Six Ways Social Media Can Help Product Managers

26 10 2009

Customer Council

Social Media makes it relatively easy and less expensive for product managers to reach out and listen to the actual voice of the customer. That is the #1 job of a product manager: to be the voice of the customer throughout the development and launch of a product. With travel budgets being cut to the bone, this has become very challenging for product managers. How does one get out and interact with real customers?

Six Ways Social Media Can Help Product Mangers

  1. Product Feedback meetings. If you cannot travel to the customer site, you can schedule a Telepresence Meeting, a Video Conference, or an Audio Conference. It’s not as good as being with a customer but it can be pretty close. It is especially important to be able to see body language as customers talk about their experiences. Suggestion: Require video conferences for Beta customer feedback rather than dry, written feedback.
  2. Customer Research. Internet polling software has made it very easy to put together customer polls that you can send out to your user base. The challenge is to have an expert build the questions so that they do not “lead” the respondents in any way. Some quick examples:
    1. Focused question: Would you rather have feature X or feature Y?
    2. Focused question: What would you be willing to pay for feature X?
    3. Broad question: What frustrates you them most about using product Z?
  3. Sensing Product Issues. Listen to customer conversations on sites such as Twitter, Facebook, MySpace. This can give you a real feel for what frustrates your users about your product. It can also give you an early warning on critical issues.
  4. Recruiting Customers for Product Beta releases or Customer Councils: Again, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace are good sites to meet interested customers and invite them to participate.
  5. Promote Live Local Customer Events. Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace are great ways to notify your local customer base that you are doing an activity in their area. Local customer councils are a great way to get feedback straight from the “mouth of the customer.”
  6. Competitive Analysis. Sure, you can read the press and analyst reports, but social media can also let you dig into deeper customer feedback from individuals on blogs and social sites and hear what they really like and dislike about your products and your competitors.  Also, you can use Digg.com and Delicious.com to see what companies and subjects are trending.

…And, Two Things That Social Medial Cannot Do

Social media is a great way to work more efficiently and to stretch your travel budget, but at the end of the day there is absolutely no substitute for:

  1. Meeting your customers face-to-face.
  2. Watching customers interact with your product. You will often be able to observe issues that they are not vocalizing.

As a product manager, your products will succeed or fail based on how well you understand your customers, their problems, and how your product or service can solve their problems.  A good product manager has to meet customers face-to-face, but Social Media is a great way to deepen the relationship and keep it more meaningful over time.

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