Social Identity Crisis?

Mashable is reporting that Bebo has begun changing their user’s screen names without prior notification or permission. For most users, it’s a simple switch from a “-” to a “_” , but for many, the change in identity is an unwelcome adjustment.

Bebo’s membership adjustment might be necessary for their system, but will most likely provide a critical blow to their user base’s confidence in the product and messaging.

All of this prompted me to think about “online branded etiquette” — the rules that users hold the companies they love to. I’ve created a brief list below, but feel free to share your two cents as well.

  • Transparency: Be clear and upfront in your messaging and motives. This doesn’t mean share the secret ingredient, but it does mean treat your consumer the way you’d like to be treated. We’re inquisitive (and skeptical) creatures by nature– if you lay it all out on the line, you leave little room for doubt and negative Nancy’s.
  • Over Communicate: This one goes hand-in-hand with transparency. If you’re going to change something, add something, or do something, let your people know. To you, it might be like Christmas morning stumbling upon your favorite site’s new redesign, but for many users (who are creatures of habit and resist change) this could be the worst thing ever. Letting them know ahead of time (even if it’s just a teaser) will help to alleviate some frustration and chaos.
  • Be consistent: Regularity and frequency is something users respond to: if you make it a habit to push updates the first of the month, write a blog post every Tuesday, etc. users will come to expect it. They’ll include you in their life patterns and routines, which means higher page views/CTRs, and a more stable user base.
  • Understand your product: Explore the ways in which your consumers use your product. This will help you understand how to market to them, how to reach them, and how to ensure that you have a balanced relationship with your users. Who knows, you might even learn something new. 🙂
  • Gradually roll out changes: If you’re going to compel users to make a major change, make it optional at first, and be sure to accompany it with lots of clear, consistent messaging about the upcoming changes.

I’m sure I’ve missed something, but from my experience, those are the key pillars.



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