Remember the big brou-ha-ha that exploded when it came out that Facebook was running experiments on its users, without informing them of the same. Totally not a big deal, according to OKCupid, which issued a statement today saying that all web-based companies do this sort of testing. Why, they’ve even hooked people up when their own algorithms were giving the pairing the side-eye glance: what could possibly go wrong with this idea?
It’s the sort of thing that makes me thankful I’m in the tech business and not matchmaking! That being said, while I’d never mess around with anyone’s love life, the OKCupid team does have a point. Innovative businesses need to test ideas, and ideas, by their very nature, need to be tested in an environment that contains people. You’re never going to know how people respond to a certain type of messaging, for example, without actually showing it to them.
The real problem, as I see it, is one of sneakiness. People don’t like to be surprised by the news that someone is taking an objective, analytical look at their online behavior. OKCupid actually did the right thing by spelling this fact out in their terms of service – yes, the fact that you didn’t read all that tiny text means you miss out on information that may actually impact your life! – and they’ve been consistent in their messaging that they’re only one of countless websites engaged in this type of testing.
Smart business leaders start the spin before they start the campaign. Facebook by and large actually does a good job of letting users know what they’re going to be doing before they do it; the new Timeline rollout, for example, was announced a year in advance of its implementation.
Did hooking customers up with Mr. Wrong periodically help OKCupid better refine their algorithms so more people could find their Miss and Mr. Right? The answer seems to be yes.
Many small businesses fail to take advantage of the tremendous amounts of data and actionable insights that can be found through their website analytics; a resolve to examine this regularly may prompt owners to say, “But what happens if we change this? Or this? Or this?” All of a sudden, you’ll be in the same boat as the world’s biggest brands – Google, Facebook, OKCupid and more – testing your ideas in an effort to grow your business.