I've never been fond of the word 'user'? It lacks the caring qualities of a much more appropriate word, customer, and even evokes images of substance abuse.
On making this point, I'm asked what I'd call people benefitting from a service or application without handing over their hard-earned. Well, customers of course. In such situations they're simply paying with a different currency, such as their personal data and/or attention, which the supplier of the service does its utmost to monetize.
But in one instance, I like that evocation of substance abuse. Of addiction. Of misuse.
Do allow me to explain and let's see if I've just been critical of you or a colleague. Please go easy on me if I have, my intentions are honourable.
I had the privilege of speaking with 150 Masters students at Imperial College London yesterday, taking their Technology in Marketing module. All marketing activity in 2012 is underpinned or impacted by technology, and thousands of tech vendors tempt us with thousands of marketing and PR applications, tools and services. And we buy them. Lots of them. The question is, are you a professional or a user?
What's the difference?