My mom’s on Facebook.

Yeah, this blog post title certainly doesn’t come from a phrase that’s original to me. Lots of mothers (and many grandmothers)  use Facebook. Facebook is, in my opinion, just another example in a long list of technologies people will adopt if there is a personal benefit.

For years, I’ve been talking about the idea that people will begin to “use a computer” when they are presented with a concrete benefit. What’s surprising is that we’ll even do work in order to get the benefit. Think about it: for many technologies, the work is actually transferred to the user. Consider the ATM. We’re willing to do the work of the bank teller because there’s something in it for us. Namely, the convenience of getting cash or depositing a check when the bank isn’t open.

Other examples include our willingness to work as:

  • travel agents or airline customer service reps when we spend time on sites like or purchase airline tickets on line because we get a better price, we see all the flight options, and we’re not stuck in a queue listening to “your call is important to us”
  • office assistants when we print and complete forms needed by a physician in advance because it means we don’t have to get to medical appointments 15 minutes early
  • cashiers when we shop online because the range of products and services is not limited to the businesses near where we live and the store hours are 24/7

Watching my mom learn to use email and Facebook has reinforced my attitude. As soon as the benefits and advantages were clear, she was all over it. She wanted to use email because my brothers, sisters, and I use it to share photos of her 11 grandchildren. I think she was open to Facebook because so many in our family were talking about it. Now, she can see what we’re up to (and we’re all old enough not to mind that) and she can pursue personal interests. She recently mentioned a knitting discussion board. During the holidays, my jaw dropped when I heard her say, “Just YouTube it and you’ll see what I’m talking about.”

Tuck this advice under your hat and keep it in mind. If you want me to adopt a new technology, make the advantages clear. You want me to use a campus-wide events calendar? Show me the stats to demonstrate how visible the central calendar will be and mention the larger number of people who will find out about my event. You want me to use a new CMS? Convince me that new features I’ve been asking for are there and will make web editing easier and more convenient.

If you can’t come up with benefits to persuade your end users, you’ll have an uphill battle. And, perhaps, you’re implementing the wrong technology.

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