Facebook, the company whose mantra was once "move fast and break things," has decided it needs an empathy team. Business Insider reports that Facebook has created a team whose job is to understand what it's like to be a customer using their advertising products. Additionally, instead of referring to customers as "users," the social networking giant is now calling them "people.""If you succeed or fail at a particular goal, you may not feel the pain or success that a real person using that product to run their business will feel," said Facebook's director of product design, Martha Gould Stewart, at The Atlantic's Navigate conference. So we find when we pair individuals and build a relationship with a small business and the campaign they made fails, they [Facebook staff] feel that."
Companies need to understand their customers' needs and expectations. If you can empathize with consumers, you understand how they feel or want to feel, which can improve the products and services you offer, as well as how you communicate with consumers.
Facebook, of course, is not the only company to focus on empathy as a business strategy. When the Apple Computer company was created in 1977, Mike Markkula, an early investor and Apple employee, wrote "The Apple Marketing Philosophy." It had 3 points: Empathy, Focus, and Impute. Understanding the needs of the end user has served the company well, to say the least. Other companies like Zappos, Starbucks, and Amazon have also built empires around their ability to empathize with customers.
Additionally, Facebook's description of users as people falls in line with the company's emphasis on "people-based" marketing--Facebook's term for its ad targeting and measurement platforms that are designed to connect brands to specific audiences. Referring to its users as people underlines the fact that the Menlo Park company has data about 1.3 billion people's preferences, behaviors, and whereabouts.
It is unclear, though, how Facebook's new emphasis on empathy will affect people who use the platform for personal reasons and serve as targets for ads. If CEO Mark Zuckerberg's comments at a recent town hall meeting are any indication, the company will continue to experiment with its user base.
At his second town hall meeting with the public, two days after Stewart shared details about Facebook's empathy team, Zuckerberg noted, "If you're successful, most of the things you've done were wrong," [and] "What ends up mattering is the stuff you get right."