else finds what works for them. Gets a little humble to learn how. And, then adds a little at a time until they find everything they need.
And, to help make the process as successful as possible, here are a few practices of good online guides and teachers:
- DON'T use keyboard shortcuts or quick links. Follow the most logical path. The one an adopter would be able to repeat.
- DON'T use your own accounts. They're probably pretty mature. Packed with content. Start where beginners start.
- DON'T use universals. Everyone knows this, everyone does that. You want to make them feel savvy, not behind.
- DON'T expect them to engage just like you do. You've been doing some version of this for at least 5 years. Your engagement has been informed by evolutions of technology and behavior, by your own preferences, by your complex network of memberships and choices ... yeah, they're going to be different
- DO seed abbreviations carefully. A little well-placed "insider" speak creates a sense of inclusion
- DO make it easy to feel savvy. Small victories. Repeatable experiences.