If you're going to ask, why not listen?Show your users you've heard their feedback

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Facebook ad with x button highlighted

If you use Facebook, you've almost certainly noticed the ads on the right-hand side of most pages. And chances are you've also noticed the little "x" in the upper right-hand corner of each ad.

It's the "I don't like this" link (the opposite of that little thumbs-up icon under each ad), and I use it regularly. I let most Facebook ads slide, but some either offend me (usually with a gratuitously sexist photo, or a clearly misleading come-on) or are just so clearly not intended for me (thanks, but I'm not in the market for a condo) that I end up clicking - more to alert Facebook than for any other reason.

Click it, and up pops a dialog box saying "Tell us what you think. Why didn't you like this ad?" You can then choose from a range of reasons, such as "Irrelevant", "Offensive", "Misleading", "Repetitive" or "I DON'T WANT TO PLAY #@$&ING FARMVILLE OR MAFIA WARS!" (Actually, that last one isn't an option. It desperately, desperately should be.)

Click "Okay", and then... what?

Truth is, we don't know. Facebook says that "over time, this information helps us deliver more relevant ads to our users." But they won't tell you how... and it isn't unusual to see the same ad you've just dissed pop up again in a minute or two - complete with the little "x" link.

Facebook 'Tell us why you didn't like this ad' dialog boxWhich is just so last century.

Asking people for their input, and then sucking their suggestions into a black box and never letting them know what happened to them - that isn't going to fly much longer. Not for governments that conduct "consultations" around issues they've already decided, and not for businesses that want to get valuable targeting information from their audience and customers without giving them any value in return.

That goes for organizations large and small. If your web site invites input from the public, you want to be doing something more than just nodding politely while they talk; this is an opportunity for interaction that looks less like the old suggestion box and more like conversation.

What if your users could see the list 20, 50 or 100 items they've liked or disliked? What if they could meet people who've liked and disliked similar things? What if they could talk about what they like or dislike, make it part of their profile, and tell advertisers how they do and don't like to be approached?

At the very least, what if they could click a button that means they would never see that particular ad again?

If you're going to ask your users a question, you need to be able to show them you've actually heard their answer. It's perhaps the most basic skill in conversation - and so far, Facebook hasn't learned it. Has your site?

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