One of the unwritten rules of growing up on a farm is not to name the animals. After you name a chicken, pig, calf, or goat, you'll never be able to slaughter it for food. Naming creates a relationship, a sense of intimacy.
Peanuts, a Black Angus calf I named after he was rejected (within minutes of his birth) by his mother, wobbled against my leg for balance. From that moment, we were in an relationship. Twice each day, I mixed gigantic baby bottles of calf-manna (powdered milk) and walked to his pen to feed him. After he ate, I let him out of the pen. That summer, he followed me around the farm while I did chores. We were pals. He trusted me.
A year later when Peanuts was an adult steer, Dad scheduled him for our annual livestock drop off at the butcher. I took a stand. "We are NOT eating Peanuts."
Dad shrugged and said "fine by me." He chose a brown steer that I had not named and put him in the stock trailer instead of Peanuts.
Peanuts lived happily ever after grazing in the pasture.
The following week, as usual, we had sirloin steaks on the grill for the fourth of July. Year after year, steer after steer.
Recently, I thought about Peanuts when I read Jesse Weaver's article about the business models of social media companies. Weaver is the director of product design at Gaia.com. In Weaver's discussion about how the free Web is eating itself, he made a keen observation about "hooking" people on content and using the word "user." Weaver writes, "the only other people I know who call their customers users are drug dealers."
I stopped reading to consider this.
Is this what we do when we create content for engaging with our audiences? Are we trying to get people "hooked" in order to move them through a sales funnel because we need as many "users" as we can get in order to grow our platforms? To me, this approach feels similar to a livestock funnel: year after year, steer after steer.
As creators, we have a responsibility to model respect in our writing, art, business. Once you make the decision to eliminate the term "user," when thinking about your ideal reader or customer, your work finds a deeper level of meaning. You begin to engage with a "persona," a fictional composite of your ideal reader, viewer, or client.
Before I share my strategy for doing so, I am curious to learn if you created one or more personas to describe your audience. How is the reader persona and effective tool for you? If you have not created a reader persona, what are your immediate questions? Send them to me and I will incorporate them into my next post on this topic.
Please post in the Comments section.