"Hi, my name is Brian. What's your name?"
"Hey you! Who are you? What do you prefer to be called?"
User? Customer? People? Friends?
Josh Bernoff of Forrester recently set off some discussion around the term "user." He says he's sick of users. Instead he would rather think of "users" as people, customers and/or friends.
Two out of three ain't bad.
For me, I tend to lean towards the word "user." To mix things up, I throw in the word "folks" now and again. I do this purposefully, rather than using the words "customer," "people," or "friends".
"Customer" to me is a four letter word. Aside from implying that a certain group of people are cash machines, it needlessly separates all of the people involved in the community around a particular product, service or resource. When working with communities, it seems antithetical that we would set up barriers between people.
"People," while better than customers, to me seems a bit clumsy. I don't necessarily have any moral objections to the term, however it appears to be imprecise when distinguishing between those who engage with a particular product, service, or resource and those who do not; "people" seems too generic.
What about "friends." Friends are great, however I am in no way Mr. Popularity. True, there are several folks I consider to be my friends. More still that I consider to be colleagues, associates or acquaintances. However, even those numbers are finite...and certainly not representative of a broad base of folks who interact with a particular product, service or resource.
I realize that my use of the word "user" is clumsy. It's also somewhat imprecise, and at least one colleague had negative connotations to the word as it reminded him of drug users. Others also believe it depersonalizes people.
<aside>As I write this, the more I think "people" might be a better term than "users." At least there's no negative connotation right? While it's still not quite ideal, I think I'll start using that word instead of "users" moving forward.</aside>
Ultimately, I don't think we have the proper terms to describe the crux of what all we're trying to get at, short of asking *everyone* for their preference of how to be addressed. In lieu of that, I think I'll be using the terms "users," "people," and "folks" when talking about those interacting with and around specific product, services or resources.
I'd be curious to hear what "others" (heh, sneaky way of not using any term) have to say on this topic. What words do you use?