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User Profiles and Audience Targeting in SharePoint 2007

  • February 14, 2007
  • By Sahil Malik
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Putting User Profiles to Use—Audience Targeting

User Profile information can be incredibly useful. You could write custom utilities on top of such information. For instance, you could provide an "Emergency Contact List" in the form of an Excel spreadsheet by simply reading user profile information. This list then could be interlinked with an emergency coverage schedule, thus allowing the end user to very easily track down the right individual for the right job, along with his contact information, just when he or she needs it.

Besides writing custom utilities to leverage User Profiles, a rather useful way to use user profiles out of the box is audience targeting. Audience targeting refers to the ability to create an audience based on a specific set of rules and then target content to a specific audience.

Before you can use audience targeting, you need to set up a rules-based audience first. Here is how you do so:

  1. Under the Shared Service provider for the web site, click the "Audiences" link under the "Audiences" section.
  2. You will see the number of audiences that exist in the system and a listing of relevant links to view or create audiences. Click "Create Audience."
  3. Specify an audience, as shown in Figure 4.

    Figure 4: Specify an Audience

  4. On the next screen, add an audience rule as shown in Figure 5.

    Figure 5: Add an Audience Rule

  5. On the final page, you can add more rules, if you want, under the "Audience Rules" section (see Figure 6).

    Figure 6: Add More Rules

  6. When you are done adding the necessary rules, click the "Compile Audience" link in the section titled "Audience Properties." You also can specify a compilation schedule on the main Audiences page. After an audience is compiled, you should see the relevant users that fall within the specified rules-based audience.

Once an audience is set up, you then can use the following steps to target content to the specified audience:

  1. In a list of your choice, go to List Settings, and click on "Audience Targeting Settings" under the "General Settings" section.
  2. Check the checkbox that Enables Audience Targeting as shown in Figure 7.

    Click here for a larger image.

    Figure 7: Enable Audience Targeting

  3. Add a new item to the list. A textbox at the bottom allows you to specify "target audiences" for the new list item. For a list based on a calendar template, see Figure 8.

    Click here for a larger image.

    Figure 8: List Based on a Calendar Template

    Now when you save this list item, targeted only to California employees, anyone who doesn't match the rule specified for this audience will not see this content.

This is an incredible way to target information to a specific set of individuals. Even when users search, the system will consider audience targeting when retrieving search results.

User Profiles in WSS Versus MOSS

WSS has a People and Groups feature that keeps track of user information. However, it is a one-time sync from the Active Directory, which is initialized when that user is first accessed. You can add columns to the user info list, but they must be subsequently updated by hand. This user info is per-site, and the "My Settings" link takes the user to a page where this information can be maintained.

MOSS, on the other hand, has a User Profile feature that allows for synchronization from AD/LDAP/BDC stores at regular intervals. You can define properties and set various policies. Note that one of the options is "replicable", which will cause the property values to be synchronized down to the WSS user info list. This is how many properties, such as picture and department, get added to the WSS page. Also, the normal entry point for users to edit their own profiles is via their My Site ("Edit Profile") link. In the user's profile, the user can edit his or her profile data, and set privacy settings as well if the admin policy allows him or her to do so.

Reigning in Information

Every single day, organizations struggle with better means to communicate information to individuals. Usually, the challenge lies somewhere between too much information because it is broadcast to everyone or too little information because there is no easy way to communicate effectively with everyone. In fact, studies have been done to demonstrate that a larger organization can spend thousands of dollars on a single email that says something like "The alarm is going off on the white Lexus in Building 31." It is not that this message is unimportant—it is very important to the owner of the white Lexus, which is probably being broken into right now—but it still costs thousands of dollars in lost productivity if every other individual in the organization simply reads and deletes the email.

Also, information in various disparate systems that do not talk to each other tends to get out of date and out of synch. When used effectively, user profiles and audience targeting clearly provide a very significant value addition to any organization.

About the Author

Sahil Malik (www.winsmarts.com) has worked for a number of top-notch clients in Microsoft technologies ranging from DOS to .NET. He is the author of Pro ADO.NET 2.0 and co-author of Pro ADO.NET with VB.NET 1.1. Sahil is currently also working on a multimedia series on ADO.NET 2.0 for Keystone Learning. For his community involvement, contributions, and speaking, he has also been awarded the Microsoft MVP award.

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