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Facebook knows its users are human

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Posted at 10:53 AM, Dec 12, 2014
and last updated 2014-12-12 10:53:45-05

(CNN) — Facebook wants you to know it doesn’t see customers as a mass of faceless moneymaking advertising targets. It understands that you, and the other billion individuals who log on to the social network, are flesh-and-blood humans with feelings.

That’s why the company no longer refers to members as “users” internally. Instead it calls them “people.” The switch in lingo has even trickled down to internal computer systems. Margaret Gould Stewart, the company’s director of product design, explained Facebook’s softened approach to humanizing its customers at the Atlantic Technology Conference in San Francisco on Wednesday.

“It’s kind of arrogant to think that the only reason that people exist is to use what you built. They actually have lives, like, outside of the experience they have using your product,” she said.

Facebook has an empathy team that trains employees and advertisers to see the site from the customer’s point of view. That can help Facebook designers and engineers create better products, and advertisers understand why a campaign did or didn’t take off with Facebook users (sorry, people).

On its own, swapping out a few words doesn’t mean much, but it shows that a giant global company is working to shift its internal culture. If engineers, designers and other employees think of the real people on the other side of their product, it might help them create something more personal and human.

And that, of course, will make it a little easier to serve people ads.