I’ll Use Your Products However I Want. Unplanned Uses Of Digital Products

I just liked something on Twitter, not because I particularly liked the tweet but because the Twitter app I was using doesn’t have an option to save a tweet and go back to it later. 

The like function is designed to measure engagement. My insistence on using it as a bookmark is probably making a mess of somebody’s analytics. 

The thing about users is that they are the ones using your products, but you don’t get any say whatsoever in how they use them. 

If I want a feature that you don’t have, then I’m likely to bend the features you do have to meet my needs. You don’t get to choose how your customers use the features of your creations. They won’t read all your text, they won’t utilise features you laboured over providing for them, they just do what they want. Try not to take it personally. 

As a Twitter user I don’t care that I’m going to mess up your figures by using your content incorrectly and why should I?

In the grand scheme of things my “bookmarking by liking things” system isn’t really causing a problem for anybody because the scale is so small, but how many other people are there doing the same thing? Do Twitter know that I’m doing it? Do they know and not care? Are they in the process of adding it as a new feature? Is there a bookmarking system that I haven’t found yet? I could investigate all these things but I’m not going to. I’ll just keep pressing the heart whenever I find anything that I intend to go back to. 

I’m not the only person out there repurposing social media platforms. Facebook and Instagram have a specific age policy for members, but the private account facility has resulted in some parents allowing their children to use it two to three years ahead of schedule. Ten year olds, who are not allowed to use Facebook, have private Instagram accounts and use it like Facebook. There is a parallel universe full of ten year old English kids holding nice, and sometimes not so nice, conversations in the dark social arena of Instagram. 

Insta is supposed to be full of people over the age of 13 sharing pictures with the world. Tweens using the direct chat facility to hang out and / or bully each other wasn’t the plan. The thing is that those kids in Year Six don’t care about your plan. They don’t care about how the folks at Instagram thought their app would be used. 

The platform I “misuse” most often is probably Facebook. If I find something funny on Facebook and want to share it with somebody specific I comment on it by adding the name of the person I want to share it with. 

There isn’t a “show this to your mate” button on Facebook, so you tag them in the comments. It’s still engagement, but it’s not really commenting on the post. I have specific people I share certain things with. If it’s gin related it goes to Paula and Steph, if its about art or cats then it’s Cath etc. etc. I do it all the time. 

On the one hand maybe Facebook needs a “show your mate” button but on the other we’ve already established our own system, so why change it? Unlike my “like to bookmark” system I’m fairly certain that Mr Zuckerberg knows that this is what we all do. The numbers say that 50 people commented on a specific post and 48 of those comments include a tag to another Facebook user. They already know that I’m friends with Steph but now they know that she likes gin. They can see the story behind the numbers and gather extra information at the same time. 

The way I misuse Snapchat is less obvious. On the face of it I look like a person that uses Snapchat. I’m not the target market but I have the app on my phone and use it several times a day. The data is telling somebody somewhere that Claire is using Snapchat, but what I’m really doing is maintaining a streak with one of my kids for the sole purpose of having had a streak. Utterly pointless but still something that’s happening. 

75% of the images on our streak are the inside of my phone case but from time to time I will take an actual picture and sometimes even use the filters. Its a silly little thing that I do with my kid, which has taught me how the platform works in practice, so lets call it educational. I’m studying digital marketing communications and stupid selfies is “a thing” so it makes sense to combine them. 

If you’ve never sent one of your kids a photo of yourself with a sheep where your hair should be, then your parenting style must be very different to mine. I appreciate that Snapchatting your kid a picture of the bins isn’t for everybody, but it saved me trekking up a flight of stairs in order to nag a certain somebody for not taking the rubbish out. 

The days of Snapchat being the “cool” thing are clearly numbered. Once your mum joins it stops being cool by default. I get some leeway because I work in digital, but my friends are playing with it too, so its only a matter of time before teenagers are sharing the platform with their entire family and it’s hard to see something as cool and sexy when your grandparents have adopted it, especially not when you’re in your teens. 

I don’t know what the next social media trend is going to be, but whatever it is I’ll give it a try, probably misuse bits of it and slightly skew somebody’s analytics.

There is no 100% guaranteed way to know what all of your customers want, but you can try and improve your odds of finding out and perhaps offering them features you don’t currently have. It won’t help you with the problem of primary school kids lying about their age, but that’s a whole different matter. 

The first way to get information about what your customers want if you have an app is to Ask Them. You won’t get to everybody but at least ask some of them. Asking anybody is better than asking nobody and asking the right questions of the right people is a brilliant way to get insight. 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to send a ridiculous selfie of myself to a teenager, or maybe I’ll just send the usual phone case photo.